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The first day of a new year seems a good time to reflect on my priorities, on how to make positive changes in my life — on just plain getting my act together. But as I reflect, it’s brought home to me that I’ve got the cart before the horse. I shouldn’t be the one setting the priorities; instead, I need to ask God what His priorities are for me, and then start with what He wants to show me today. It’s not necessary for me to see the whole picture; I just need to follow where He leads and leave the results up to Him. I can do this by absorbing Jesus’ teaching about seeking God:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt 7:7-8)

There it is in a nutshell: Ask for God’s leading and He will give it; seek his will and His strength and His peace and you will find it; knock on the door of His presence, and He will open it and invite you in. For everyone who sincerely asks for guidance and patiently waits for it will receive it; the one who earnestly seeks His will and strength and peace will find it; the one who continues to knock on the door of His presence will find it opening to them.

Asking is about seeking God first, and trusting Him to deal with what is on our hearts. It’s willingness to accept His answer and wait for His timing, not demanding that He give us the answer we want, and right now! It’s understanding that God’s wisdom — and His love — infinitely surpass ours; it’s longing just to be with Him; it’s being in awe that He wants a relationship with us.

Three questions we can ask ourselves about any situation or decision or action are: Have I asked God about this? Have I kept seeking until I had an answer? Have I come quietly into His presence until I have found His peace and assurance?

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 7:9-12)

We, though we are evil in comparison with God, still know how to give our children what they need to thrive and grow. How much more certain it is that God, who is our heavenly Father, will give these essentials and more to those who ask. Notice though, these are requests for what will nourish us in our life and faith, and not pleas for treats, toys or perks. They’re humble requests, not demands from spoiled brats. Don’t bring a sense of entitlement into God’s presence — that will entitle us to a lesson in humility. Don’t think that service or donations entitle us to anything; such an attitude only shows that our hearts are not in the right place.

Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matt 22:37-40)

Jesus made two statements about what sums up the Law and the Prophets — all the teaching that had previously instructed the children of God. If this is the essence of our whole faith, it needs to be at the forefront of what we believe, speak and do.

Loving God is first of all a heart decision, and one that can’t be only half-hearted. This kind of response to God’s love infuses our whole personality and makes God and His will the focus of all our thinking, the motivation for all our decisions and actions. When this happens, love for others follows naturally.

Prayer: Lord, help me put first things first today and every day. Give me the wisdom to put You first in all things, with all my heart, and to keep You there.