You probably have a similar story: I met a coworker on the stairs. “Good morning. How are you?” he asked, without slowing his steps. “Terrible,” I replied because I really was terrible that day and wanted at least one person to know it. “Great,” he said over his shoulder, as he descended the last few steps and started toward his office.
Uh-oh. Is that the kind of exchange you have with other children of God?
A missionary couple led the service one Sunday morning not too long ago. He gave the message and talked about their work of over twenty years in the Congo. But here’s what grabbed me: They get discouraged. They sometimes ask, ‘Why are we doing this? Are we making any difference at all?’
Now that, I get.
I really don’t know much about their daily lives and work in the Congo. But now I can pray for them. Now I do pray for them. Now, whenever I think about that couple, I pray against their discouragement, pray for their encouragement and endurance. Because I understand discouragement and doubts.
Be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
This encouragement from Ephesians immediately follows Paul’s description of how we can arm ourselves for spiritual battles. Besides taking on the armor ourselves, we’re to pray for all believers who also engage in battle.
And isn’t that everyone who follows Christ? Everyone who belongs to the kingdom of light?
Paul asks for the prayers of the church in Rome:
Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.
What if , instead of a rhetorical HAY (how are you?) to the person you sit beside in church, you say, “I have a question … What is God asking you to do? How’s it going?”
Whoa. What would happen if that were the spontaneous greeting between children of God? We ask about all kinds of other things: How’s the golf game? How’s your wife doing after that surgery? Did the kids all move back to college? Where was the fire in your neighborhood yesterday?
Understand, I’m not in favor of banishing those types of questions. We need to know what’s going on in each other’s lives. As a matter of fact, these subjects that might seem only like chit-chat, superficial HAYs, might be clues to exactly what God is asking of each person at that time. Can we begin to see that? Can we begin to look through the chit-chat and understand what fills the hearts of those we greet?
(And here I will say that there are a few people I meet that say, “How are you doing?” and I know that I can really tell them. They really do want to know. So I tell them the truth. How wonderful!)
But I’m wondering, When do the followers of Christ, who are all on the same mission, who have all been asked to continue Jesus’ ministry — when do we shoot straight and tell each other about the biggest and toughest things in our lives, this business of carrying on God’s mission of reconciling the world to Him? When do I get to tell you about the fierce spiritual warfare that’s been going on in my life; when do you tell me about the new calling God has planted in your heart, that is starting to grow and blossom and scares you to death?
When do we help each other know how to pray and join in our struggle?
Next thought: I’m probably too scared to do this. How about you? Do you feel comfortable asking another child of God, “What is God asking you to do?” Do you have anyone you can ask to join your struggle as you seek to walk the path where God is leading, whether that means forgiving a spouse or changing jobs or telling a coworker what Christ has done in your life or letting go of self in a situation?
Maybe the burden rests on me. Maybe I need to first be telling. We all know that some mornings it is just hard to smile. Then someone smiles at you. You smile! Smiling is easier when someone smiles at you first, and then passing on the smile seems a natural thing to do. In the same way, having someone tell me about her struggle makes it easier for me to talk about my own struggle.
So, maybe, instead of asking, we need to be the ones telling.
I understand that dynamics like this are hard to nurture in a corporate setting. It starts with just a seed, with one person, two. With a love for each other that the Spirit plants within. With a desire to see such a miracle of the Spirit happen in the church. It’s a little — but powerful! — virus that gets passed around … and caught.
Oh, and hey! This isn’t only for a church congregation. This is for the entire church, Christ’s body, united by one Spirit. The Christian coworker you meet in the coffee room; what has God asked her to do today? Perhaps forgive the person who threw her under the bus in the meeting this morning? If you know that, you can pray for her struggle. The Christian neighbor you meet in the grocery store. What has God asked him to do? What’s his struggle in living Christ’s mission? If you know, you can pray for him when you pass his house, exchange waves in the car.
Missionaries are expected to stand up there and tell the congregation about their struggles to accomplish their mission. They can do it, they are expected to do it; their calling, their lives, are almost on the level of official church business, right? But most of us would never take an opportunity to do that. Many of us won’t even risk doing it in small groups designed for that purpose. But every child of God is called … every one of us is on a mission. Daily, short-term missions. Lifetime missions.
And what if …
What if, when the children of God greet each other, they do not say, “Morning. How are you?” but “What is God asking you to do right now?” Would we not be better able to pray power into each other’s lives if we only knew…?
What if every child of God had someone who would listen with Spirit-tuned heart and hear what prayers are needed? And then, whenever the Spirit prompts, pray power into the other person’s struggle?
What if you and I were willing to be such Spirit-tuned hearts?
What if you had someone, or two or three or four someones, who knew exactly what battles you wage, knew specifically what to pray for in your life, and joined your struggle by praying power into that battle?
What if each of those someones also had three or four Spirit-tuned hearts that knew how to pray for them?
You see where I’m going with this. But there are a few roadblocks to such a dream.
The toughest is that we are not willing to talk about the most important, biggest things in our lives as children of God: the raw, unvarnished truth about our struggles to do what God is asking us to do, today, tomorrow.
I am convicted here. I wonder: Does the enemy use my natural reticence as a weapon to keep from me the power of the prayers of others?
What if …?
Scripture: Ephesians 6:18; Romans 15:30 (both NLT)