The sheep magnet appeared unexpectedly. It was from a farm magnet set we gave to our grandson at Christmas, and honestly, I had no idea it was left behind. So when we discovered it several days after he had left, I texted my son to let him know that we'd found the missing sheep, in case our grandson was looking for it. Okay, he's not even a year old yet! He wasn't going to notice! Still, I let him know where it was, and then proceeded to put the found sheep on our kitchen counter so I'd remember to bring it with us next time we visited. Since then, the sheep has moved to the refrigerator, and now to the toaster. It makes me happy every time I look at it. It's a very simple, daily reminder to me of the joy we all had together at Christmas, but also, it reminds me of what I hope to keep in mind all year, that we are never lost sheep with God. He is always seeking us out and drawing us near to him, and because of that truth, I can trust him with my hopes and plans for 2024.
I know, we are well into the month of January, and I'm far behind all those who have already announced their new year's resolutions or their refusal to make them, late to announcing my word of the year, or any big plans, as many have. So far, I’ve been quiet. But that doesn't mean I don't have any plans and hopes. For those of you who follow my blogposts and wonder if I’ve stopped writing because it's been a while since I've posted, here’s my assurance that I haven’t. Writing is still very much part of my days and part of my plans for the year. But before I share any of those writing plans, or any other plans for that matter, I want to share the one sure thing that surpasses all my plans, the thing that is going to set the foundation for the rest of my year and relieve me from any burden of trying to accomplish all the other things. Put simply, that one sure thing is: God’s plans are the best plans, the ones guaranteed to happen.
This one sure thing is what I plan to keep in the forefront of my mind throughout this year because I know that if I don’t, I might become discouraged when things don’t go my way or when I feel lost about what to do in any situation. I share this with all of you because I hope it’s the one sure thing you will count on too.
This declaration about God’s plans isn't based on my own thoughts. It’s based on some very essential and basic truths in God’s word that have caught my attention again recently and spoken to my heart. These verses are:
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
“Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14
These verses likely sound very familiar to many of you. They’re one’s I’ve heard and read many times, but in my time with God lately they’ve become very powerful. They’re reminding me that I don’t need to worry over the things I can’t control. They’re reminding me that I don’t need to get everything perfect. They’re reminding that I don’t need to understand everything or know what’s coming my way in order for things to be okay. They’re reminding me that God is the one in control and that he can use me in his plan, but he doesn’t need me to get it done. His plans will succeed no matter what, and because he loves us, they will be what’s best. All these reminders are very freeing when I let them sink in.
It’s possible you’re reading this and thinking, that all sounds great, but how do you know what God’s plan is? I hear you. Wondering if you're getting it right can feel stressful, but the truth is, we don't need to worry about getting it right. I think that’s where those verses I wrote come into play. The words “seek,” “trust,” “wait,” stand out to me as actions we can take to follow God's will. I also hear the advice to "ask" when I read Matthew 7:7, which says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And I'm promised he hears me when I read 1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
Again, this verse in 1 John might cause us to ask how to know whether we’re praying in God’s will, and to this, I would say that the best way to know what God’s will is after we pray is to see if what we’re praying for is in line with his word. Is my prayer in line with God’s promises, God’s commands, God’s character? God’s word will help me know. So if I’m consistently reading it, my prayers should more closely align with his will.
And then there’s one more comforting thought – Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding in prayer for us. Hebrews 7:25 says. “He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” With Jesus interceding, we know God’s will comes through. Plus in Romans 8:26 we hear, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” What a relief! Even when we don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit speaks for us.
Finally, we can follow God's word to pray in his will. God’s word gives us the perfect model for prayer in the Psalms. By reading the Psalms, we see how David and others prayed honestly and boldly to God, crying out their frustrations and fears as well as their adoration and thanks. We see a pattern of expressing a heart’s desire followed by claiming truths about God’s character, loyal love, and provision for those who seek and follow him. We can do the same. We can express what's on our hearts, telling God what we feel is wrong or difficult, and then we can praise him for who he is, asking for his promises for us to be fulfilled, or asking for help in remembering his love and faithfulness to us, and then thank him for all he is and all he does.
Another way we can pray is to pray specifically through the Psalms, which is something I'm doing this year as one way I can surrender my plans to God and pray in his will. I’m praying through the Psalms, using them as the model and starting point for my own prayers, and I’m inviting you to join me.
Starting next week, and for several weeks following, I'm leading a weekly "Praying through the Psalms" group at my church (message me if you'd like to join), and I'll be posting my own prayer on my blog based on one of the Psalms from the attached schedule created by Don Whitney in his book Praying the Bible. The process I will follow is based on the suggestions he gives in his book.
Here are the steps I'll generally follow:
1. Read or skim through the five Psalms for the day (Psalms schedule attached at the end of this post) and select one that speaks to you. Have a journal nearby if you like to journal or write prayers.
2. Read the entire Psalm through.
3. Read the Psalm again, pausing to pray after each verse or several verses. For example, beginning with the first verse of the Psalm, read, pause, and think on what this verse brings to mind. Write or say your thoughts to God. You could also draw something that comes to mind or write and color around a word or the name of someone that you want to pray for.
4. Repeat this for each verse. If a verse doesn’t bring up something to pray about or is particularly difficult, go to the next verse.
5. At the end of the Psalm, say or write anything else on your mind and then close your prayer.
As an example, here’s how you might do this with Psalm 107:
Psalm 107:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his loyal love endures.
My words: I give thanks to you, Lord, for you are good, and your love lasts forever. Thank you for always loving me and for your constant goodness.
Psalm 107:2-3 Let those delivered by the Lord speak out, those whom he delivered from the power of the enemy, and gathered from foreign lands, from east and west, from north and south.
My words: You daily deliver me from the power of the enemy, from lies I might think or believe. You promise to guard and protect me and those I care about. Thank you, Lord.
Psalm 107:4-6 They wandered through the wilderness, in a wasteland; they found no road to a city in which to live. They were hungry and thirsty; they fainted from exhaustion. They cried out to the Lord in their distress; he delivered them from their troubles.
My words: In my wilderness moments, in the dry, barren parts of my heart and soul, in moments that seem mundane or difficult or hard, I cry out to you, Lord. Deliver me from the wilderness moments, fill me with your spirit and hope and strength. Do the same for those I love and care about, my friends, children, husband, family, church family.
I continued this prayer in my journal, which ended up being quite long since Psalm 107 is a long one, but I could have stopped here if I didn’t have as much time. So even if you’re short on time, praying a few verses or only one verse is better than praying nothing. That one verse can actually be the line to start your prayers throughout the day as you need them.
If you decide to join me in this, I pray it will bring life to your prayer time, and I pray you will find comfort and hope in the Psalms as you read them.
I’d love to read the prayers you write too! I'd also love to pray for you if you have any requests, so feel free to send me your prayers or requests any time. My own prayer will be posted early next week, along with a template for you to follow if it's helpful in writing your own prayer.
Finally, I hope and pray you and I continue to grow in our faith this year, that we draw even closer to the one who knows us deeply and loves us dearly, and that we continue to trust that he is more than enough for every desire of our hearts.
Here's the schedule I'm following through the Psalms if you want to follow along:
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