Prayer Challenge. To summarize 2020 in just a short sentence, I would reach back to Charles Dicken’s ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and say, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” 2020 was a life of living in the extremes of things. Yet, my title reads “2020 The Best Year Ever.”
To understand why it was the best, let me take you back to December 2019.
Each year I pray in December for my word for the following year. The word provides a focus for what I believe God has for me for that next year. One year the word was service, another generosity, and another peace. My close friends all know my word for the year. Each time I have done this, I have seen so much growth and focus. So, when I exclaimed the 2020 word to those closest, I was met with halfhearted responses of “cool” when I was looking for “wow.” After all, they had a front-row seat to the words of the past and what God had done. The 2020 word was next level.
But I digress. The word for 2020 was ‘prepare.’ After further ponding, even with the halfhearted responders, I set out to prepare for 2020. Sometimes you will need to step out on your own, without confirmation from anyone, to see amazing happen.
You have to first step out of the boat to walk on water…
Just days later, I would hear my pastor preach a sermon on “A New Normal.” 2019 was such a great year, and I didn’t want a new normal, just a double portion of 2019 for 2020. I was like, “Uh Uh, No Way.”
As most who know me, I had been the consummate bachelor for nearly two decades, and last four years, I had stopped dating altogether.
I was content and happy and thoroughly enjoyed my life. I did so many cool things like getting my MBA with a 4.0, traveled, made so many new friends, worked hard, and pressed into really knowing and helping people. If I could say that my life was perfect, it was from the past and present perspective. If my 16-year-old self could “see me now,” he would be so motived to arrive in January 2020.
So, while others were bullish with the start of 2020, I sat back and prepared. I tightened the budget, made sure I had my two weeks of supplies (I had toilet paper before it was cool), and limited my debt, and pressed into God and his word. I had no idea what I was preparing for, whether good or bad, so I took a holistic approach to it all.
January and February felt much like 2019. Things were looking up. Then the start of March hits, and COVID starts to spread. On March 20, I received a message that my Mom had passed away. Just a week or so later, our city locked down. Everything was at a standstill.
As a single person, I had no idea how the time alone would affect the growth I had experienced. As I mentioned, the last few years were incredible, and I was finally at a place where I could enjoy the journey. So, the Covid lockdown wasn’t going to mess up what God was doing. I pressed even more into God.
In late March, I started using TikTok, and in April, I saw a video that would motivate me to create a prayer list of 300 things that I wanted to see God do in my life and the lives of those in my life. The 300 had no significance other than it was mentioned in the video. It was hard at first, coming up with 300 prayer requests. My goal was to pray over the list every day for one year and see if God would hear and answer. I started praying on May 4, 2020.
I am not much of a list person when it came to prayer and was a freeform prayer and would pray over things as they came up. I also didn’t spend a great deal of time praying. Five minutes here and there. I would lob a few prayers up in hopes of them being answered.
In 2019, some friends on the church prayer team asked me to help pray for people as they would come down to the altar. I was like, ‘I have no idea how to do that.’ Do you know what I mean? Believe in prayer for someone as they stand right in front of you! I kept hiding, but they would find me and pull me down front with them. God kept putting me in uncomfortable places to grow me in prayer. As I got more involved with people, I realized I needed to be more intentional about praying for them.
I also wanted to see God do more in me. God is always doing more, and I wanted to be part of it. Over the last few years, I had been around some other guys that embodied Godly boldness. As we would talk about what they were asking God for, it was bold. I would ask, “you can ask God for things that bold?” It was natural for them.
You see, I wasn’t asking. I was hoping but not asking. They were doing both, and I was seeing God do some amazing things in their lives. I often refer to them as my “all-in’ friends. Whatever they do, they do it with all their might. If you don’t ask, then you leave it up to chance. If you don’t go “all-in,” you get what you get.
So I created a list of 300 things I wanted to see God do to help me focus my prayers on the things that mattered to him, me, and those around me.
Fit For Me
I based my prayer list around Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-11, which reads:
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Then I went to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary to understand what Jesus was saying. In it, I gleaned two sentences that spoke to me.
Whatever you pray for, according to the promise, shall be given you, if God see it fit for you, and what would you have more?
God is all-wise; he knows what we need, what we desire, and what is fit for us.
The phrase that stood out to me was “fit for us.” If it’s fit for me, then the Lord gives it. Like a good parent who knows and wouldn’t withhold anything good from their children. Some would call it God’s will. But that phrase seems so far off and not personal. But ‘fit for me’ shows me an intimate God who knows and loves me and wants the best for me. So, if one of my prayer requests didn’t get answered, I knew it wasn’t fit for me. That gave me so much peace.
I also pressed into the verse Psalm 37: 4:
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Rather Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give your heart, what it SHOULD desire) 5. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will do this: 6. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”
On May 4, I started praying and did so almost every day for one year. I say almost because there have been a few days here and there when I didn’t pray. There is no formula with God, just a heart position toward him.
So, I prayed for bold things. I had some things on the list that I thought had no chance of being answered, like marrying again. After all, I had been single for 17 years and wasn’t even dating the last four. I thought that marriage was so far off and how it was nearly impossible to meet anyone during a pandemic. However, with God, all things are possible.
Of the list of 300, over half of the prayers have been answered.
They are big prayers like meeting and marrying my wife, Kara. We met in June of 2020 and were married in December. She matches the prayer request I had written down in my list. If you know Kara, then you know this to be true:
A wife. That she loves the Lord with her whole heart, she is a praying woman, is fully healed from her past, she has a contagious joy and peace, confident, she is a positive words affirmation woman, she is not an over talker or excessive words person, she is practical, beautiful, enjoys jogging or staying in shape, hot to me, free from her past, frugal, has a great job, has meaningful girlfriend friendships, is financially stable, will follow spiritual leadership, doesn’t have an overwhelming family, in age-appropriate, would befriend Melissa, would love my girls like her own, has a servants heart, loves God’s house, has wisdom, loves the beach, ocean, and the lake.
Of the 300 things on my list, only four were not fit, and the rest are still being prayed over. Friends, if you make a practice of prayer and pray often, you will see God do more than you can ask for or imagine.
So, while so many were living out 2020 as the worst year, it was literally one of the best years I had ever experienced. It has raised the bar for what I believe God can do. It has changed how I pray, how I live, and how I believe for myself and those around me.
The belief that God hears us and is for us allows us to walk through the valley of the shadow and fear no evil even when the rest of the world is afraid. It gives us confidence that whatever happens, the Lord knows us and knows what’s good for us, even if it’s our time to go through the valley.
I want to challenge you to create a prayer list and pray over it for one year. See if God won’t change your life and situation. I have attached a word document to the page to help you get started. It was what I created to help me, and I hope it helps you.
May the Lord bring you so much more than you ask for or can imagine.