The Most Life-Changing Habit for the New Year
Which habit do you want to carry into the next year?
We were three hours into a family car trip during the Christmas holidays when my daughter pulled that card out of the box. It was a good question. Looking ahead to 2020, which habit would I choose to continue?
My mind cataloged all the usual suspects: Exercise. Organization. Healthy eating. Financial fitness. I’d made small gains in each of these areas in 2019, and I knew I wanted to keep honing those habits. None of them, though, felt particularly dynamic or productive, at least not in a life-shaping way. I kept thinking.
And I remembered a line from Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life:
“No other habit,” Warren wrote, “can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture.”
Daily Reflection on Scripture
Daily reflection on Scripture. That was it. That was the single most valuable habit I wanted to carry into the new year. I don’t just want to read my Bible; I want to reflect it. To examine it. And to let it examine me – shaping my thoughts, my actions, and my conversations – so that my life dovetails with God’s designs, and so that my prayers line up with his purpose.
Which is, I think, what Jesus was getting at in John 15:7, when he made one of the most jaw-dropping statements in the Bible. “If you abide in me and my words abide in you,” he said, “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Put another way, what this promise means is that the more we allow Scripture to penetrate our hearts and our minds – pruning out the bad stuff and breathing life into what’s good – the more our desires (and our prayers) will reflect what God is already planning to do.
I can’t think of a better jumping-off place for 2020 than that.
And honestly? All of those other good habits and resolutions, from taking care of our bodies to managing money wisely, find their inspiration in Scripture. There is not a need we will face, a goal we can set, or a healthy discipline that we can practice that God has not already thought of, and provided for, in his word.
Effective time management? “Teach us to number our days so that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
Dealing with things like worry and fear? “Let us not be anxious or afraid, but instead cast our anxieties on you, knowing that you care for us.” (1 Peter 5:7)
Increasing your giving, or your kindness toward others? “Prompt us to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18)
Those are just a few of the life-shaping prayer prompts we find in the Bible; there are countless more to discover. And the best part? The best part of Christ’s John 15:7 promise isn’t just the fact that we can ask for whatever we want. The best part is that when we take God up on his invitation – abiding in him, and letting his words abide in us – we get to live out John 15:8: We bring glory to God. We become productive, fruit-bearing people. And we discover the security of knowing that we are Christ’s disciples, that we belong.
31-Day Prayer Habit
If you like the idea of reflecting on Scripture each day – of allowing God’s word to shape your perspective, as well as your prayers – can I invite you to join me in a 31-Day Prayer Challenge? Let’s kick off the new year by looking at the Bible not just as something to read, but as something to pray. Let’s allow the words that we read – words first spoken by God – to animate our conversations with him.
Any passage will do (because again, Scripture is full of transformational promises, principles, and prayer prompts), but if you’d like some help getting started, you can download a printable 31-day calendar here.
There’s a different verse for each day of the month, with topics ranging from relationship needs to character qualities, to ways to develop and strengthen your faith. Pray through each day’s verse slowly, out loud if you can. And whether you’re praying for a family member, a friend, or yourself, try to return to the prayer several times during the day so that God’s word will take root and give birth to hope in your heart.
“My word,” God promises in Isaiah 55:11, “shall not return empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”
So which habit will you carry into the new year? I hope you’ll join me in letting the power of God’s word accomplish his very best plans in 2020, both in your life and in the lives of the people you love.
May we delight in your word, meditating on it day and night, so that we will yield fruit in season and prosper in all that we do. (Psalm 1:1-3)