How to tell God what to do in 2015… or not.

As I review 2014 and prepare for 2015 with goals, budgets, calendars and all that boring (but useful) stuff, I’m again reminded that I suck at prayer.

I like “success literature,” which is the sibling of “self-help,” because there’s often great stewardship principles, ideas and best practices. I can learn how to best manage my time, resources, and develop who I am and how I do things. However, this process is very easily humanistic and can cross into me telling God what to do.

Planning scribbles

My plan, before the wife gets it

Said another way, every time I intentionally plan, I’m reminded this is supposed to be a slow, prayerful process. I can’t just sit down and pound out good plans and execution strategies.

When we first got married, my wife, who’s a natural planner, said, “I’d like to create a two-year plan.” I silently balked (judgingly), thinking, “You can’t tell God what to do!” But we did it. (heh-heh)

Planning is biblical, of course. Proverbs is replete with verses on it, the Temple took two generations worth of planning and execution, and roughly 80% of Paul’s ministry and travels were through him planning rather than God directly saying, “Go to ‘X’.” God has plans, and we’re made in his image.

The truth is, when I plan well, I’m on the cutting edge of my faith. “Do I really believe this is where God is going? Do I really believe this is what we’re called to?” It’s thrilling.

Planning forces me to be on the same page with God, my family, and everyone else who’s involved in the process. It forces conversations that often go unsaid.

When Nicole and I planned our first two years of marriage, we spent a week in prayer and fasting. We said, “God, the answer is ‘yes.’ What would you like us to do?”

When we didn’t hear anything, we wrote down what we wanted to do given what we had, who we are, and the desires of our hearts. Then we prayed, “What do you think about this? If no, then no.” (If there’s anything I can accurately hear from God, it’s “no.”)

When we again didn’t hear anything, we prayed, “Alright, this is what we want to do. Your will be done, but we ask for your blessing on these plans.”

Our plan included a career change for me, schooling, moving, pregnancy (for her), and a couple other things. We (she) put dates next to each of the items.

As time wore on, month by month, we started checking things off the plan. It was almost eery. Honestly, it felt like God was smiling on our new family.

2015 may be the most intentionally planned year of my life. To start the process, I made a list of my biggest regrets and things I missed in 2014. With the heart of completing the past and moving forward, here’s some of my list:

  • Sabbath
  • Learning to have a thriving prayer life with three young kids (who wake up anywhere from 5-8am)
  • Inability to regularly exercise (see above)
  • Focused time to process and review (journal)

I should note that I hate journaling. Hate. It’s tedious, disciplined work and I don’t like to talk about my feelings. But every time I’ve done it, it’s clear there’s tremendous value in it. *cuss*

I’m excited for my new Bible reading plan, praying differently and at different times, and reflecting better. 2015 is going to be a quieter, more reflective, but healthier year.

And also the year this happens.

2 thoughts on “How to tell God what to do in 2015… or not.

  1. I appreciated this post, Ryan. I think you laid out some really healthy ways to think about resolutions and being intentional without the focus being on control or self-help. It’s really easy to swing from one side (complacency) to the other (control), and you articulately followed a path that included both initiative AND humility, an uncommon pairing to be sure. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks Naomi. That means a lot.

    Several years ago, I asked my mentor (who’s generous and has more money than I’ll ever have), “How do you mix faith and finances? How do you navigate between telling God what to do (control), and testing God (complacency)?”

    He said, “Ryan, you already know this. Just love God with your money.”

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