Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

“Every tree.. that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).

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The New Year motivates us to reorganize, re-energize, and de-clutter our lives and our spaces. There are several excellent approaches we can take:

  1. There is the Kon-Mari method, a global sensation, developed by Marie Kondo, Japanese organizational expert. This method, in a nutshell, encourages us to keep items if–and only if–they “spark joy”.
  2. There is the Fly Lady method, which instructs us to spend 15 minutes every day de-cluttering a zone of your house.
  3. There is the Minimalist Approach, which seeks to limit the number of items we own, down to a very few pieces.
  4. There are lists of questions we can ask ourselves, such as, “Have I used/worn this in the past year?” If not, out it goes.

We’d like to suggest that Jesus had a de-cluttering method that will work for not only our lives but also our spaces. You could call it, “The Life-Changing Miracle of Following Jesus.”

The Fruit Test

Jesus explained his process of pruning in Matthew 3. You can use His method by simply asking yourself this question:  does this activity or thing bear good fruit? That is to say, does it enhance my ability to live out the life Jesus lived, doing the things He did? Those things are spelled out throughout Scripture. Here is one rather comprehensive list:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… (Isaiah 61: 1,2a)

If something does not pass the fruit test, get rid of it! Whether it’s a relationship, object, activity, or commitment.

After spending time with someone, if you leave with a bad taste in your mouth, like the fruit you’ve partaken of in the relationship hasn’t been helpful or edifying, limit your time with that person. Perhaps you’re more prone to gossip with that person, or complain, or speak negatively. Maybe the activities you gravitate to with that person do not elevate your desire to follow after the things of God. In those cases, get your ax out and consider doing some serious pruning for the sake of your heart and soul health.

Maybe you have an activity in your life that doesn’t propel you towards the goals God has given you. Weigh out your habits and commitments against this criteria: does this bear fruit?

The fruit we bear isn’t for ourselves as much as it is for others. So another way to ask this question is, is this item/activity/relationship helpful for the people around me that I want to impact. Use this barometer for all your activities: Netflix, social media, social commitments, even books you read. There’s just not enough time in life to waste on fruitless living. Begin to embrace the life-changing art of following Jesus.

Pray with us for a fruitful New Year.

Father,

Help me to comb through all the areas of my life and ask myself the tough question: does this bear fruit? I want to be fruitful, Lord. I want the fruit of my life to be ripe and rich and ready for anyone who needs it.

Give me wisdom to prune my life, to de-clutter things that don’t bear fruit and focus only on those things that do.

Fill me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let my life be heavy with it, always in season, always ready to sustain others. In doing so, I will be sustained myself, and I will grow in all those qualities with Your help. I want a fruitful life to be the hallmark of my life!

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

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…Think differently…Change your mind… changing your conduct–for the Kingdom of God is at hand…. Let your lives prove your change of heart. (Matthew 3:2,8 AMP)

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It was a new season, a new age. A new kingdom had come. John the Baptist got wind of it first, and as a prophet of God, he went around proclaiming the coming Kingdom of God – a kingdom quite unlike the current one that Israel was experiencing. Jesus was about to take His place on the stage of the world, beginning in a tiny region in Palestine.

In keeping with Jewish tradition, John was baptizing the people. It was a ceremony of cleansing which was to prepare them for the new season which was at their doorstep.

There is a new season, a new year, at our doorstep today. How can you prepare yourself for what lies ahead? What changes would you like to see?

John the Baptist laid out a step-by-step process to ready ourselves for a new year, a year of expectation of all of God’s promises, for He has come into our lives to establish His kingdom in us.

John’s message began with the sobering bad news:  repent.

Does that remind you of fiery preachers with fire and brimstone smoking from their ears and nostrils? It’s really not! It is a word that means to “Turn.” Turn from all that is not love and faith (i.e. sin) and turn towards the One who is love.

John encourages us to think differently than we are apt to think. In order to do this, we have to change our minds. First, we get born again, so we have a new spirit with the capacity to think like God thinks. Next, we need to sincerely regret our sins. But we do not stop with mere regret; rather, we move forward from regret to repentance – simply telling God how sorry we are for messing up.

Then comes the fun part:  changing our conduct. This is where our New Year’s resolutions come in. But in order to find the resolutions that are most important, we need to first follow John’s advice. Here it is in simple form:

  1. Repent – think differently about your behavior and yourself. Think humbly and with sober self-awareness. Acknowledge your sin.
  2. Recognize that this behavior is not acceptable nor helpful.
  3. Ask for forgiveness. God who is rich in mercy, will forgive you.
  4. Make changes in your conduct through the grace of God and prayer.
  5. Check up on yourself. “Let your lives prove your change of heart.” Ask those around you: is this working? Am I overcoming my weaknesses (be specific in sharing what they are!).

Make a specific PLAN:

P – PRAY for a strategy to overcome what you want to overcome. For example, if you are a critical person, ask God to help you pray for people and bless them instead of find things to complain about in others.

