How to pray even bigger in the year ahead

A few January’s ago one of my friends and I were headed to the gym. It was packed, as it so often is at the beginning of the year, with people who had probably made New Year’s resolutions to get back into shape. My friend said, “You know what – I can’t stand the cynical types who make fun of people for going to the gym in January. I mean, at least they’re TRYING to make themselves better, you know?” She was right. Sometimes we scoff at other people and what we deem “unrealistic” goals they set for themselves heading into a new year. But we should give these people more credit for embracing a certain desire woven into all of us – the desire to be BETTER.

No matter which way you slice it, at the end of the day, we are all trying to better ourselves. We want to be healthier, more organized, frugal, adventurous, disciplined – fill in the blank. We crave to be better. Dare I say, there is something inside of each of us that is craving to be GOOD.

Why? People have all kinds of opinions on this topic, but as a Christian, I believe it’s because we were all designed by a Creator who embodies everything that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. As countless theologians have pointed out, since we were designed by this Creator, it would make sense that He placed a craving inside each of us to be more LIKE Him.

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You might ask, “Okay – so what? How is that any different from people who aren’t Christians and want to better themselves?” The key differences from a Christian perspective are the realization that you do NOT know what is best for yourself – only God does, and that in order to become better and more Christ-like, you must rely on the Holy Spirit.

I personally didn’t obtain true peace in my life until I accepted and started applying this idea. I had to learn to offer God control over different areas of my life – especially the ones I did NOT want Him to control – in order to start seeing the results I had always desired.

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I’ve found that even when I have the best intentions and try my hardest to get things right on my own, without God’s help and direction, I end up spinning out of control. C.S. Lewis once said of this dilemma, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”

As you head into this new year, rather than feeling helpless to fulfill the desire in your heart to better yourself, dig into it. Set your goals higher by praying bigger prayers. Make the choice to really BELIEVE that if God created you, He knows what is best for you. Get curious about who it is He created you to be. Ask Him to wreck your plans and to replace them with HIS – He will show you what you need to change. If you come to Him with a willingness to be obedient to His directions, He will improve you more than you could ever improve yourself.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)