When praying stretches long

Just for fun--When PJ cracked this nut open, he found a heart!

Just for fun–When PJ cracked this nut open, he found a heart!

If you are praying, like I am, for a loved one to turn to Christ’s open arms, and that praying has stretched now for years, even decades, don’t give up hope. Remember that our God does not save because we turn to Him. Rather He saves because He longs to draw human hearts to Himself, to their right place of belonging in Him. He is not reluctant to save, and His love for our dear ones is far greater than our own.

I have been encouraged by Psalm 107 in this, and I would like to share it. Psalm 107 is a message for the redeemed: it includes the well-known phrase “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” Less well-known are the words that follows that phrase: “whom He has delivered from the hand of the adversary.”

As the rest of the psalm then describes, God is very creative and masterful in His methods of delivery, no matter who or what the adversary is. Verses 3-5 depict people wandering without a home. Rather than providing them with a home, God allows them to suffer, longing for shelter, until “…they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” In Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on this psalm, he wrote, “Not till they were in extremities did they pray…(but) supplications which are forced out of us by stern necessity are none the less acceptable with God.” Is your loved one trying one thing after another to find satisfaction, and each thing fails? This disappointment may very well be the means of causing them to cry out to God for help, though, at first, they may cry out against Him.

Verses 10-12 speak of people in direct rebellion against God. They “spurned the counsel of the Most High.” God again used difficulties to bring them to a place of helplessness, but in that place they, too, cried out!

Verses 17 and 18 speak of those who are sick because of sin, but I also see in these verses a description of depression. These people take no joy in anything; they want to die. Yet in verse 19, they, too cry out.

Verses 23 and 24 describe those who are very much the opposite. They are busy with work and making money. They have experienced positive results, and they don’t see these as gifts from God but as effects of their own efforts. It takes a storm in their lives to reveal to them that their own wisdom and capabilities cannot save them. They, too, cry out.

And God, in each situation, draws near and delivers.

My own grandfather, a self-made man with a lot of rebellion in him, resisted God his entire life, despite the prayers of my grandmother and mother. But on his deathbed, this man, who had always insisted he would choose his own destiny, was confronted with eternity, and he cried out.

I am grateful for the story of the thief on the cross next to Christ. His cry, just before death—much like my grandfather’s—was answered, and we have that answer written down in Scripture. “This day you will be with me in Paradise,” Jesus told him, and this gives me certainty my grandfather received the same answer. What a gift!

We may be praying for a rebel, a wanderer, one struggling with mental or emotional issues, or a very successful person.

God is willing and able to draw each one.

Keep praying that they will cry out. (Galatians 6:9)

And be assured that God will answer.

Holy Spirit Help

Yesterday a friend and I were emailing back and forth about the idea of applying the “Opposite technique” (last blog post) to our prayer life—and to our “doing” lives as well—and she wrote this: How are we to do that? We cannot give what we don’t have. I personally churn negative/yucky/critical/judgmental/poopie thoughts all day long, um… why cannot I churn the OPPOSITE?!

Later I read that day’s devotional from Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. This is part of what he wrote:

All that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Moreover, as all blessings thus flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act, apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit. … Do you desire to speak for Jesus—how can you unless the Holy Ghost touch your tongue? Do you desire to pray? Alas, what dull work it is unless the Spirit makes intercession for you! … Let us do him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from him, and then depending alone upon him…

Hmm. We cannot DO the opposite technique without the power of the Holy Spirit, and first the Spirit must reveal to us that our natural inclination is “yucky” (or “poopie,” your choice!).

This reminds me of a visit to a coffee shop last week. I ordered my favorite hot, sweet drink. The barista who made it is the son of a good friend, and when he handed me my cup, he said, “You do not want to know how much bad stuff we put in there! That thing is loaded!”

“Stop!” I told him. “You’re right! I don’t want to know!”

That’s the Spirit’s first job—to reveal to us what we don’t want to know about ourselves.

The problem is that we often think we’re supposed to take it over from there.

But the rest of the transformation—the thinking/doing the opposite of our natural inclinations, is ALSO the Spirit’s job.

To which I say, Hallelujah!

O God, send forth your Holy Spirit into my heart that I may perceive, into my mind that I may remember, and into my soul that I may meditate. Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy. Teach, guide and direct my thoughts and senses from beginning to end. May your grace ever help and correct me, and may I be strengthened now with wisdom from on high, for the sake of your infinite mercy. Amen. -a prayer by Saint Anthony of Padua