A spanking-new Trader Joe’s grocery store recently opened five minutes from my house, the first one in the state. Having been raised on its treats and savory offerings, I could hardly wait. I braved the lines on opening day just to say I had. But what I most looked forward to was enjoying the new items I purchased.
I love new things. New clothes. New Netflix shows. And yes, new goodies in the pantry. There’s also something exciting about new starts. At the close of each year, we’re gifted with a new round of 12 months to celebrate on New Year’s.
But while new things might be fun, God clearly designed us for internal renewal. The Lord does a spiritual renovation in each person He indwells. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” As new creations, our hearts, minds, and desires begin to mimic Christ’s.
Yet even our new hearts need a daily refresh button. Personally, I’m constantly dissatisfied with my uncharitable thoughts and lack of love toward others. Regardless of how much I know I should do something or think a certain way, I still slip up. Even Paul felt this way (Romans 7:15).
Since many of us are already in the practice of beginning New Year’s resolutions, why not dedicate this year to spiritual renewal? We all need a daily heart reset, and nothing does the job better than prayer. To help you get started, here are four basic prayers to commit to praying this year.
Prayers for the New Year: Renewed Thoughts
A helper by nature—where are my Enneagram type 2s?—I focus on what people need and how they perceive me in light of what I do for them. Motivated by a desire for love and belonging, I catch myself mulling over self-centered thoughts. Will they ask me to help them again even though I messed up last time? Who am I if I’m not needed?
Where do you find your mind drifting most? We’re commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). It’s a challenge to love the Lord with our minds, especially when we think of where our minds move. Thoughts feel private, unknown by God. But how wrong we are! God knows our thoughts even before we form them (Psalm 139:2).
This knowledge shouldn’t paralyze us but convict us. Every day we need help reining in our thoughts, literally stopping and shifting them in a God-ward direction. Even during commonplace scenes, such as waiting for the person in front of you to make a painstakingly slow right-hand turn—bless them—or when our kid loses their shoe again, we should ask for God’s help to put a halt to our unloving thoughts.
Prayer: Lord, please help renew my thought life. I want my thoughts toward my family and even those I don’t know to reflect my love for You. Help me notice when my mind drifts into judgment, impatience, and worry.
Prayers for the New Year: Renewed Awareness of Weakness
Lament is such a melancholy word. You can almost hear Eeyore’s voice when you read it. It means “to mourn” or “to regret strongly.”* As unpleasant as it is, it’s healthy to embrace lament in the right context. One of the appropriate things we should lament is our own weakness.
There’s an entire book in the Bible called “Lamentations” that speaks about the rebellion of Israel against God and the suffering she brought on herself. In Lamentations 1:20, Israel says, “Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious.” In both a physical and emotional sense, the aftermath of Israel’s rebellion against God weighs greatly upon her.
But because Israel remembered God’s faithfulness, she later says, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). Reconciliation with Christ always starts with repentance.
New Year’s is an optimal time to consider how our actions impact our future. It’s the only time in the year that culture collectively welcomes introspection. Everyone’s questioning, “What habits should I purge or begin this year?”
In light of that, we should ask the Lord to open our eyes to our weaknesses, so we’ll welcome His daily help.
Prayer: Lord, give me eyes to see my true weaknesses and not just the cosmetic ones. I want to “examine [my] ways and return to the Lord.” Help me to trust in Your strength and not my own to do this.
Prayers for the New Year: Renewed Relationships
Aren’t relationships sticky? Why is that? Because when we’re impatient, it’s usually because of someone else. When we’re angry, it’s because of someone else. And when it’s not about someone else, the anger or bottled impatience gets spewed all over the people nearest to us. Love isn’t the natural response we feel toward other people.
Our interactions with family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers indicate the health of our hearts toward God. Just as we’re to love the Lord, we’re to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-39). But I find it much easier to pray the generic, “Lord, help me love others,” than “Lord, help me to love my mother.”
Take a moment to appraise your current family relationships:
- Has your previously vibrant marriage taken a nosedive? When was the last time you served your spouse without expecting a “thank you”?
- What about your relationship with your parents? What tone do you use with them?
- And your kids? Do they feel safe expressing their fears and struggles with you?
If you feel you’ve missed your chance—that you’ve failed too many times in the relationship department to start fresh—think again. God will equip you to love your family and friends if you seek His help. Sure, you’ll still have to live with the reality you’ve created, but that shouldn’t discourage you from pushing toward a new one.
Prayer: Lord, help me restore my track record in my relationships. I need help loving my family members and my friends and putting their needs before mine. Help me to identify specific problem areas in the way I treat people.
Prayers for the New Year: Renewed Family Members
Have you ever prayed for family members who aren’t followers of Christ? I’m sure you have.
But when was the last time? For me, because they’re family, it doesn’t cross my mind to pray for them like I would for a new friend. I hate to think I’ve lost hope, but something has obviously caused my lack of elbow grease in prayer.
Regardless of how we feel about a situation, Jesus told us to pray persistently (Luke 18:1-8). Of all things, prayer is not something we should peter out on. Andrew Murray, the 19th century South African Christian pastor, wrote, “We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.” Not only for our own lives but for the lives of others, we shouldn’t waste this mind-blowing opportunity to pray.
What if you picked someone new in your family to pray for each week? I wonder what kind of change the Lord might work.
Prayer: Lord, give them eyes to see their need for Jesus. Let someone share the gospel with them, whether it’s me or someone else. Help them to accept Your Son and become a new creation.
God hears our prayers and wants us to keep asking. We might never see what happens from our prayers, but we can trust that in God’s sovereignty, He will carry out His will.
As a gentle warning, don’t assume your resolve to pray more this year will come easily. Like any other New Year’s resolution, you’re going to want to quit after about 10 days. Plus, the devil will do what he can to derail you. He’ll bring to mind the other important things you need to do instead. He’ll guilt you by whispering, “You waited until now to get serious about prayer, and you expect God to listen?” But don’t let him beat you down.
Maybe get your spouse or a close friend to pray these things with you for accountability. And when you find yourself lagging, pick it back up again. There’s nothing better for your spiritual health than exercising your freedom to pray.
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