Four years ago, I was part of a mentor group that changed my life. The things God did in that season have been imperative in where I have found myself today. I hope to never get over what God did for me through that group of wise, authentic, God fearing women. I had prayed for about three years for God to send someone to help me navigate this place, and man did he answer that in my friend and mentor, Judy. From the day I met her I knew she anointed with a wisdom that only comes from the Lord, she had a kindness in her eyes that spoke of compassion and lessons learned but wasted no words or moments with things that were not asked of her by God.
One evening at one of our monthly meetings, we were discussing how often we find it hard to pray for those around us, especially those that have hurt us. We walked through the notion that we have the desire to pray for them, even forgive them, but in our prayer closets those prayers often would feel hypocritical. We didn't mean it. And that meant we were lying to the Holy Spirit while seeking the presence of God. A BIG no-no.
The more we talked, the more we realized that we often would similarly want to pray big things for those we love, but would get stuck in knowing the most effective way to pray for God to do big and beautiful things in their hearts. So then we would find ourselves settling for half-hearted prayers put together with shallow, common words and phrases of well intentioned wishes (rather than prayers), on behalf of those that have our whole hearts because we weren't up for the work that it takes to figure out to how pray boldly and sincerely. Also a BIG no-no. It's like praying for God to bless your friend with a good day, when in the same time you could have petitioned that God would breathe fresh life into her lungs, show her something new, heal something broken. In both situations, it really just came down to a lot of missed opportunities for power-packed prayer on the behalf of others.
Then, our mentor offered her experience. What she shared has changed my life in such tangible ways that I was never able to shake it. She looked at us and said, "If I have an enemy, there is no way that I am going to ever be able to sincerely pray for God to bless them financially. I'm just not. And if I say that I am, I am lying to the Holy Spirit. BUT, what I can do sincerely, is pray that God would cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in their life. I can pray that would experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in their life. And I will mean that with my whole heart, every. time."
BAM. And just like that, she had equipped me with a Biblical perspective that kept my prayers aligned with God's will for not only my enemies, but for those I love. For anyone that God laid on my heart to pray for, regardless of circumstance or situation, I could make the most of my petition for them.
Fast forward to a few months ago. I was chatting with a close friend and she share that she had found herself not even praying anymore because she was so resistant to praying for this person, she knew that she couldn't do it sincerely so she had been wrestling the temptation to stiff-arm prayer entirely. She told me that she knew that the enemy was the one leveraging this specific relationship, this one hang up, to isolate her from communion with God and others. One of Satan's favorite lies is to tell us is that if we can't do it perfectly, why even try? If we can't do one thing that we know is good for us, or that one thing God is prompting us to do, then we just need to take ourselves out of the game entirely.
We've all heard it from him. And I would probably be willing to say we've all believed it for a hot minute at least at some point in our lives.
I can't commit to a full hour of Bible study and prayer in the morning so I'm just not going to do any of it until I can. (LIE--One minute with the Holy Spirit has the power to change more in your life that one million sermons on Sundays.)
I know I'm not going to be able to serve every single weekend (or I don't want to) so I'm not going to say yes to ANYTHING. (LIE--Serving is not a one size fits all. Just say yes and God will give you opportunities for your availability. ALWAYS.)
I can't commit to a healthy lifestyle because I have (XYZ) this weekend so I'll just wait until it's a better time. Or a new month. Or a Monday. If it could be the 1st on a Monday that would be GREAT. That's when I'll start. ;) (LIE--there will never be a better time.)
I can't say yes to pouring into someone else because I don't have time to meet with them every week so I'll just wait until I am RETIRED. (LIE--you don't retire from the Great Commission)
I'll start spending time with God every day when the babies start sleeping, when my shift changes, when life is not so crazy. (LIE--You will never dedicate more time to things that are "optional" than you do now. Even if you are 105 you will fill your time with what is important to you.)
(Fill in your own excuses here)
If we can't do it right every single time, why even bother.
That's what he wants us to believe. Thats what he wanted her to believe. She had been wounded. Satan was using her love for this person against her and as a resource for building a wall between her and her intimacy with God. And she was OVER IT.
So we started talking about how this was actually something SO MANY of us have struggled with at one point or another, if we are honest. The legalistic approach to faith is fatal. Because there is power in just faith every singe way other than legalism. And at the end of the day, if we are not authentic in our faith and in our prayers, we are legalistic. Hypocritical. And we have ALL BEEN THERE. So if you're feeling quilty right now, that isn't from the Lord. But conviction, that feeling that leads us to repentance? That totally is. Lean in. Hear me when I say this: we may be legalistic every once in a while because we are SINNERS. But we are ALWAYS loved by God. And His kindness leads us to repentance. So, like my wise friend shared, that may be the way we are feeling, and maybe for legitimate reasons. But it is not ok to stay there.
So, how do we get unstuck in our prayers for others? We look inside. We refuse to let the outside symptoms become strongholds in our lives and in our petitions for others. We invite Christ to allow the cross do its work in us and pray for the Spirit to do His thing in all of us. I shared with her what Judy had taught me. and how it had changed my life. We decided together to begin praying and studying through the fruit of the Spirit, and await God's movement. As we were talking, I immediately felt God prompt me to share what we were learning here in this space, as a resource for anyone else looking to take their faith and prayers to the next level.
Over the next 8 weeks we will be walking though a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. We are going to dig deep into God's Word and ask Him to teach us to pray these things over those He puts on our hearts so we can make the most of our prayers and invite Him to cultivate His will in our lives along the way, so as we bear the name of Jesus on our foreheads, we may also bear the fruit of what He has done for us in our lives.
Are you IN?! Let me know in the comments below so I can be praying for you as we go through this together. ALSO: This is the FIRST EVER group I am inviting to do this specific study with (YAY!) Fun fact: I recently was invited to partner with YouVersion (!!!) and THIS STUDY will be the first Bible plan I offer on the YouVersion app as we conclude! So please, please share what God is showing you, teaching you, and how He is moving in your life throughout this journey. Who knows, maybe your feedback will make it into the study! I think it would be SO COOL to share snippets from you guys that participated this round. I have a holy anticipation that He is awaiting to hear from us and is ready to do what He does best.
Here's to powerful prayers, real faith, and changed hearts and lives beginning with US.
With so much gratitude,