I have really enjoyed the Sunday series on “Heaven”. What I have really enjoyed is rediscovering what the Bible says about this wonderful place that is to come. I have found myself daydreaming about this new heaven and new earth that is going to come down and replace what we have now. I hope I get to run again the way I use to when I was 19. I even hope that we have competitive sports, snorkeling on a barrier reef, coconut cream pie, and cold days by the fireplace. Everything that I have enjoyed and hope to enjoy on this earth, I hope to experience even better in heaven.
When people hear me talk about how their prayers are keeping them miserable and stuck, they look at me as though I’m a reprobate. I quickly say that it is not that they are praying that keeps them stuck. That’s good. That’s great!!! The problem comes when their prayers never change. Imagine the following scenarios:
1. Father is working diligently on son’s bike. Son comes and pleads with his father to “please fix my bike.” Father is working on it and is confused as to why he is asking him to do something he is already doing.
2. Wife confesses and apologizes for her inappropriate actions against her husband. He hears her and whole heartedly forgives her. She continues to plead for his forgiveness months later despite his continual reminding her of his forgiveness.
3. Employee believes his employer expects perfection. The employee becomes very anxious and concentrates only on what he is not doing perfectly instead of on what he is doing right. The employee finally quits his jobs because of the pressure.
What does this have to do with prayer? Well, I deal a lot with people who struggle with guilt, depression, and anxiety. They deal with frustration that their pain never seems to go away even though they are constantly praying to God for the pain to be gone. They pray for a change in their behavior that they know needs changed, such as anger, suspicion, worry, negative thoughts, gossip, mind reading, impatience, etc. Nothing seems to change despite worn out knees. Hope is replaced with hopelessness. What was strong faith now is doubt.
Consider changing your prayers. Instead of praying that He would act upon the things you are asking Him to do in you, why not thank Him for what He is doing. What I am suggesting is the prayer becomes a realization of God’s power and recognition that He is working regardless of what you are feeling and seeing. For instance, a grieving mother after several years of the loss of her child, begins to change her prayer from “Please remove this pain,” to “Thank you for helping me each day find a little more peace.” The husband who is praying for a change in his heart toward his wife begins to pray, “Thank you for preparing my heart for change. I don’t feel it yet, but I know you are working.” Even the parent who is praying for their adult child to get their act together but is seeing little positive change, could change the prayers from “Please”, to “I know Father, you love them more than I could ever and I know you are working on their hearts as I have asked. I look forward to seeing how you are going to get their attention in ways I have not.”
Now, this is not “name it and claim it” theology or just “positive thinking.” I have difficulty with believing that just because I want something that God will say, “Yes”. I know His love for me is deeper than being such a permissive and enabling Father. What I am suggesting is that our prayers keep us doubting God’s activity in our lives and the lives of others. We get so caught up in expecting things to painlessly happen immediately that we forget our view of time is different than God’s. Not to mention how we think things should take place. Prayers of hope and thanksgiving while taking in the long view of life, have a positive impact on our personal peace. As Paul said:
Philippians 4:6,7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I have recently been reminded that the prayer does not insure things will be fixed my way. Paul is saying that praying while also being thankful is therapeutic in itself. What I am suggesting is a way to be thankful in your prayers to get our hearts unstuck.
I would love to hear your comments and even stories of how you changed your prayers and the affects it had on you.
It has been three years since Doug, my good friend, died. To describe him as a good friend is quite different than how we both would have described our relationship before we reconnected three and a half years ago.
I had joined Facebook in an attempt to connect with some old High School classmates. My graduating class was preparing for their 40th reunion back in my home state of West Virginia. My class of around 170 had scattered across the globe and this medium was helping them reconnect. As we were beginning to “friend” each other, I saw that Doug was already on Facebook. It was only natural I asked him to “friend me”.
