Lots and lots of people start the new year out by making resolutions, most of which fall by the wayside after a few short weeks or sometimes months. I’ve been there, and so have you. And yet each year we say that this year will be different. So what’s going to make this year really and truly different?
The first thing about prayer is that it is effective. It is powerful, pulling down strongholds, which are the things that hold you back from really changing. Recognizing this is paramount to seeing real change in your life. And in mine. Your resolutions absolutely must be bathed in prayer. That leads us to a very important question.
What is prayer?
Do you bow your head, close your eyes, and suddenly your mind is a blank? You’re not alone. Prayer is not a formula for changing God. It is, however, the most effective way of changing you. The great apologist C.S. Lewis once said, “I don’t pray because it changes God. I pray because it changes me.” Prayer is not a laundry-list of things you want to change. It is a conversation wherein you ask God what He wants to change. And note that I said a conversation.
The Oxford Dictionary has this to say about what it means to converse. “Late Middle English (in the sense ‘live among, be familiar with’): from Old French converser, from Latin conversari ‘keep company (with’), from con- ‘with’ + versare, frequentative of vertere ‘to turn’.” So to converse with God is to live with Him, be familiar with Him, and to turn to Him. Make your most important resolutions prayer.
How to pray.
Yeshua (Jesus) Himself gave us a model for prayer. Let’s look at it and see what HaMashiach (the Messiah) has to say about prayer.
Matthew 6:9-13 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)
9 Therefore, when you offer tefillos (prayers), daven (pray) like this, in this manner: Avinu shbaShomayim (Our Father in heaven), yitkadash shmecha (hallowed be Thy Name).
10 Tavo malchutechah (Thy Kingdom come) Ye’aseh rtzonechah (Thy will be done) kmoh vaShomayim ken baaretz (on earth as it is in heaven).
11 Es lechem chukeinu ten lanu hayom (Give us today our daily bread),
12 u-slach lanu es chovoteinu kaasher salachnu (and forgive us our debts as we forgive) gam anachnu lachayaveinu (also our debtors).
13 V’al tvi’einu lidey nisayon (And lead us not into temptation) ki im chaltzeinu min harah (but deliver us from evil). [Ki l’chah hamamlachah (for thine is the Kingdom) vhagvurah (and the power) vhatiferet (and the glory) l’olmei olamim (forever). Omein].
So what does it mean?
Yeshua’s prescription for the proper way to pray does not mean repeating meaningless words. He starts out by recognizing the relationship between us and God: Our Father (Avinu). He is the One who created us, as our earthly father procreated us. His relationship is one of blood-ties, through the sacrifice of His Son. He is deserving of worship (hallowed be Thy Name) and obedience for that fact alone. Always speak His very Name with reverence and awe. Jewish believers refuse to even utter His Name, saying HaShem (the Name) instead and writing G-d so they do not use it commonly or irreverently.
Next, Yeshua instructs us to pray for God’s kingdom and will on the earth. His agenda. His purposes. Not ours. His.
He tells us to ask the Father for those things we need. Of course, God already knows what we need, but He wants us to ask Him for it. When we do, we are acknowledging that He is our provider. (In fact, nothing you ever do provides for you. If God does not provide for you, you will not be able to make wealth. The Amplified Bible says it this way: But you shall remember [with profound respect] the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore (solemnly promised) to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:18)
He reminds us that we were sinners and have been forgiven, so we should forgive others as well. Mark 11:25 tells us: And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Our forgiveness is tied to our forgiving others. So when we are cognizant that we have been forgiven so much, we should—we must!—forgive others as well.
Pray for protection from the evil one. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t be concerned that the translation implies that God leads people into temptations if they don’t ask Him not to, for the Word is very clear on that point. James 1:13 explicitly says: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” Nevertheless, Yeshua says to ask God to keep us from temptation, which is the work of the evil one.
Finally, close out your prayer with the acknowledgment that God is almighty, everything belongs to Him, and He will have all the glory. Never try to keep glory for yourself, but humbly remember that God is all-glorious. Commit yourself to humility, and in due time, God will raise you up. When your heart is right with God, even when He does raise you up, your desire will be to glorify Him and deflect the glory that man tries to attribute to you.
Have you asked God for the desires of your heart in your resolutions?
Many scholars believe (as do I) that Psalm 37:4, which says: “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” can actually mean that He will put His desires into your heart. Have you asked God to tell you how to partner with Him in prayer? What does He want you to pray about? He will always answer the prayer that says, “Thy will be done.”