From Resolutions to Prayers
by Margaret Brownley
According to a recent survey, 38% of us go through the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. Sad to say, only 8% of the resolutions make it past January. As someone once said, even the best intentions go in one year and out the other. That’s probably because most resolutions involve losing weight or giving up something we equally dread doing.
Who wants to start the New Year on such a negative note? There had to be another way and the answer came to me unexpectedly while cleaning out an old trunk. Hidden among the photographs, letters and other keepsakes was a notebook filled with prayer lists I had written twenty years prior.
That notebook took me down memory lane and reminded me of all that had happened at the time. That was the year of the great Northridge earthquake and the list was full of prayers of thanksgiving that none of my loved ones had been injured. Also included in the notebook were prayers for my out-of-work husband; college acceptance for a nephew; and guidance for a troubled youth. Oddly enough, I hardly remembered some of the problems that had seemed so overwhelming at the time.
Though I’ve kept prayer lists for years, I’d never thought of them as a replacement for the annual resolution ritual. Nor had I considered the many advantages such lists offer. For one, resolutions are so one-sided. A prayer list is a partnership with God. It’s not hard to know which has the best chance of success.
Writing out needs and concerns in prayer-form also forces us to be specific. I’ve noticed through the years that the more specific I am, the more likely my prayers will be answered. At first I puzzled over this: If God knows what we need before we do, why does He wait for us to ask? Then it occurred to me that God gives when He knows we’re ready to receive. Writing out specific needs lets God know that we are ready for His blessings and willing to do our share of the work.
Keeping a notebook handy for easy access will also serve as a reminder to pray often. I’m a pen and paper person, but there’s no reason why a smart phone or iPad won’t work just as well.
I find it helpful to keep several prayer lists going at once. A good way to start is with a separate list for family, friends, church, work and country. That way you can concentrate on praying for one list per day. If I know that a prayer has been answered, I add that to my praise or gratitude list.
The best part of finding those old lists was that it opened my eyes to the wondrous and even surprising ways God has worked in my life. Prayers don’t always get answered right away or in the way we envision, so it’s easy to miss God’s response.
My husband didn’t get the job we prayed for; he got a better one. My nephew didn’t get accepted at Harvard. Instead he attended the state university where he met his future wife. That troubled youth grew up and is now a teen counselor.
Prayer lists also offer unexpected health benefits and might even result in weight loss. Faith is a great motivator and stepping on the treadmill is a way of showing God we’re willing to do our share. I’ve also found that even the most overwhelming problems look more manageable on paper and this helps relieve stress. Less stress means less need to reach for those cookies.
Not all my prayers have been answered and this is cause for reflection. What is God teaching me? Have I not done my share of the work? What does God have planned instead?
Wouldn’t it be great if a year from now you could look back at your 2015 prayer lists and see tangible proof that God is working in your life? Counting answered prayers instead of broken resolutions is a great way to start any year.
Margaret Brownley has penned nearly forty novels including Petticoat Detective. Her books have won numerous awards, including Readers’ Choice and Award of Excellence. She’s a former Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist and has written for a TV soap. She is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.
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