I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. ~ Ephesians 1:18 NLT
For as long as I can recall, I have loved the idea of New Years resolutions. I made my first one when I was eight years old. I scribbled it out in crayon and resolved to sweet-talk my parents into getting me a dog of my very own. As I matured, my yearly resolutions gradually became a bit more refined but no less self-centered. For the most part I focused on losing weight, meeting personal goals, making money, and other self-improvement schemes.
I became a Christian as a young adult and over time my New Years resolutions evolved more into prayers I would commit to praying for the year. Some of those prayers/resolutions were and still are rather self-absorbed, but most centered on becoming a better, godlier person rather than just a skinnier, more attractive person.
As 2015 makes its debut, I have committed to pray for and resolved to work on some personal and family issues this coming year. I have also committed to praying for the Church this year. In this context, “Church” refers to the people throughout the world who profess Christ as Lord.
I feel led to pray for the Church because, well, frankly I am profoundly concerned for the Church and and have been for a very long time. I fear that the body of Christ has gone off course and is in danger of losing its way. So for my first post of 2015 I will share the top six prayers/hopes I have for God’s people this coming year.
I pray that we would all:
Know our value-
Scripture and experience have persuaded me that every Christian has boundless potential for impacting their little corner of the world for good. You are valuable enough for Christ to die for you. We are so cherished that Jesus is continuously interceding for each one of us (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25). That makes us all far too significant to waste our time chasing pointless pastimes, getting stuck in patterns of sin or exerting energy harboring bitterness and resentment.
Do something hard-
Hard things include, but are not limited to, helping those who have life-controlling issues, loving the unlovable, adopting orphans, offering help to the hurting, and just generally functioning as salt and light in our broken-down, busted-up world. Hard things are seldom attempted, because hard things are by their very nature time-consuming, emotionally risky and expensive. Hard things are also the only things that have the potential to transform the lives of people. When we work to transform the lives of people we make this world a better place and bring God’s Kingdom a little closer to Earth.
Stop being afraid to make people squirm every once in a while-
The New Testament repeatedly links repentance or a change in behavior with saving faith and spiritual growth (Luke 24:7, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30-31, 2nd Corinthians 7:10, 2nd Timothy 2:24-26). Preaching and teaching on repentance has been replaced with upbeat messages aimed at boosting self-esteem and soothing consciences rather than awakening them. I am not advocating an all-out return to hellfire-and-brimstone preaching; nevertheless I do think it’s high time we stopped being so fearful of making people feel bad.
Every Christian should be a reconciler and rebuilder (2nd Corinthians 5:18-19). Think of all that could change if enough of us got serious about reconciling broken relationships and rebuilding broken systems in our communities.
Prayer isn’t about getting God to see things our way or do what we want. Prayer is about being enabled to see things God’s way and empowered to do what God wants done. We could certainly use a little more of all that. Getting it will require a commitment to pray more.
Physiologists have sold society a flimflam job. As a result, many Christians have bought into the ludicrous notion that shame is always a sign of some sort of psychological issue or problem. The Bible teaches that shame is a natural consequence of bad behavior. I am aggressively campaigning for a return of shame because without sit no one will ever feel the urge to adjust course or repent of their sin.
I love the New Year because it is a time to reflect on where we are, who we are becoming and what we are accomplishing with our time and resources. I am praying that this is the year Christians awaken to our value in Christ, pray zealously, speak the truth openly and lovingly, embrace hard things, rebuild broken things and endeavor to be the Church rather than simply attend Church.