Holy Habits: How to Set Goals with God in Mind

I spent the end of December reviewing 2023’s goals and praying about 2024. Just as a morning quiet time with God sets the tone for the day, so fasting and prayer prepares me for the coming year. 

In James 4:15 NIV, James advised believers to set their goals with God in mind, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

So how do you know what God has in mind for 2024? 

First, ask God for a word, picture, or verse for the coming year. My word for 2023 was companionship. God instructed me to take extra time to hang out with Him. I obeyed, often not hitting my office until late morning. Though I lost hours by the clock, I maintained productivity through the year.

Next, consider some spiritual goals. Though I pray over goals in every area of life, today I’ll focus on spiritual targets. To what is Holy Spirit calling you? Prayer? Getting into the Word? A return to the community of believers? Ask Him. 

George Doran’s SMART goals debuted in 1981 (link). However, Michael Hyatt’s goals are SMARTER.

S: Specific goals It’s easy to say we’ll pray more. But let’s get specific. For example, I will pray on the way to work. Ask God to reveal pockets of time you can claim for Him.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV

M: Measurable goals Think tangible results. For example, send one encouraging text each day. Memorize one verse each week. Set the timer for five minutes and pray for _______. 

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22 NIV

A: Actionable goals Grab an active verb. Think do, not be. Now is not the time for super-sizing. Start with something small. Slow and steady progress is a win. Instead of ‘I want to read the whole Bible’, restate your goal as ‘This month/week, I will read ______ book of the Bible.’ Even one verse a day, thoughtfully considered, adds up. It certainly beats no verses because the overwhelm stopped you in your tracks. 

“Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?” Zechariah 4:10 MSG

R: Risky goals SMART goals have R for Realistic. Hyatt suggests Risky. A goal that will stretch you. Not pie in the sky but challenging. You need some skin in the game.

“Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel . . . He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.” 2 Samuel 23:20 NIV

T: Timely goals Everyone has demands on their time. Give yourself a deadline—and a reward. Stack your SMARTER goals alongside other habits or tasks. Tape a verse to your bathroom mirror and study it while you brush your teeth. Put on worship music while you wash dishes or clean the garage. 

What’s a timewaster you can eliminate to open space for your spiritual goal? 

What reward will keep you motivated? 

And don’t forget, God has His own rewards for you, too. 

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

E: Exciting goals What stirs your heart? What fulfills you? Satisfies you? Your motivation to accomplish this goal should come from within. What’s the why behind this goal?

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23 

R: Relevant goals What aligns with your calling? With your season? Is it a time for running or walking?

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

So, what is Holy Spirit nudging you toward? Set SMARTER goals with God this year. What does He have planned for you? 


What change do you want to see in yourself by this time next year?

Set your goals as a family. Partner up for accountability. Establish rewards for progress and celebrate achievements. Record testimonies of God at work. Encourage those who are struggling. Check in weekly.

For Devour the Bible and Small Bites sheets for this month, click here.

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