The New Year is a great time for coming to God and reviewing the year that has gone by and also for setting our sights on the year to come. Read on for five New Year prayers to help to guide you through this time of change.
One of my favorite writers, Frederick Buechner, reminds us that God is intimately involved in our lives and wants to direct our steps, He doesn’t just plonk us on earth and leave us to get on with it. Buechner says that the thing that led him to salvation was the evidence of a plot in his life; ‘Once in a while, there is the suggestion of purpose, meaning, direction, the suggestion of plot, the suggestion that, however clumsily, your life is trying to tell you something, take you somewhere’ (Listening to Your Life).
And this is just it, God longs to be intimately involved with us and our decision-making. We may think that our day-to-day decisions are frivolous, but we are His precious children, and there is nothing that delights His heart more than us coming to spend time with Him and sharing our lives with Him.
Read on for a few tips on how to pray around this time of year as well as some New Year prayers you can use.
1. Look back with thanks
At some point around the New Year, I write down all the things I did in the last year that I was proud of, which were new or scary, or which felt like a blessing. It’s good to give thanks for these things and to remember God’s faithfulness to us in these seasons. I heard a preacher say that remembering God’s goodness to us is like ‘falling forwards into His faithfulness’. Remembering that He has saved us time and time again in the past, reminds us that He will do it again! So quite often, my New Year prayers are prayers of giving thanks. In Listening to Your Life, Frederick Buechner recalls an old prayer which goes: ‘For all thy blessings, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten, we give thee thanks’.
‘Thank you, Lord, that you are with me. Thank you for the blessings of the last year. Thank you for keeping me safe. Amen.’
Check out this blog post to read more about the practice of gratitude.
2. Make an inventory of the year
Each year, I review the way that I spend my time. This includes paid work, volunteering, household duties, spending time with my family, and time to rest and exercise. I look at the amount of time I spend doing each thing and hold it before God. I ask Him if life feels balanced and examine my heart towards each of the things I do. Do I do it with a heavy heart? Does it bring me joy? Am I doing it out of obligation? I ask myself if I am making enough to get by, and if I am sowing into things that I believe are a good use of my time. If there is something else I would like to do, I see if I can make space for it. I ask God if there’s anything I should give up.
And all of this pondering and weighing in with God is a New year prayer too. By doing this every now and then, we shape the course of our lives. By offering our decisions to God, we allow Him to breathe into our lives and change the course of them, bit by bit. Oliver Burkeman wrote a column explaining that to steer a plane, you are off course 90% of the time, and it is only by continually correcting that you arrive at the destination (The Guardian, Sat 24th May 2014). And life is a little bit like this too, we correct, we adjust, and we shift all the time.
‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’ Proverbs 4:23.
‘Father, I give you my time. Help me to see how I should spend my days, and teach me to go about them with peace, not a hurriedness. Amen.’
3. Start moving
Have you ever heard that phrase, ‘It’s easier to steer a moving vehicle than a stationary one?’ It’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes, we can be paralyzed by indecision! And sometimes we just need to keep doing what we are doing until we don’t feel it is right anymore, or until we feel God tells us to stop.
It can sometimes feel that we don’t have a clue where we’re going, but things seem to make sense when we look back. As Steve Jobs said in his now-famous Stanford Commencement address; ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards’.
We can get stressed about hearing the voice of God, but I think it’s simpler than we think. If we set our course, then we can pray to God and say, this is what I am aiming for this year. If you want me to change anything, then speak to me. Why not write down these hopes for the year ahead?
‘In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps’, Proverbs 16:9.
‘Father, I have shared with you my thoughts, dreams, and plans for this year. If there is anything in my heart that is not aligned with your plans for me, then change my heart. Amen.’
4. Ask God for the next step
If we knew the route for the rest of our life, with all the different parts planned out, it would be boring, wouldn’t it? God doesn’t reveal it all to us, instead, He shows us one step at a time. Today, if you are facing uncertainty, or you don’t quite know what is next for you, then pray and ask Him for the next step.
‘The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple’, Psalm 119:130.
‘Father, I don’t know what my future holds but you do. Thank you that you already know what lies ahead for me. Thank you that all I need to do is to trust you and to walk with you, step by step. Help me to be satisfied with what I can see for now. Thank you that you will let me know what to do when the time is right to change something. Amen.’
5. It’s a field, not a tightrope
I heard this phrase somewhere and it gave me such freedom. We are not walking on a tightrope, and we will not plunge to our death if we lose balance or make a wrong turn! Instead, think of yourself strolling through a field with your friend by your side.
‘He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake’, Psalm 23: 2, 3.
‘Thank you, Lord, that life is like a field to be explored with you. Thank you that if we veer off course, we can come back to you. You are the God of second chances, and third ones too. Thank you that your love is limitless! Amen.’
So may you go into the New Year with these prayers to help you to remember, to be thankful, to listen, to make decisions, and to walk with joy into all that He has for you this year. Be blessed!