It’s ten days into the new year already, and I’m a little late for goal-setting. Our Christmas tree is still up. I’ve still been blasting the Christmas tunes. And I’ve just about worked my way through the seasonal chocolate stash! I’ve been dwelling in the birth story of Jesus for just a little bit longer, gradually shifting out of this time of wonder and celebration and back into action and discipline. Back into rhythm.
I’ve been thinking about the year ahead, asking God for guidance as I set goals and figure out what I need to focus my time and energies on. It feels a little daunting. My mind can spin off in so many directions. I have a lot of ideas. But also a lot of responsibilities. There’s only so much of me.
What I need most is for God to order this all so it doesn’t turn into a jumbled mess. And the only way this can happen is in that back-and-forth conversation called prayer. In prayer, I let God reorient me, and all my priorities get put into the right order.
So, first things first for 2017.
It’s a new year in my life of prayer. And my new prayer goal for this year is nothing new at all. It’s completely unoriginal, and that’s why I’m attracted to the idea.
I’m going to pray through the Psalms.
There are a few reasons I think this will be helpful for me:
1. It’s not my idea.
Like, I said, this is nothing new. Christians have been doing this in all times all over the world. The Psalms are perfectly suited to prayer. They are prayers! And what better way to pray than to join my voice with God’s own living Word. I’ll also be joining my voice with a great company of saints and witnesses. I know there is a deep and ancient wisdom at work here.
There have been times when I’ve tracked along with the psalm readings in the Book of Common Prayer. In the BCP, if you follow along with morning and evening readings, you will read through basically the whole book of Psalms in a month. I’m going to go a bit slower. I want more time to mediate on each psalm. So my goal is to read through one psalm during my morning prayer time, meditate on it, and pray a response.
2. Prayer flows more easily when I read Scripture first.
There are many days I’ve tried to start my day off with prayer, only to find I have nothing to say! Well, there are the usual pressing needs and random, meandering thoughts in my head. But when I begin with Scripture, I find God gets the conversation off on the right foot. It’s like being given a vocabulary for prayer. He speaks, and gives me the words with which to answer back. When I read the Spirit-breathed Word first, my prayers are more likely to be Spirit-led.
3. It’s simple.
In this season of life, simple is good. I don’t need any fancy prayer plans or programs. I just need my Bible and a bookmark. I’ll just keep going, one psalm after the other, and trust the process. It’s tried and tested. Simple, yet rich.
I’m not putting a particular time limit on this. My goal will be to read and pray through one psalm a day, perhaps stretching some of the longer psalms out over a number of days.
I think I want to write out my responses. I’d like to keep a record of this particular prayer journey, and personally I find I often pray with more intention when I write out my prayers. I might post some of them here on the blog.
I will be doing this in conjunction with my Movements of Morning Prayer – this is my wake-up call to prayer in the morning. I like to start my day first thing with this, because it doesn’t require a whole lot of thought or alertness! (We are still not sleeping through the night over here with this stage of baby life.) Sometimes I will “wake up” to prayer while I’m nursing the baby very early in the morning, or when I’m getting myself ready for the day. In other words, I’m not sitting down with my Bible open, I’m moving in some way.
A little later in the morning, when I put the baby down for her nap, I do have a few quiet minutes when I am alert. This is when I plan to read the psalm, mediate on it, and begin to pray. After I put the baby down, I hope to be able to jot some of my prayer down in my journal.
I’m not sure how long it will take to pray my way through all 150 psalms. The goal is not efficiency, but intimacy with God.
Do you set prayer goals? What would you like your prayer life to look like in 2017?