Resolving to Diet
Believing God Works through Prayer.
It’s that time of year again. It’s time to make those New Year’s resolution. The most common resolution for Americans is dieting. Coming after a season of feasting it’s no wonder. From Thanksgiving to Christmas we love to indulge. From Christmas to New Year we realize we’ve eaten too much but we still eat because the festivities aren’t over yet. By the time New Year’s day arrive, we hate the fact that we’ve eaten so much and food itself becomes anathema. We vow to eat less and we may even spend a day fasting out of sheer guilt.
It is interesting that prayer is often associated with fasting in the Bible. For most people in the ancient world (and most third world countries), food was not a luxury that could be gorged upon at leisure. The day was driven by the need to obtain food. You either killed it, reaped it, or traded for it. When people were called upon to fast and pray, it was a call to understand the significant nature of prayer by tying it to the significant nature of food. Skipping a meal makes us suddenly aware of our need for it. Are we aware of our significant need for prayer when we skip a day from praying?
Western culture, with its heritage of naturalism and rationalism, leans us away from expecting God to work in powerful ways. While we may not ascent to deistic beliefs, we tend to live them out when it comes to prayer – assuming God is going to do what He will do regardless of whether or not we pray for it. But God chooses to work through the prayers of His people. The Scriptures are replete with examples of God working through prayer.
Moses prays for the Israelites and they are spared from God’s wrath following their making of the golden calf. Elijah prays and it doesn’t rain in the land of Israel for three years. The disciples pray and Peter and John are released from prison. Daniel prays and after 21 days of battling in the heavens, the angel Gabriel comes to him in response.
As the new year comes, I want to challenge each of you to set aside one day a month to devote more time than usual to prayer. If you normally spend 5 minutes in prayer a day, make it 10 on that day. If you normally spend 30 minutes in prayer, make it an hour. While God is transcendent and all-powerful, He chooses to fellowship with us in personal relationships, and so invites us to pray. God chooses to wait for us to ask before He blesses us. “You have not, because you ask not.”
So what should we pray for? We are instructed to pray many things, depending on our particular needs. Paul prays that “the eyes of our hearts might be opened” to the wonders of the gospel. Jesus instructs us to ask the Lord of the Harvest to raise up missionaries to go into the world. When someone is sick, James instructs us to call the elders and have them pray for healing. But the thing that brings these altogether is the focus that we find in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus teaches us to aim our prayers at the glory of God – the hallowing of his name. Everything else we pray for – every aspect of life – fits under this umbrella. We pray for daily bread (all of our needs and perhaps even some comforts) so that God’s name might be hallowed. We pray for forgiveness of our sins so that God’s name might be hallowed. We pray for guarding from temptation so that God’s name might be hallowed. In other words, our prayers are focused on God’s Kingdom rather than our own.
As we dedicate ourselves to prayer this year, modeled after the Lord’s prayer, I expect that our lives will begin to reflect this same kind of focus. Will you remind and encourage me to pray this year?
Praying with you,