Something I have learned about prayer is that prayer usually moves and changes my heart. You see, when we pray for someone or something, God positions our heart where it needs to be. It is truly a miracle, and I mean miracle! Think about the miracle of loving your enemy that Jesus and the disciples so clearly demonstrated to us by example. Only the love of God can transform a heart to love our enemies. Jesus did that in the disciples’ hearts. So, when God calls us to pray, keep in mind that He wants to work in our heart too. To be honest sometimes I avoid praying for certain things or people because I know once I do, that I am going to have to confront the sin in my own heart. But when I give in and pray, God always does a miracle in my heart.
Praying for certain people can be difficult. Often times we don’t even think about praying for certain people or people groups because we probably do not have a heart and passion for them. Sometimes when we choose not to pray for a certain person or people group, it shows that we have ill-will towards them. It’s difficult but if we avoid what Jesus is calling us to do, we miss out on a chance not only to free our hearts, but the chance to participate in reaching and loving people, which is the mission of God that He gives to us (Matt. 28:16-18).
Over the last 20 years, we have worked with a lot of different people groups and subgroups. With many of these groups, I have had Christian friends (even ministry supporters at times) express dislike or challenges with some of the people groups we have worked with. Some of this is expressed face to face, as they confess their struggle, which I appreciate and value their honesty. But some of it comes from comments I hear in conversation from others, or sometimes when I am standing right there included in the conversation but the person doesn’t realize what I do for a living and who I work with. I have had to cringe hundreds of times over the years. Sometimes in those moments I challenge them in a loving way if it is appropriate. I confess sometimes I just get angry, which is not the answer and sometimes I am just deeply grieved. I have come to realize that often times the people who make these comments are not mean-spirited people by any means. Some of these people are some of the most loving, giving, and spiritual people I know, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have blind spots in their heart. I have come to realize that a lot of their thinking and even mine comes from the way that we grew up and just our world view in general. Ignorance seems like a negative word, but that is what it is. We all have ignorance in certain areas, therefore we have to ask God to reveal the blind-spots that we have. Please hear me, I am as guilty as anyone. We all have sin in our hearts and I am certainly not excluded from that, but I do know what it takes to get over these heart issues and that is prayer. So, all in all, it can become difficult to get Christians in general and even supporters to get excited about what we are doing because some simply do not have a heart for the people we are working with. I have come to the point that if I can’t get people to pray, then I am not going to sway anyone’s heart. I am not going to get anyone to love the people who God has not only called me to love but has called all of us to love without prayer. God moves our hearts though prayer. For example, if you pray for missions, God will give you a heart for missions. If you pray for a certain people group; you will most likely get a heart for that people group.
Connecting with God through prayer is how God begins to give us His heart for the things we are praying for. Prayer is how we get the heart of God. Praying for certain people or people groups is how we receive a loving heart towards those people. Without prayer, we are left to opinions, theological stances, and even political beliefs, which will only bring deception and will end up being very misguided. I challenge all of us to hear only from God. Over the next several blogs, I want to challenge us to pray for some things that might be challenging. Some of those hard things might be certain people groups or immigrants. Some of the hard things might be praying for a family member or a neighbor. Some of those hard things might be praying for a sub-group or affinity that we simply do not like or are not comfortable with. I want to challenge us to press through and see what God does. If we find ourselves having a difficult time wanting to pray for a certain topic, that again is usually an indication that we have a heart issue that God wants to work through.
Each post I will have a new topic to pray through. I thought it might be helpful for me to even write out my own prayers that will show you the struggle in my own heart over the years that you can use as a guide.
NOTE: Most of these topics will be struggles that are common among white middle-or upper-class evangelicals. I am focusing on this group because I am one, and because this makes up a majority of the church in the United States.
Thank you all, and I pray that during this time all of our hearts will continue to be changed and drawn towards the things God desires.