Praying for the Uneasy to Love

My mother-in-law is such a hard person to love. Her personality is like sandpaper and she will undoubtedly rub you the wrong way no matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on, whether you like country or rock n roll, whether you are gluten-friendly or gluten-free. Because she is so abrasive, I find it hard to share my life with her, and praying for her is even harder.

I will be real with you… I think praying for her is such a burden because I don’t think she deserves salvation. Without realizing it, I made myself her judge, kept a record of her wrongs, and deemed her too far gone. She’s hurt, offended and abused the person I love most in this world, so love and eternal life should be withheld from her. Those are the raw, sinful thoughts of my flesh.

In preparing for the By Name Initiative, the Holy Spirit began to expose these very wrong feelings I harbored toward my mother-in-law. He has gently reminded me that my righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) before Him and that there is One Great Judge and it is not me. Who am I to deem anyone worthy and fit for salvation? Christ is the only One who led a blameless life and the only One who has the power to save. I did nothing to deserve or earn salvation.

My prayer is two-fold. First, I pray that the Holy Spirit would extend salvation to my mother-in-law, opening her eyes to her need for a Savior and changing the affections of heart. Second, I pray that the Lord would make my heart tender toward her and that I would be filled with compassion and kindness toward her.

You may not have a mother-in-law, but I bet you have someone in your life that is not easy to love. I encourage you to set aside your affinity, or the lack thereof, and pray for the salvation of the uneasy to love, remembering that you, too, were once unlovely and unworthy. But that Christ, while we were yet sinners, died for us (Romans 5:8). Call out by name the uneasy to love before the throne of God. Pray for their salvation. Pray that your own heart would reflect the loving kindness of the only One who saves.

Praying Against Apathy

I’ve known my buddy since college.  He’s a smart guy, pretty reserved, down to earth, and a good friend.  In the years I’ve known him, we’ve talked about God maybe two or three times.  He knows I’m a Christian, that I love Jesus and I’m involved in my Church, but to be honest, I don’t think he cares. “To each his own.”  “Whatever makes you happy.”  “There’s so much out there, how can anyone really know?” He’s a thinker, but not antagonistic, and ultimately, when it comes to God or religion, he’s pretty apathetic.  It wasn’t until recently I realized that how I felt toward his salvation was exactly that: pretty apathetic.

When Jesus was traveling amongst the cities and villages in Matthew, preaching the Gospel and healing the sick, “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). When Paul writes, he shows no reserve for the love he has for his brethren.  He says to the Galatians, “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Gal. 4:19).  He writes to the Thessalonians, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thess. 2:8).  His letters are filled with passion, affection, devotion, and tears.

When I pray for my friend, I not only pray for his conviction, for God’s grace, and for the Spirit to move in his life, I ask for the same fervor Jesus and Paul had for those who don’t know the Gospel.  I pray that the “By Name” initiative would not become just an exercise, another item to check off the to-do list, but that God would spiritually charge me over the disbelief of others only to celebrate and praise Him that much more when He intervenes in their lives.  I pray that I would no longer be apathetic toward my friend’s salvation, that a passion would stir in me the boldness to speak truth and to seize all opportunities to unashamedly share the Gospel with him.

“…in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8

The Power of Community

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says:  “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” As a community, we are the Body of Christ, uniquely wired and designed with different gifts to be used in conjunction with one another for the glory of God.  Community is a beautiful thing.  It is a vehicle of God’s grace that allows each member to share in brokenness but also lavish in forgiveness and love.  As a community, we bear one another’s burdens, we serve one another, and we enjoy the fruit of the Gospel together.

Since the beginning of the By Name Initiative, I thought the weight of sharing the Gospel with my friend rested solely upon myself.  It was not until I invited him into a community of believers that I realized the role other members can play in his potential salvation.  Invitation is powerful, and while we are inviting our friends, family members, and coworkers to enter into a relationship with God, maybe it simply begins with the invitation to community – a group of messed up people being liberated by a gracious and loving God.  This past weekend, as I continued to worry about saying the right thing at the right time, I noticed an opportunity.  It was not planned nor was it expected, but sure enough, the Gospel was being boldly proclaimed to my friend by someone else.

Some of us are wary of evangelism; others are built for it; and the rest will stand at the ready to reinforce and answer the inevitable questions that hopefully erupt.  “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Ephesians 4:15-16.  This is the beauty of community: Christ.  It is God who intervenes.  It is God who lifts the veil and exposes sin.  It is God who saves.  His scope is far beyond ours, and while things may not unravel the way we expect, we should trust that He is and always will be moving.

The Gospel is for All of Us

You know how the story goes. You pray for patience thinking you’ll one day awaken to find yourself a more patient and longsuffering person than the day before. Instead of being hit over the head with a bounty of patience like so much glitter sprinkling out of a fairy wand, it seems patience is built through opportunities that, in fact, try us and test us and whittle what patience we do have down to bone.

I have found the By Name Initiative to be quite similar to praying for patience. Since praying for a particular friend’s salvation, I have had opportunity after opportunity to share the gospel with her, only the actual times to share my faith have shown up quite differently than I expected.

I suppose the way I envisioned sharing the gospel with my friend would go something like… She and I would enjoy a nice stroll through the park, hot cidery beverages keeping us company and she’d say something like, Tell me about the faith you have and how I can have faith like that, too. Okay, maybe not that picturesque, but honestly, that scene is not far from what I’d envisioned and even hoped would happen.

What really happened looks more like this… trials have come. Hard situations to work through both in my life and in hers. And yet, the Spirit has prompted my heart each time:This! This is how you share the gospel! It’s those moments right after the trial has come, right after some stressor has fatigued my heart, right after our culture screams for me to value it over Christ… it’s my response in those moments that have communicated the gospel to my friend. Saying yes, this is a trial, but the Lord is good and sovereign and can be trusted (Psalm 145 v 13-19). Yes, this day, this situation has stressed me, but the Lord is a strong refuge and a deliverer from trouble (Psalm 18 v2). Yes, our culture says to value self-promotion and personal gain above all else, but the Lord provides for my every need in Christ Jesus (Phil 4 v19).

Obviously, there are many different ways to share our own story of faith and how the gospel has changed our lives. In praying for my friend By Name, I simply thought it would look a certain way, but the Lord has shown me once again that His thoughts are higher than my own and His ways are different than my ways (Isaiah 55 v8-9). In praying for the salvation of my friend, I have seen the Lord remind me of my own need for the gospel, every day and in all situations. I pray that my life would be so rooted in the Person of Christ that my friend would see her need for a Savior and that her heart would be changed.