Now Doug and I were not really that close through High School. In fact, Doug wasn’t close to anyone of whom I was aware. He and I were on the same sprint relay team and competed at the state level. He and I shared running back responsibilities on the football team. But that was as far as it went. Honestly, Doug was the guy of whom everyone kept clear. He always seemed angry. I remember him outside the War Memorial building during a dance just as drunk and belligerent as one could get. He always seemed to be in trouble at school, walking in the front door and out the back. He and the principal, Mr. Mullet, were often seen having serious discussions together. I always kept Doug at an arm’s length but we were never hateful toward each other.
Doug’s response to my friend request really surprised me. He snapped back a confusing comment about why I wanted to be his friend. I innocently asked for a clarification and he again lashed back at me. I felt like I wanted to unpack this issue between him and me and so I gave him my phone number to call.
I was glad when he called me back. He almost immediately went back to our school’s fifth year reunion, at which I don’t even remember being present. He remembered me snubbing him and acting like I didn’t even know him. He had held that inside of him for almost 40 years and was still seething over it. He was positive we had shared in this interaction and the resentment was still alive.
The next two hours was me trying to get closer to him while he kept pushing me away with his words. He let me explain that if I had done what he said, it probably spoke more about my issues than his. I apologized for my actions and let him know that I realized how deeply my actions hurt him. Then he began to share what his life had been like. As he shared the distance between our two locations seemed insignificant, he in Pennsylvania and I in Texas.
When he was growing up, Doug struggled with an undiagnosed learning disability which made certain subjects very difficult to learn in a traditional setting. His grades were poor which were in stark comparison to his honor society older siblings. He was far from dumb. He learned calculus over the course of a few weekends through his mother who was one of our advanced math teachers. I also seem to remember him telling me of some very unhealthy family relationships that caused him even more emotional pain.
While listening to his story, I remember him vividly saying, “Wib, I have been an angry drunk for over 40 years.” My heart sank as I heard his pain. He had tried to hold together jobs and relationships. During the time of this conversation, he was helping his wife raise some horses and trying to keeping his family together.
Doug and I talked almost every weekend for the next four months. We shared stories from our past and insights into the present world. We talked religion, politics while he also shared his talent in creating jewelry. Over those four months, we became very good friends. The resentment was gone. I encouraged him to start Alcoholics Anonymous and he had made several of the meetings. I told him he could beat this addiction and he began to understand how his resentment and anger over the years were the reasons for his drinking.
They say that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person. During one of our calls, he told me that his liver and kidneys were shutting down because of his alcohol abuse. I knew that it wasn’t the alcohol that was going to take his life. He had let go of the resentment too late.
I said goodbye for good to my friend over the phone while he laid in his bed at home, barely able to carry on the conversation. Two days later he slipped quietly away in his sleep. This was probably the first glimpse of peace he had enjoyed since playing as a child. I missed seeing Doug in person when I went to the reunion that summer. While I did enjoy seeing many of my old friends and sharing some stories, it was Doug I wanted to see most.
Our lives are too short and friendships too precious to allow resentment to destroy us. They do destroy us; the bearer of those resentments. They do not hurt anyone else. So, to all those family members, business associates, and friends who wronged you at one time or another, let the resentment go. It will kill you. And it might even be keeping you from experiencing a joy you were unaware was available. Thank you, Doug, for snapping back at me on Facebook. Thank you for the friendship we enjoyed for 4 months.
Droughts will happen, but you can take these few simple steps to becoming a marriage that withstands the drought. It will rain again… sometime. But until it does, AVOID ISOLATION, CHECK YOUR SOIL (HEART), FERTILIZE, and WATER DEEPLY.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 Youused to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.Or Galatians 5…19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Why are people so mean to each other, especially their spouses?
I think we forget who we really are… in Christ. We return to our old way of feeling, thinking and behaving that might have had some kind of success in the past but it now is destroying what we want most. As Christians, it is not who we are or called to be. This identity is not dependent on whether my spouse does the right thing or not. I am this person and behave according regardless of what my spouse does. When we forget this, we do mean things.