by Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar
The month of January brings a new start in many ways. New calendars are put up on walls. New pages begin datebooks and monthly planners. In short, personal decisions on how time should be spent are reconsidered at this time of new beginnings. Where and how are we going to spend our time this coming year? There are so many options that present themselves!
One way of bringing greater blessing in the upcoming weeks and months is to establish a prayer priority. Designating more time for being at prayer in this coming year than in the previous 12 months will be a great blessing.
Certainly our Lord had a prayer priority in the days of His earthly life. Each of the four Gospels record Jesus setting aside significant amounts of time for prayer. In one of the most dramatic episodes of His ministry at the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus proclaimed again the Word of God that had come through the prophet Isaiah: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is. 56:7; Matt. 21:13). Through the prophet Isaiah, God had promised that even foreigners and strangers who had become His servants would be made joyful in His house of prayer (Is. 56:6). Our church is to be for us a joyful house of prayer, and prayer is to be a priority in our lives!
One way of expanding our prayer life is to make our church home into even more of a house of prayer in our lives than it already is. The Psalmist writes, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord'” (Ps. 122:1). Certainly our experiences of praying together at worship are spiritually strengthening.
But an enriching prayer experience is also available to those who stop by at the Lord’s house individually at a time when no corporate activity is scheduled. Taking in hand a hymnal and reading through one of the prayer services such as Responsive Prayer I or II or perhaps the Litany (Lutheran Service Book 282289) can be a source of spiritual growth and blessing. The hymnal book section titled “Prayers, Intercessions and Thanksgivings” (LSB 305ff) has extensive options for those actively making prayer a greater priority.
Also, read through the “Prayer” section of hymns in the hymnal. This can serve as a helpful devotional resource (LSB 766780). Included among the stanzas are special words of encouragement to grow in the practice of prayer in the coming year:
As holy conversation, in silence or by word,
in ev’ry situation through Jesus, we are heard.
So let us pray securely, expressing hopes and fears
with confidence that surely our Father ever hears.
God makes a flat-out promise through His prophet: “You will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me. When you seek Me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord” (Jer. 29:1214). We pray simply because God has promised to hear. “If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children,” Jesus said, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matt. 7:11).
So, in this new year of God’s grace, take time to discover new ways to make prayer a blessed priority for your life!
1 — Circumcision and Name of Jesus
18 — The Confession of St. Peter
24 — St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor
25 — The Conversion of St. Paul
26 — St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor
Dates courtesy Lutheran Service Book
> Order Evening and Morning: Music of Daily Prayer, recordings of the prayer services offered in Treasury of Daily Prayer, at www.cph.org.
About the Author: The Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar is pastor emeritus of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Newtown, Conn.