Over the past few years I've been increasingly challenged by things I've learned that part of the problem is that these aren't the best prayers to begin with. After all, the truth is that if we are "in Christ," if we belong to Him because we have believed that He is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one can come to the Father except through Him, then we have these characteristics in our lives already through the Holy Spirit. It is fruit that comes from Him, not something we ourselves produce:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." ~Galatians 5:22&23The key is not to pray for these things, but rather to realize that they are there and to thank God for them. So, an example I heard recently was something along the lines of, If I'm angry with my children, rather than praying that God will give me patience with them, I thank God for the patience that He has given. As a result, the situation is diffused because I'm resting in the Spirit and letting Him work through me, not striving to accomplish something myself.
But does this really work? I admit I've been leery. I've believed it in my head, but I've fought it in action. On the one very selfish hand there are so many situations where I would much rather stew in my frustration and anger. After all, I have been wronged! Everyone should see this and know it!!! My children should suffer the consequences of being obnoxious when they should have known better!!!! (Can't you hear my righteous indignation?) Of course, the glaring problem with this attitude is that it's all about me.... My pride has been wounded. God should be on my side on this, after all.
Not only am I full of pride in this, but I'm letting fear reign. What will change if I let go of this righteous indignation? What if I don't like how God changes me as a result? What will He make me do that might make me act really differently and stick out like a sore thumb in the world around me? Will I face more suffering if I let Him take control of this? I can't handle more of that! Again, one part of my brain sees these fears and scoffs at them. I know "whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (1 Timothy 1:12). Don't I know Him? Can't He guard these things? I've seen Him do it. I've seen Him take suffering in my life and turn it into huge growth and blessing. And yet I still fear.
So can I really just thank Him for the fruit and let Him do the work?
I'm trying to take on the challenge. Today was a long day with the kids. We seemed to have meltdowns happening every couple minutes for good portions of the day. Tonight there was a continual rain of tears from Clare and Ev as they scrubbed down and readied for bed. In the midst of it I found myself praying, "Lord, thank you for giving me your patience." I prayed it, though I wonder if I prayed it with a tinge of sarcasm. "Yeah, right.... We'll see...." And then, after stories were read and the kids were tucked in, and more tears were falling from my eldest because her daddy had to work late and couldn't be there to pray with her, there in the midst of all that I realized that I wasn't frustrated with her and snapping at her. The patience was there.... I hadn't changed me at all. God had.
I am in awe. I am humbled.
Now onto tomorrow....