How to Pray When You're Setting Goals

With a brand new year stretched out on the horizon, it's tempting to think we can generate an impressive list of all we hope to accomplish in 2011. But goals that aren't infused with and a result of prayer can lead to unnecessary frustration and disappointment.

When I'm establishing goals, I like to keep this little formula in mind: My goals must = God's goals. For me, unless that's true, I might as well stay home and watch House Hunters and check Facebook all day.

While I can't guarantee that you'll never set another useless goal, I can share how I pray. And I believe that if you pray this way, too, God can inspire and direct your goals, as well.

Therefore, do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understand and firmly grasp what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17)

1. Allow time for prayerful reflection.
This might seem obvious, but when was the last time you sat down to think and really listen to God? Rushed decisions usually turn out to be wrong decisions. Give the Lord time to give you direction. Jot down what you think you're hearing, and allow time to process and pray about it; don't rush into anything. Remember, "To be overhasty is to sin and miss the mark." - Proverbs 19:2b.

2. Ask for clarity and direction.
I always chuckle when I catch myself praying, "God, speak clearly to me!" I don't think God mumbles. I do think I occasionally need my spiritual ears cleaned out. The good news is, He enables us to Hear His voice. "My sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice." - John 10:27a

3. Ask Him to shape your thoughts.
This is so cool, and I regularly pray this particular scripture by personalizing it. "Roll your works upon the Lord--commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and so shall your plans be established and succeed." I always pray: "God, cause my thoughts to become agreeable to Your will, then my plans will be established and succeed."

4. Ask for pure motives.
Popularity, fame, power and money are dangerous motives. The only two motives that I can think of that matter to God are love and obedience. I'm sure there are other valid motives, but the point is we don't want tainted goals. Jesus said, "I receive not glory from men--I crave no human honor, I look for no mortal fame." - John 5:41

5. Ask God to show you the gifts He wants you to use.
Everyone has a talent that they can use to help others in some way. When we know what those gifts are, we're more likely to use them. When we're fruitful, God is honored. "That you may walk, live and conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work..." - Colossians 1:10

6. Ask God to help you prioritize.
Goals need to mesh with our lives, not bring confusion, frustration or consistently take top priority to the detriment of everyone around us. It takes wisdom to properly prioritize our goals, and God always provides when we ask. "If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God Who gives to everyone liberally and un-grudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him." - James 1:5

7. Give yourself a break.
Some goals just don't pan out. Sometimes we sincerely try something and discover it wasn't the right thing, or maybe the timing was off. That's okay. Setting goals isn't about accomplishing 100% of what we do with 100% perfect results. It's about taking control of and responsibility for our lives, and giving it our all. Our ultimate goal should always be to do our best, and leave the results to God.

How about you? Can you think of anything else to pray about when we're establishing goals? What are some of your goals for 2011?


Karen said...

Oh, Julie, I laughed when I read your points on clariy and direction, becuase that's just what I do!! You should do an article on this one, if you haven't already. Love it. Blessings to you this new year!

Diane said...

I think your first equation says it all! His will and His goals for our lives. He knows what's best anyways, right? :O)

Cheryl Barker said...

I like how you ask God to shape your thoughts, Julie. I'm going to try to remember to add that to my prayer life.

I set goals for my writing. I see them as a game plan -- something to help keep me on track. I realize off the top that I won't meet them all. Just gives me things to shoot for and try to accomplish if I have time enough during the year. Definitely helps in prioritizing as other things in life pop up and claim some of my work time.

KelliGirl said...

Hi Julie! Happy New Year to you!

I love this post. As I reflect on 2010 and plan for 2011 your words really speak to me. I so appreciate your wisdom on goal setting!

My goal for this year is to be faithful with what God's already put in my hands.

Hope you're staying warm. I can send some snow down to you if you'd like. ;-)

Erin MacPherson said...

This is such a great reminder for me. There are so many times that I make personal goals without prayerfully considering God's will in my life and those goals always fall flat. I think your point about making sure MY goals align with God's goals is KEY. What great direction you give in this post! Thank you!

Tea with Tiffany said...

Great, great.. Thanks. I tweeted this link. It's worth passing on. Happy 2011.

Deb said...

I've learned the hard way about setting and pursuing goals that don't quite line up with His goals for me.

Not much fun.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the verses that support them.

Am digging that.

Sweet dreams.

Walk In Truth said...

Hi Julie,

This post is a HUGE BLESSING!, so encouraging and just what the Holy Spirit knew I needed.

I soaked in each word, and I feel like I just left a Bible study.

God bless you

Terri Tiffany said...

Excellent list!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Thank you so much. I needed this today.

Jill Kemerer said...

Wonderful post, Julie! I'm getting better at including God in the decisions I make, and it's made me more peaceful and determined. This is a great list!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I love the one about asking God to shape our thoughts. And God does! I need to pray this prayer more often.
Thanks, Julie!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Julie, thanks for visiting my blog. I love this list. I've been trying harder and harder to pray the "right" way concerning my family and my writing. Usually this means being patient and waiting for an answer that feels right--and often that's difficult with how hectic everything has been. But I'm working on it! Thanks!

Caroline said...

Great, thoughtful, biblically-based list, Julie. And most importantly, you encourage us to pray and refocus on God when setting our goals. That's a necessity (but can be forgotten or bypassed). Thank you for sharing!


Thanks for these practical doable tips for seeking God as I set goals.


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