L – LISTEN to Your Father. He will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. He will help you overcome your weakness because He loves you and adores you!

A – ACKNOWLEDGE small steps of change and victory! Celebrate your new level of self-awareness and that you are becoming a person that is more like Jesus:  safe, loving, caring….

N – NEVER go back! Determine to continue to make steps forward and never to return to your old way of thinking and your old way of life.

Then, pray this prayer….

Father,

This is a new year. I desire to be more like You, to grow in my love for You and in my capacity to follow Your sweet voice. I want to be a person who is an expert in knowing how to love people.

Pinpoint areas in my life that I need to grow in. Where am I falling short of Your beauty and grace? Give me the gift of self-awareness and the determination that it takes to stay close to You daily in prayer and worship.

Thank You for a new year, a new opportunity to grow in Your love.

Amen

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Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (Isaiah 55:7,8)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. (Ephesians 2:1,2)

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What do you think? If you could give voice to every thought that you entertained, what would happen to your reputation? Your relationships? Would you want the earth to swallow you whole to save your from the embarrassment?

The mind has been rightly called our own personal battlefield. The enemy comes to plant negative and downright evil thoughts in our minds to torment us and to incline our hearts to entertain those evil thoughts until they somehow become realized in our lives.

The most important thing we can do in our day is control our thoughts. Our thoughts are broken, and they need to be fixed. Paul’s instructions about our thought processes boils down to this: fix your thoughts on only things that are beautiful and amazing – in short, we are best off thinking about Jesus, how much the Father loves us, and what we’ve been given by the Holy Spirit. Can’t go wrong there!

Want a better new year? Start by renewing your mind with this plain and simple prayer…

Father,

In this New Year, I resolve to think better thoughts. To think better of You. To think more of You. To ponder Your incessant blessings poured upon my life, to remember the many times You have rescued me from trouble, the many times You bailed me out of a tight place, and the countless ways You have provided for me.

Give me a Grateful Mind.

In this New Year, I resolve to think better of others. I want to weed out every critical, judgmental thought that worms it’s way into the recesses of my mind, and to turn instead to intercession for that individual.

Give me a kind mind.

In this New Year, I resolve to think better of myself. Instead of remembering my past mistakes, I will choose to thank You for Your forgiving power in my life and for how You are taking me from one level of glory to the next through the power of Your Word. Root out all forms of pride in me and allow me to think soberly of myself, both my strengths as well as my weaknesses.

Give me a humble mind.

Overall, fix my thoughts on You! Don’t let me think of trouble and worry, rather help me to pray with thanksgiving and trust to the God of the impossible.

Make this year one of breakthrough! Make this year one of blessing! Make this year one of joy and peace in my mind.

In Jesus’ Name
Amen

 

 

Photo by _sarchi on Foter.com / CC BY

For since the world began, no ear has seen a God like you who works for those who wait for him! (Isaiah 64:4)

Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry… (Psalm 37:7)

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As the youngest of five siblings–the oldest being 13 years older than I–Santa Clause wasn’t able to keep the charade going long for a straggler-child like me. I always knew he wasn’t real, but I played along just for fun.

My brother and I would be told on Christmas Eve (for that is when we opened our presents) to go upstairs and lie down and wait patiently for Santa Claus to come, for he was sure to come any moment. And he always did come swiftly and leave just as swiftly, as soon as Mom and Dad got everything ready and had a brief reprieve from the noise and activity my brother and I always managed to stir.

We waited obediently, lying on the bed, wondering about all the possibilities. Dolls, skis, dresses… Dolls were my favorite gift, and the smell of a new doll at Christmas remains my favorite fragrance. My parents weren’t wealthy; our gifts were humble but relished and enjoyed nonetheless.

We waited quietly for Santa because we trusted in Christmas. We trusted our parents to provide something special, and we always knew we wouldn’t be disappointed.

Are you waiting for something this Christmas? Scripture tells us to wait patiently. Lie down and rest while you’re waiting. Don’t fret, don’t worry. I know the need is massive. Some of the situations we face are life-and-death. Shift your focus away from the magnitude of the problem onto the magnitude of your God. What matters is your trust in your God who works on behalf of those who wait.

Want to learn to wait well? Pray this plain and simple prayer.

Father,

Thank You for Your promise that You are working on my behalf as I wait patiently for You. I have prayed, I have surrendered my heart, my life, and this whole situation to You. So, teach me and help me to wait for Your answer.

I know You are working.

I know You are Good.

I know You are God.

I know the promise You have given to me concerning this issue I am facing. I bring that specific promise before You now….

And I will now lie down and rest as I wait patiently for You to act on my behalf. In the meantime, while I rest, work deeply in my heart. Transform me to be more like You. Rid me of all characteristics that don’t look like You – free me from all iniquity.

Forgive and cleanse me now as I wait patiently.

Thank you.

Amen.

 

Photo on Foter.com