Jesus taught us to conclude the Lord’s Prayer proclaiming God’s eternal kingdom, power, and glory. This reminds us that God is sovereign and hears our prayers. Resolve in 2023 to pray with confidence, a confidence that isn’t rooted in your ability or worth but in God’s great power and love. So, if resolutions help you, make them. If New Year’s resolutions aren’t a helpful practice for you, don’t make them. But Jesus commanded us to pray specific themes to remind ourselves of who our God is and what he’s up to.
December isn’t just the time of year that annual planning is done. It is also the time of year that resolutions are made. And whereas I’m grateful we possess the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards, let me suggest that they aren’t the best guide for making our own resolutions. First, he was rather odd, in part due to his astronomical intellect.1 But second, duplicating other people’s practices can be as harmful as they can be helpful. After all, you are not Jonathan Edwards. For this very reason, Robert Murray M’Cheyene was known to be reluctant to share his own practices of personal piety. Even if they were helpful to him didn’t mean they would be helpful to someone else, or so he argued.
So, does this leave us avoiding resolutions for the new year? Maybe. Studies have shown that very few people continue with resolutions throughout the year. We might better call them hopes or aspirations rather than resolutions. But then there is the whole thing about timing. If God is calling you to change something about your life, why wait until January 1? Why not make the resolution today?
I want to suggest that there is a simple way forward. When we discussed annual planning in my last post, we looked at the Decalogue as a picture of all reality. Planning should be made aligned with reality. As we look forward and long to see changes in our personal lives and families, there is another guide that the Lord gave us: the Lord’s Prayer.2
The Pattern Jesus Gave
When his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he provided a model prayer (Luke 11:1–4; Matt. 6:9–13). Should that prayer be prayed verbatim? Absolutely. Should that prayer serve as a pattern for the main things for which we should pray? Absolutely. And by mentioning “daily bread,” there is good reason to believe that Jesus intended us to pray this prayer or about these themes daily. When we pray the Lord’s Prayers (as a prayer or a pattern), we are aligning ourselves with the will of God. We don’t have to wonder what resolve God wants from us; he’s told us and told us how to pray for it.
Where does this get us with resolutions? Instead of making resolutions, what if we resolved to pray the Lord’s Prayer daily and work our way through each of the six petitions it contains? Many of these things we could or would resolve actually fall under one of those six heads. And when we change our resolving to daily prayer, we practice bringing our desires before the face of God and seeking the will of Christ.
How Might this Look?
Traditionally and catechetically, the Lord’s Prayer is broken down into eight parts: a preface, six petitions, and a conclusion. So if we used that suggested breakdown of the Lord’s Prayer and resolved to pray it daily or multiple times a week, how could that replace the usual practice of resolutions making?
The Preface: Our Father in Heaven
Resolve to remind yourself often that through the finished work of Christ, God is both your Father and in heaven.