We like to make plans for a better future. Especially at the beginning of the year. We plan for health (exercise and diet), we plan for finances (401Ks), and we plan for relaxation and fun (vacations), to name just a few things.
In the same way, our spiritual growth doesn’t just happen. If we want to grow in our relationship with God, we ought to plan for that too.
“So, how can I get closer to God in the new year?” you ask. “What is the best strategy for my spiritual growth?”
Well, we know this one thing: the biggest predictor of your spiritual growth in the new year will be your daily engagement with Scripture.
This fact has been confirmed by every major study of spiritual growth over the last twenty years. Recently, a major LifeWay study demonstrated that if a person will read Scripture at least 4 days a week, you will be able to expect at least 9 life changes. Here are the results:
- Feeling lonely drops 30%
- Anger issues drop 32%
- Bitterness in relationships drops 40%
- Alcoholism drops 57%
- Sex outside of marriage drops 68%
- Feeling spiritually stagnant drops 60%
- Viewing pornography drops 61%
- Sharing your faith jumps 200%
- Discipling others jumps 230%
Now, to be clear, it is not just reading the Bible that makes these changes: it is also praying and acting on what we read.
So, for our new year, I want to recommend a specific, simple daily reading and prayer plan for your growth in the new year. Here it is:
“I want to recommend a specific, simple daily reading and prayer plan for your growth in the new year.”
5 Minutes of Bible Reading
Plan to read the Bible for 5 minutes each day.
Everybody can find five minutes each day. And, at that rate, you will read the entire New Testament and the Psalms in one year! It works out to about one chapter a day, seven days a week, and you’ll make it through the New Testament and Psalms.
There will be people who want to read more—and that is great!—but what I’m suggesting is a good level for all of us, including newcomers. Reading the Bible before praying softens your spirit so that you can pray. Personally, I have found it vitally important to let Scripture impact me first. I pray at a deeper level afterward.
“I have found it vitally important to let Scripture impact me first. I pray at a deeper level afterward.”
Here is a YouVersion guide for the reading plan I described that my church is using this year: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/21473.
10 Minutes of Prayer
Pray for 10 minutes, using the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer outline.
I have used this method for 30 years and it does not get tiresome; it still really helps me. Using the Lord’s Prayer as an outline forces me to pray over things that I normally would not pray about (if left to my own impulses). Here is the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT) as a prayer outline: Pray like this:
- Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. Here, I pray through being aware of God’s holiness, living a holy life, and helping others to live a holy life.
- May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Here, I pray for Jesus to return to consummate his kingdom and I pray through focusing my ultimate aspirations on his promises to be fulfilled in the New Heaven and New Earth.
- Give us today the food we need. Here, I pray through my and others’ daily needs.
- Forgive us our sins. Here, I review the last 24 hours, asking God to bring my sins to mind and I explicitly ask Jesus to forgive them, one by one.
- As we have forgiven those who sin against us. Here, I prayerfully review any persons that I need to forgive and I explicitly tell God that I am forgiving them, as he forgives me.
- And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Here, I review upcoming temptations for me and my family and I explicitly ask for protection for them from Satan’s attacks.
“Using the Lord’s Prayer as an outline forces me to pray over things that I normally would not pray about.”
That is it. Just 15 minutes a day. Or, if you are busy and have only five minutes for a specific prayer time, you can try just 10 minutes a day.
Follow that simple plan and it will change your life!
And, by following it, you will grow significantly in the next year.