A New Year signals new beginnings. For many of us, this means embracing new goals (or re-kindling old ones). If you’re like me, you can often find yourself creating a “spiritual” checklist, hoping that this next year will be the one that you really get with it spiritually. You grit your teeth and jump into January determined to change some things, only to find yourself frustrated and feeling guilty.
I’ve got a word for you. “Don’t”. I know it’s technically a contraction, but go with me on this. Take a look at our biblical role models: Abraham, Moses, David, Nehemiah, Paul, etc. What they show us is that even through our human short-comings, our priority really needs to be relationship with God. And sure, just like any other relationship we have, a true relationship with God takes work on our part. But any work we put into it is with our hearts aimed at the prize (Philippians 3:12-14)—namely, Christ. Our primary objective is developing a relationship with God. Everything else is secondary.
36″Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'[c] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The following are some excerpts I’ve gleaned from the Psalms that I believe should reflect our attitudes in worship-of and relationship-to God.
1. “Search My Heart”
A foundation of any good relationship is vulnerability. And can I let you in on a little (not-so) secret? You can trust God. Whatever your past experiences may try and tell you, God is trustworthy, he loves you, and He never fails. Some days this truth is easier to grab on to than others. But He loves opportunities to prove His love and faithfulness. So before we go any further, we must open our hearts to the one who already knows what’s inside.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
2. “Please Forgive”
When we realize that God is all-knowing, we must also realize that He loves us unconditionally in spite of our faults and failures. All he asks is that we come to Him with a contrite heart of repentance.
Psalm 51:1-4a; 17
1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight,
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
3. “I Feel…”
As we grow in our walk with the Lord, it’s so important to go beyond the realization of God knowing us, and to begin to know ourselves; to search our own hearts and motivations and bring them before our heavenly father. And even though we should come to Him in reverence, we should also be able to express to the Lord what we are really feeling and not feel the need to hide something from Him. God’s not afraid or shocked by your feelings. And when we express them to Him, being the perfect Father that He is, He helps us walk through them to a place of redemption.
1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. 5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.
4. “Bless Your Name”
Your praise should be motivated by something, and not just be lip-service like the people of Israel described in Isaiah 29:13. Did you ever tell someone “I love you”, and find yourself surprised by them asking you ‘why?’ Look at the heart of David when he writes this Psalm.
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD works righteousness justice for all the oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass, flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children- 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. 19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. 22 Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.
He declares his praise to the Lord, backed up by a powerful thought – “because”. Too many times I have found myself turning my brain off when I turn my “praise” on. Jesus called for us to worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). I challenge you to sit down and write your own Psalm, and where in the Bible you might see a re-telling of Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt, write your own personal story.
1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. 2 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders. 3 Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad.
5. “Take My Life”
Being a follower of Christ means laying down ourselves. Every though, action, motive, dream or passion—He asks for it all. When we “lose” our lives in this way, that’s when we truly find it.
9 The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 10 Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You
41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thin g is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
One of the primary steps we can take to enhance our prayer life is to communicate with God. It sounds so simple, probably because on some level it really is. Let’s strip away every pre-conceived idea about what prayer is or should be and set our hearts to just spend some time with our heavenly Father. He’s been seeking you out and what He wants the most from you is to be with you. So wherever you are right now, take a moment and communicate with the one who’s been with you every step of every day, and let’s see what this new year has to offer.