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Prayers God Is Ready to Answer

woman sitting on her bed writing her prayers
Three ways to invite God’s goodness into a new year.

This past year was stressful for many of us. Until May, we lived under a declared national health emergency because of COVID-19. The economy, while not in a full-blown recession, tilted deeper into uncertain terrain. Housing prices remained high even as interest rates climbed steadily higher. Inflation made everything from eggs to automobiles more expensive than ever. Fentanyl addictions soared. And tragically, the suicide rate in the United States reached its highest point in more than 80 years. No doubt, millions upon millions of people were eager to put 2023 in the rearview mirror.

When hope is in scarce supply, it’s natural to want a fresh start, a blank page on which to sketch out something different. That’s what the new year promises. But live long enough and you begin to realize unwrapping a new calendar does little to change the state of the world. There is no magic to January 1. Life rolls on without a change in trajectory. The problems we had before the ball dropped in Times Square remain with us after the confetti is swept up the next morning. In this, New Year’s Day can be the cruelest of holidays. It’s nothing more than a mirage in the desert when we need an oasis.

A different perspective

I know — I’m being more than a little melancholy. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading Ecclesiastes. Over the course of this strange little Old Testament book, Solomon tries to find meaning to life under the sun and comes up empty-handed. Neither pleasure nor security, relationships nor work can change the steady march of time. Death comes for everyone, and what we leave behind is soon forgotten. “All is vanity,” he concludes (Ecclesiastes 12:8). It’s hardly an inspirational read. At the very end of the book, however, a second voice speaks up and offers this bit of clarity:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (12:13–14)

Yes, life under the sun — that is, here on earth — can appear meaningless on its own. That’s why, when the stresses of life threaten to break us, it can be tempting to throw in the towel. But there is another perspective, another view that changes everything: the view from above the sun — God’s view.

Life, as it turns out, is not meaningless. We are all caught up in the grand story of redemption, the final chapter of which will bring God’s people into the kingdom of His Son, a kingdom where there is no pain or suffering, no death or disease, and where joy grows stronger with each passing moment.

And so, even when the landscape all around appears dark, there is light to find. We have been invited to partner with God as He brings heaven to earth. Entering a new year, then, is reason to pray, not for quick fixes or selfish desires, but (to echo Jesus’ own prayer) that God’s “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

How do we pray for God’s will? How can we know our prayers are effective? God promises to meet us in prayer when we seek His glory and purposes. As we study Scripture and see God’s heart, here are a few suggestions:

Start with yourself. I know — we’re supposed to put other people first. But it’s like that old hymn says, “O Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me!” If we want to see the world become more like heaven, we need to look ourselves square in the mirror and recognize that we are part of the problem. If we want to see real change in the new year, we must confess that our own sin and selfish appetites have chipped away at the peace and joy available to us as children of God.

Ask God to show you where your priorities may be out of sync with His. Recommit to Him your time, your money, your talents, your energy, and your heart — and ask Him to show you where He wants you to spend yourself. Of course, we were not designed to go, go, go — so while you’re committing to serve the Lord anew, ask Him to help you find His rhythm of rest for your life.

Confess any known sins and invite the Holy Spirit to fill you. Reflect on God’s love for you and thank Him for the gift of His Son. As Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart that you “may know the hope to which he has called you” (Ephesians 1:18). After all, a holy life is not the result of trying harder, doing more, or simply denying yourself; it is instead born of gratitude, the natural byproduct of love for Jesus. Holiness, then, comes when we seek to know God more intimately and delight in what He has done for us through His Son.

Lift up others. We all want our friends and loved ones to be blessed in the coming year, but there is no greater blessing than to receive the salvation that comes from knowing Jesus. Think about the people in your life who haven’t yet been born again. Pray for each one by name. Ask God to prepare their hearts to receive Him. Then ask Him to bring people into their lives who can show them the love of Jesus and share the gospel of grace. Volunteer yourself for the privilege: “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Pray for shalom for your family, your church, and your community. Though we often think of the Hebrew word shalom as a simple synonym for our English word peace, shalom goes much deeper. It is wholeness and health, prosperity and fulfillment, and yes, peace — on the inside and the outside of a person’s life. After the resurrection, Jesus told His friends, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). And while the phrase was recorded for us in Greek, it’s likely Jesus spoke shalom over His disciples. To walk in shalom is part of our calling; it’s a living testimony to our trust in the Lord — and it’s our privilege as God’s children. So, let’s pray for shalom for one another in 2024.

Understand the times. The men of Issachar are remembered for understanding the times in which they lived (see 1 Chronicles 12:32). It was this understanding that led them to support David while the nation of Israel had not yet fully coalesced under his kingship.

We, too, must understand the times. The year ahead will be a year of change and, almost certainly, a year of upheaval. There is already war on several fronts; there are crises that may unfold before our eyes; and a presidential election that will determine the direction of our country for the next four years. To say that history hangs in the balance would not be an overstatement. And so, like the men of Issachar, we must align ourselves — not with earthly kings but with King Jesus.

Pray for people who live in regions of unrest around the globe, that the innocent would be protected from violence and that those in authority would choose the path of peace. Pray for leaders in the United States and abroad, that they would open themselves up to wisdom from above in order that conflicts might be quelled and stability restored.

Ask the Lord to open doors for the gospel to be preached in places where speaking the truth is forbidden. Pray for the work of those who are diligently translating the Scriptures into the languages of people groups who do not yet have the Bible. Ask God to raise up missionaries who will go wherever the Holy Spirit directs them, that the full harvest might be brought in.

Finally, seek the Lord regarding the 2024 election season. While we know that all authority is given by God (Romans 13:1), in the U.S. we have the right and privilege to select our representatives and leaders. Pray for wisdom and understanding, not only of the candidates and the issues but of the times as well.

While it can be easy to get caught up in parties and platforms, we must remember our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus. He is the only hope for our nation and for the world. Pray that the witness of the church would be strengthened and not diminished during this contentious season. Above all, pray that the Lord would heal our land and that hardened hearts would be softened and turn back toward Him.

Don’t miss the point

I mentioned earlier that Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, or at least the bulk of it. Though the king was wiser than any other, he tragically missed the treasure at the end of his quest for understanding. He concluded that everything was indeed meaningless, and in the latter years of his life he fell headlong into sin, worshipping foreign gods. He got so caught up in life under the sun that he lost the plot of the story God has been writing since the very beginning of time.

2024 may prove to be a turning point in history; we’ll have to wait and see. But one thing is certain: We have a choice laid out before us. We can choose to be carried along by the currents of our culture, lose the plot, and fall into despair — or we can cling ever more tightly to Jesus and join Him in the story He is writing. There are some prayers God is eager to answer if only we will pray them. So, pray for the new year that has just begun, but do so in hope for the kingdom that is breaking over the horizon.

Copyright 2024 John Greco. All rights reserved. 

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About the Author

John Greco

John Greco is a writer, editor, and Bible geek. He and his wife, Laurin, live just south of Nashville, Tennessee, where they daily wrangle their three small boys and dream of someday getting to be the ones who take all the naps. John’s latest book is The Sword and the Spirit: A 40-Day Morning and Evening Devotional, and his website is


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