In 2023, Let’s ‘Resolve’ to Pray!
We’re a couple of weeks into 2023, and if you haven’t already tossed the New Year’s resolutions, this may be the week they hit the trash. I gave up on these earnest-but-doomed-to-failure attempts at self-improvement many years ago, but when a new year starts, I do desire to establish benchmarks for what is to come.
Perhaps this is a hangover from my corporate days, when we “Managed by Objective” (MBO, for the uninitiated) or set a slew of “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) goals.
I left the comfort of those goalposts behind when the Lord called me out of the business world. Gone are the business models; the performance reviews; the direct-marketing campaigns that returned satisfyingly measurable results. Yes! A whole 0.5% of the people I’ve emailed have purchased my product! Woo-hoo!
People used to ask me what I missed most about the corporate world.
“Well, the paycheck,” I would quip. Yes, there is something rewarding about money flowing on a reliable basis into the bank account. But what I really missed was a sense of achievement.
In the gnarly, messy world of ministry — especially intercession — measurements are irrelevant. Are there any such things as SMAIT (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Irrelevant, Time-Bound) goals?
This implies, of course, that what I did in business was my own achievement. I know better, of course. And yet ministry — working with the vulnerable, wounded, and precious saints, and with those who are being wooed by the Lord — has clearly been the Lord’s territory. In ministry, I relinquished control over and for the results of my work.
I felt I relinquished all sense of completion and achievement, as well.
Gone were the To Do lists, with those satisfying cross-offs at the end of the day.
People, it turns out, are never “done.” The work of ministry — perhaps especially in intercession — is like the laundry, the cooking, and the cleaning: It never ends.
No wonder so many (myself included) relish speaking engagements and those “fly-by” gigs. They reward us with the accolades and the “God really spoke to me” moments as we step off the podium. And perhaps best of all, there’s no messy involvement in someone else’s life. Yeah! Now we’re talking.
No, ministry and intercession — roll-up-your-sleeves, and dive-into-the-deep-messy-tear-filled-trauma of someone’s life — this is long-haul stuff. Such work requires a different sort of measure: the measure of a life informed, shaped, and known through transformation into the image of Christ; the measure of the word touching, healing, and molding our lives.
My prayer resolutions for 2023, therefore, center on the yardstick of the word realized in my life.
I have chosen to focus on The Big Ten.
No, I don’t refer to the college football conference here, but to the Ten Commandments our Lord gave to Moses on the mount and engraved onto stone. I pray that the Lord will engrave them upon my heart as well, so that, at the close of 2023, I might find His achievement written there, in the form of a life transformed more nearly into the image of Christ.
In 2023, I pray:
- that I might know in increasing measure the Lord my God who brought me out of slavery into His Life through Christ, my Savior, my Lord, and my God;
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Exodus 20:2).
- that I may be convicted of and delivered from idolatry of all sorts. I won’t exalt above the Lord anything on earth, in the heavens, or in the depths. I won’t serve idols — not any person, and not any thing — and I will not give anyone or anything the honor and worship that is due only to the Lord. I won’t create a pathway for idolatry and judgment for the generations who follow. Instead, I perpetuate a pure path of holiness for them;
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:3–6).
- that I may honor the name and the character of the Lord in my thoughts, words, and actions, so I do not besmirch His name by bringing dishonor upon Him;
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (Exodus 20:7).
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:33–37).
- that I would honor the cycle of rest and work for which the Lord designed me by honoring the Sabbath. I keep right relationship with the works of His Hands through me by remembering that He holds everything together and enables any good thing I do. I enable all those with whom the Lord has given me influence to regard as holy the Sabbath, as well;
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:1–11).
- that I may honor, respect, and cherish my elders, including my parents, in my words, thoughts, and actions;
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).
- that I would refrain from murder and gossip in my heart, thoughts, words, or actions;
You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21–22).
- that I might honor others by refraining from adultery in my heart, thoughts, or actions. I won’t reduce them to objects for my own pleasure;
You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28).
- that I might not steal — tithes, offerings, ideas, credit, time, or effort. I won’t withhold the good I could do from those in need;
You shall not steal (Exodus 20: 15).
- that I won’t lie, shade the truth, make vain oaths, speak falsehoods, or exaggerate about or against others;
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).
- that I would remain contented with the Lord’s provision, seeking no more and no less, refraining from envy, jealousy, and covetousness.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:17).
And so we pray:
Lord, help us live in right relationship with You, with others, with the creation, and with ourselves — including the work of Your Hands through us. Transform us this year in increasing measure into the image of Christ. Render the word living and active in our hearts, lives, and beings. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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Join IFA Contributing Writer Joyce Swingle to pray through this list and the top headlines on Headline Prayer Live.
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
12:15 pm ET
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New York City–based Joyce Swingle is an intercessor and a contributing writer for IFA. With her husband, Rich, also a contributing writer for IFA, Joyce shares the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world through theater, speaking, writing, and film. Prior to going into full-time ministry, Joyce worked for about 20 major magazines and now works in pastoral ministry and Christian counseling. Photo Credit: Canva.
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