A commitment to prayer will make 2023 your best year yet.

A new year begins and there is no doubt many people will be writing new years resolutions. Is prayer on your list?

As believers, prayer is often neglected. Even though we are encouraged to ‘pray without ceasing’ in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, many of us still find it hard to pick up this spiritual discipline. Here is the reality, the only way to make 2023 truly an amazing year is to walk closely with God and the only way to do that is to pray.

The best prayer comes from a strong inward necessity. We have all proved this to be true. When our lives are serene and placid, our prayers are apt to be dull and listless. When we reach a crisis, a moment of danger, a serious illness, or a heavy bereavement, then our prayers are fervent and vital. 

I remember once hearing “the arrow that is to enter heaven must be launched from a bow fully bent”

What is Prayer?

The most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God.” Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection; it is a direct address to God. It is the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul. Prayer is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions and desires with God and to fellowship with God.

Prayer can be audible or silent, private or public, formal or informal. 

All prayer must be offered in faith (James 1:6), in the name of the Lord Jesus (John 16:23), and in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). As the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia puts it, “Christian prayer in its full New Testament meaning is a prayer addressed to God as Father, in the name of Christ as Mediator, and through the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit” (“Prayer” by J. C. Lambert).

The wicked have no desire to pray (Psalm 10:4), but the children of God have a natural desire to pray (Luke 11:1).

Prayer is described in the Bible as seeking God’s favour (Exodus 32:11), pouring out one’s soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:15), crying out to heaven (2 Chronicles 32:20), drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28, KJV), and kneeling before the Father (Ephesians 3:14).

Pray about everything

Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). Worry about nothing; pray about everything.

Everything? Yes, God wants us to talk with Him about everything. The seemingly mundane things and the things you deem very important. All of it aids communion and so is worth talking to God about. One of the crucial ways to reframe prayer is to see it less as making requests and more s drawing near to a God that ways to know you intimately.

How often should we pray?

The biblical answer is “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We should keep a running conversation going with God all day long. Some find the ACTS formula of prayer helpful, but there is really no special formula for how to pray in the Bible.

(Adoration, Contrition, Thankfulness, Supplication) This simple acronym guides us in speaking with God in prayer.

We should just do it. We can pray under any and all circumstances. Prayer develops our relationship with God and demonstrates our trust and utter dependence upon Him.

Drawing near to Him 

One of the conditions of successful prayer is that we must draw near to him with a true heart (Hebrews 10:22). This means a genuine and heartfelt desire to commune with him and to share with him the deep desires and worries of our hearts. Prayer is the growth of a soul as we come in contact with God. As the soul grows, the prayer life deepens.

It doesn’t have to be perfect

Some time ago, a school teacher in New York taught the Lord’s Prayer to her class, and they all learned it. Then one time she called up her pupils one by one and asked each one to repeat the Lord’s Prayer. One of the boys said, “Harold be Thy name” instead of “Hallowed be Thy name.” Another said, “Give us this day our jelly bread.” Another said, “Lead us not into Penn Station.” Another said, “Deliver us from eagles.”

Now, this is understandable because little children do not know these words. And I’m quite sure that God is able, if the heart is right, to give us this day our jelly bread. It is possible to say things that are theologically wrong, and yet if the heart is right toward God, He can sort out the difficulties.

But this is a baby prayer. When you’re asking for something, you are praying the lowest form of prayer. As your prayer life develops, it should go beyond this.

Now secondly, as a child develops a little, he’s taught to say “thank you,” and he’s taught not only to say it to his parents but he’s taught to say to God, “Father, we thank Thee for this food.”

The child then learns about Thanksgiving Day in school. It’s associated with the image of a pumpkin with a cut-out face, the picture of the Puritans hunting turkeys in the fields, or the Puritans bowing their heads on thanksgiving.

Third comes intercession. Intercession is where we stop asking for something just for ourselves and our little circle and begin to plead with God for blessings for others.

We need to shift gears

Many people have been taught that prayer is a cheap way to get anything. When they find themselves in desperate need they pray, and they do not get an answer. A boy prays, “Oh God, I want to pass that exam,” or a girl prays, “Oh God, don’t let me be the only girl who doesn’t get asked by a boy to Winter Wonderland this year.” And if she happens to be the only one who doesn’t get the invitation, she may say in despair, “Oh, I don’t believe in prayer; it just doesn’t work.” As a result, her whole spiritual life may become a mess because she has not been taught the true nature of prayer. Prayer is not saying to a distant God, “Do this and that,” but prayer is basically getting to know God.

Much of the difficulty of spiritually growing up is the shifting of gears that takes a child out of spiritual childhood into spiritual maturity. When we are children, we live largely on our parents’ faith. We say what they say; we have what they have, and we do what they do. But then comes the time when we have to shift gears, and we have to know God alone. For it is only when we know God that we begin to develop into the higher brackets, the higher attitudes of prayer.

If 2023 is to be your best year yet, it must be lived in close communion with God. This comes through a daily and intentional prayer life. Start small and keep it simple. Communicate with God, he is speaking to you.

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