a new year’s prayer
A dividing line of time draws near as one year ends and another begins. It’s a natural time to reflect on the past and plan anew for the future. But how do we reflect on our past year of life soberly, with thanksgiving while also moving forward in hopeful and joyous dependence on our Savior?
That is where my heart has been lately—contemplating and praying through these things. God faithfully answered my prayers for help to evaluate the past year and refocus my energies and efforts for the next. He has done so with a prayer that His Spirit, through the apostle Paul, etched in Scripture not only for me, but for you too.
This very precious prayer lies in the book of Ephesians. This Godward plea has only seven powerful verses.
A Godward Plea
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In this prayer, God our Father tells us His aspirations for His children, reminds us of the work He has already completed in our past and gives us direction for plans in our future. Through this Scripture, He has given us a mirror to help us discern where our hearts have been the past year, and how His sufficiency will enable us for the next. He’s left no stone unturned nor plan left unresolved for what He has accomplished in our past and for what lies ahead. He’s given us His desired purpose and wants us to know and comprehend it.
First, it is a prayer that literally begins on our knees. The Spirit tells us that Paul begins his prayer bowing his knees in honor, reverence, submission, and in awe to our Heavenly Father. Everything in Paul’s soul recognizes God’s sovereign control and authority over his life. He is surrendered and yielded to the preeminence of God over His past and God’s intentions and will for the future. Bowing to our Lord is the pattern of the hidden heart of a child of God. It is an outward response to worship Jesus. Will we join Paul to begin a new year bowing before the Lord?
As we gaze at our past, I believe God wants us to know a few things before we begin to evaluate it.
The world is full of its own ideas of success, and we as Christians can be tempted to believe those half-truths or even be susceptible to subtle, tantalizing lies. We simply cannot view our lives through the lens of our current world’s culture. To do so would be a hinderance to our spiritual growth, our very identity in Christ, and the ways God moves through the hearts and lives of His children (Mark 8:36, John 17:16, Colossians 2:8). The world is not only in opposition to God and His will, but in war against Him and the trust in Jesus that His children hold dear (James 4:4).
God tells us through this Ephesians’ prayer that He prefers we view our past by recognizing foremost His undeserved grace as evidence of His love for us (Ephesians 3:17). His favor extends to us in that we have been exalted to a special relationship with our reconciled and loving Father. God Himself says that He is our Heavenly Dad (John 20:17). Through Jesus, God has united Himself to us in the deepest bond of intimacy and faithfulness. He promised us as He lifted the cup of communion that He had made a covenant of blood when He took away our sins (Romans 11:27).
As we lay hold of the past, God assures His children that He has carried us through every circumstance with compassion (Psalm 103:13, Isaiah 46:4). He has not for one moment neglected nor forsaken us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Another lens to see the past year is through God’s very personal, intentional, limitless love. Ephesians 3:17 says that God has rooted and grounded us in this love. The English phrase “being rooted in love” is called a perfect passive participle. It’s a verb describing something that happened to the noun. That noun is you and me!
In essence, God has already given us roots and has thoroughly grounded, fixed and established every saint in Christ. The book of Colossians renders it as “stable and steadfast” (Colossians 1:23). God has acted upon us with His love in such a way as to create and work in us a firm foundation that is immovable and unchanging.
Only God does this to a human heart!
The Bible says it’s a love that is inseparable, and nothing nor anyone can remove it (Romans 8:39). This love exists through tribulations, distresses, persecutions, needs, dangers, and even death (Romans 8:36).
God’s love remains for His children eternally and through all of life’s situations. Ephesians says it’s a multi-dimensional love that has breadth, width, length, height, and depth.There is nothing so high and wide that God as our Creator, Provider, Guardian, and Savior cannot enter into and redeem (Ephesians 1:7).
After laying these important truths, how does God desire us to view the next year?
The prayer in Ephesians specifically says that God desires to give us strength. Why strength? Well, we are often very weak and lack the necessary capacity to bear life independently of God.
2 Corinthians 12:10 describes it as “when we are weak, then we are strong”. This is a promise of God’s gifted strength to us. The Greek phrase “when we are weak” is a much wider understanding of human weakness.
It evolves in moments when we’re weak, as often as we’re weak, and as long as we’re weak. We have to learn that we are more frail than we assume ourselves to be.
We need God’s empowerment.
God’s intent and promise is to strengthen. He desires us to have His power for very specific reasons and needful purposes so that God’s glory is identified and experienced.
Ephesians 3:16 says that God furnishes us with strength through His Spirit in our inner being. Our inner being is what God strengthens. It is the deepest aspect of our souls; it is who we are at our core. It’s a term used to describe what happens upon salvation where we are converted, recreated, and regenerated by God (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Titus 3:4-7).
The Spirit writes the law in our hearts and begins cultivating new desires to fulfill His will (Jeremiah 31:33,). There is an empowerment that God provides for the new, reborn person that the Spirit strengthens.
God wonderfully strengthens us so that Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17). The idea is that God’s Spirit would pervade and influence that heart. It’s a heart in which all desires, endeavors, affections, the will, and thoughts are governed by God.
It’s as if God through His Word is saying to us in this new year that He alone desires to guide, lead and be our influencing Lord over every aspect of our lives.
All ambitions, plans and goals for the new year should be governed by Him. He continues in Ephesians by saying when Jesus dwells and pervades our hearts, we are then “filled with the fullness of God” (verse 19). We conform to our Lord Jesus as He indwells and floods every part of our very person. Imagine greater degrees of living in this manner throughout next year?
The impossible becomes possible!
This supernatural empowerment through the Spirit to yield to the governance of God alone in our lives is a work God has begun and a work that He promises to complete (Philippians 1:6). It starts and ends with His glory.
God’s glory encompasses all that He is.
It’s His supreme majesty, absolute perfection, limitless power, and eternal transcendence—His character. It is the explicit reason God is celebrated and praised at the end of this prayer in Ephesians.
God wants us to have the strongest conviction and unwavering faith in Him because He alone is able to do exceedingly more than anything we, as His children, may request or even think (Ephesians 3:20).
To our amazement, God plans on doing this through the might that He dispenses to us in Christ. He emphasizes that this is what brings Him glory in the church forever (Ephesians 3:21).
Can you imagine the plans God has prepared for your life in 2024? God-sized proportions!
The dividing line of time has come to usher in a new year. As we reflect on our past and prepare for 2024, let’s do it bowing in surrender to God.
Remember that Jesus Himself is praying for us (Romans 8:34).
He’s also given us a prayer that is filled with immense hope and exceptional possibilities that we can experience through our Spirit-governed hearts.
In this prayer, He has given us a true and accurate lens to evaluate our past and reorient our plans for the future with the result that in our joy we can exclaim, “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”