New Year's resolutions—they don't work for most people. I know they've never worked for me. And they've never worked for my pastor, Mike Ashcraft. He loves the beginning of a new year and five years ago he decided to do something better than making another resolution he wasn't going to keep. He decided to think about what kind of person he wanted to be, something he needed to work on, and whittle it down to just One Word. He put One Word in front of him that whole year and watched his life be transformed. Then he shared it with us, his congregation. And now we have a website including people's One Word stories, a blog, and journal found HERE that has literally spread across the nation.
So far my words have been:
2007 – surrender
2008 – perseverance
2009 – abide
2010 – perspective
I had almost picked “best” for my One Word (as in giving God my best, and doing my best in everything I do) but it didn't stick. I also considered “focus” and “live” but they weren't right either. Mike said a week ago Sunday that our One Word would probably be one we were very uncomfortable with. That hasn't been true of me in past years, but little did I know it would indeed be true this year. As I asked God what to choose, a word popped into my head that I didn't expect and honestly didn't really want to hear—a word that is going to require a lot of me, and yet that is simple in many ways—PRAY.
Yes, PRAY is a verb, a doing word. I tried to get away from a doing word last year. It only went well until about August and then it fizzled out like flat soda. “Perspective” proved to be a bit too nebulous, and it was my fault for neglecting a lot of the Word Journal entries I had committed to complete. Still, I do think the word “perspective” helped me keep my head in some situations that were very stressful last year. Which is a good thing.
This year I think God is throwing me back to the basics of Christian living. I've been a believer for 31 years. I have studied prayer, I have prayed out loud in groups, I have written about prayer, I have made spreadsheets detailing my prayer lists. I know a lot about and have experienced a lot of prayer. I have seen many answers to prayer. However, my life is obviously deficient in this area or God wouldn't have given it to me. Maybe I haven't been as faithful in prayer as I needed to be. Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” We are told in the Bible to pray continually, pray so we won't fall into temptation, pray with persistence, pray in Jesus' name, pray about everything, pray on all occasions.
Jesus is a wonderful example for us to follow in this regard. He often got up early and went off alone to pray (see Mark 1:35). He taught His disciples how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). His prayer for us and the world is found in John 17. And I would be remiss if I didn't reference his selfless prayer in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39b).
If we don't know what to pray for, the Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26). God promises to answer when we call on Him. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b).
What kind of person do I want to be? I want to be a person of prayer. I want prayer to be my first thought, not my last resort. I don't want to have knee-jerk reactions, but a prayerful heart that is responsive to the Spirit and to others. I want to lift my fellow Christians up, to be there for them when they need me to pray. I want to be more faithful to pray for those I know who need Jesus, who need to take another step towards Him. I want to see answers, even miracles happen because I took the time to petition the Lord of the Universe for His will. I want prayer to transform me into His likeness, to make me more caring, loving, God-dependent, joyful, concerned, faith-filled, confident, empowered.
God only knows the ways in which my One Word will change me. And it's up to me to put PRAY into action, to plan my life accordingly so it will remain always with me and become an integral part of my life. I'm apprehensive and yet excited because I trust God—his character, his promises, his ways. I don't have to be afraid, because I can trust Him with my life, both now and forever.
So how about you? Have you picked your One Word?