The end of the year can be heavy, both symbolically and emotionally. What could be just one more day carries the weight of that dividing line in our calendar: One year has ended; another is beginning. Social research shows that dividing lines like that are psychologically helpful. They give us the chance to anchor ourselves in time and consider making a new start. That also means the end of the year is a great opportunity for spiritual reflection. Here’s a 20-minute prayer exercise to help you bring your year to a close in the presence of God.
Start by finding a quiet place where you’ll be free from distractions. (If you’re reading this post on your phone, consider putting it on Do Not Disturb.) If any thoughts or feelings come up as you start to get quiet, don’t brush them away. Take a few minutes to take whatever’s on your mind and present it to God.
If there’s a song or hymn that you particularly love, start by singing that to the Lord. Or, read a psalm. Psalm 66 is a helpful poem about rejoicing in God’s provision through trying times.
Looking Back on the Past Year
When you’re ready, think back over your year. What do you have to give thanks for? There might be certain events or experiences that immediately leap to mind. Thank God for the good things. If you like to journal, consider writing down things you’re grateful for in each of the following areas of life:
- Your body, mind, and health
- Your school or work
- Your church
- Your family
- Your friendships
- Your creative projects
- Your life in prayer
Each of these areas also likely brings up difficulties and disappointments from the past year. Allow yourself to feel that grief. What longings in your heart are still unfulfilled? Speak with God about how you feel, and listen to his response.
There may also be experiences this past year that were especially difficult, but also are a source of gratitude in retrospect. How did God meet you in hard times?
Now turn to examining yourself. Ask these questions:
- What kind of person was I this past year?
- Where did I want to grow? How did that go?
- What sins were repetitive or significant?
- When did God meet me?
- Did I experience healing in any way?
- How did I get to love and serve others?
If any of these questions launches you into meatier reflection or prayer, take time for that and don’t worry about getting through the whole list.
Looking Ahead to the New Year
What You Need
Looking ahead to next year, pray for whatever you need.
- Financial provision
- Physical and emotional health or healing
- Energy to keep working and keep loving
- Wisdom for the perplexing questions
If you have particular fears, name these as well. Connecting with our real fears helps us to connect with God at the heart level. Take each fear and turn it into a request. For example, if I fear for my family’s health, I could pray for each person who I’m worried about. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).
You may or may not feel a sense of resolution or peace breaking through right away in response to your prayers for what you need. That’s okay. Keep returning in prayer to any source of agitation in the weeks ahead.
What You Want
Beyond those needs that feel most urgent, what longings do you have for the year ahead? What desires do you feel, if you let yourself? Don’t worry if something seems trivial. One of my desires for the coming year is to get a dog. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for great, even miraculous provision. No prayer is too small or too big for God.
Our posture in asking for what we want is one of humility. We can trust that God has our best interests at heart. Tell God what you want confidently. Wait with open hands for him to respond the way he wants to.
Who You Want to Be
Finally, consider your own heart again. What kind of person do you want to become in the year ahead? Is there some area of Christlike character or love that you feel drawn to, that you feel the Spirit may be leading you to pursue? Consider the Apostle Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Which line strikes you as a foothold for growth right now?
Spiritual growth often results more from the unplanned challenges in our life, and how God meets us in them, than from our intentional planning. But God will also honor your intentions when you lean into an area of character where you feel the desire to grow. Just remember not to take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s not about us; it’s about Christ’s character growing in us by God’s grace.
As this prayer exercise for the end of the year comes to a close, rest in the presence of God for a few moments. Write down any impressions, words, or images you want to take with you from this time into the year ahead.
Conclude with this anonymous prayer for the new year:
Lord, You make all things new
You bring hope alive in our hearts
And cause our Spirits to be born again
Thank you for this new year
For all the potential it holds.
Come and kindle in us
A mighty flame
So that in our time, many will see the wonders of God
And live forever to praise Your glorious name.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
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