I have a privileged life. I live a privileged life. Many who know me, and who know some of my life story, would think that I am mad and deluded for thinking that. But, I speak the truth. I am neither mad, nor deluded. Instead, I am privileged. I am privileged that out of the comfort I received in my own life journey, I am able to give others comfort.
I am privileged in that for what has to be recognised as God’s grace on my life, that people readily open up to me and share their journey of life with me. It’s a privilege for me to tell someone I am praying for them. It’s a privilege when someone asks me to pray for them. And I call it a privilege, because I don’t ever want to take it for granted, that I am a participant and partner in God’s grace towards humanity.
I have been journeying with a friend who is going through an extremely hard time. I am not going to go into the full details of their journey, except to say the spouse left in what can only be called extremely unusual, bewildering and painful circumstances. My friend apologetically calls me on a regular basis to which I reply – “If you want to talk about the rain, or lack of it, I will still talk to you.”
Tonight we were talking about prayer. And he was surprised when I said, “I can’t pray for your spouse to come back to you! For I don’t think its right and proper for me to pray that prayer!” Now by now, I am sure you my reader am a little shocked by my advice. “What” you ask? “Why;” you ask? “Don’t be daft”, you say.
Allow me to make my case and if I don’t make it, then please comment and show me the error of my thinking. It appears that the deserting party has been living a double life. It appears this double life has been both covered up and encouraged by the family. It’s both deceitful and evil the extent of what has happened in his family. The family involved have a history where the husband or wife will just go on 3 month or 6 month holiday without the other, and not tell the other what they got up to. There are strong indications that there was abuse in the family, which was always covered over.
Simply put, this family is truly broken by the effects of sin.
It would only be a bandaid solution, if God was to grant the prayer for this person to return. In many ways, it would only save some face. In many ways the return may make the prayers sigh a sigh of relief. But the truth is, the returning spouse most likely is not returning with a sweetened heart. It doesn’t truly solve the problem of a heart broken by sin.
“So Craig”, you ask me, “what should we pray?” To which I reply, “I am glad you asked.”
I find the prayers of the Apostle Paul a great help in knowing what to pray. You see he never prayed for someone to change their mind. He never prayed for someone to go and do something. Instead, he recognised the true condition of the heart. Hearts that are broken by and filled with sin.
And so we find him asking the Lord of Lords that he would fill those broken hearts with the revelation of his love. That he would grant them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. That they may know the incredible and immeasurable power of his Spirit. That they would be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of holiness. That they may be rooted and firmly established in love.
Do you notice the difference between the Apostle Paul’s ethos of praying, and the prayers we so often pray. Often our prayers are to modify someone’s behavior. We want those we pray for to modify their behaviour. The truth is, its impossible for any of us to modify our behaviour. It’s impossible for any of us to modify our hearts. And the truth is, I believe God isn’t into placebo’s and bandaids and modifying anyone’s behavior, so that they may appear to have a presence of godliness – but in actual fact, there has been no real heart change.
Paul had a revelation that God is into changing the very essence of people dead in sin. He digs the God who makes alive those who are dead in trespass. And so I shared with my friend tonight;
I won’t pray that your wife comes back to you. Instead, I pray that you all will be strengthened in the inner being and that Jesus will dwell in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be rooted and established in the Love of God, knowing his will for your lives, and that you will be filled with all the fullness of God.
When we read through the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us what the expectations and hallmarks of a Godly life are. But, I find it interesting that he doesn’t pray for the church in Ephesus to live that way. Instead, he prays that God will change the hearts and fill the inner being of those he is praying for, so that they will be able to live a life, displaying the hallmarks of a godly life. A life that glorifies God, simply because, its no longer they who live; but instead, its the living God, who lives within them.
Which do you prefer. The band aid solution – or the surgeon to fix the real heart of the issue?