When we genuinely believe that inner transformation is God’s work and not ours, we can put to rest our passion to set others straight.Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
I preached a sermon a while back entitled Helping that Helps (podcast can be found here) in which we were reminded that we cannot fix anyone else. Transformation is the work of God alone. Once we come to grips with this fact we are released to truly be helpful by focusing on those things that make a difference. Namely, prayer.
I need to be reminded regularly that the greatest work I do is praying for others. Oh, there is plenty of other work to be done. For surely it is not the only work I do but prayer is undoubtedly the most important.
“Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you”1 Samuel 12:23a
Since reading 1 Samuel 12:23 a few years ago, I have been even more compelled to take up intercessory prayer. Giving up on prayer is akin to giving up on God. And giving up on God is a short step from giving up on others.
And let me just say that I am very good at giving up. I am a blazing starter…and a very weak finisher. I enjoy the excitement of beginning something and loathe the mundane of finishing. And while that may not be such a bad thing when it comes to a bad book or meal, it is less than helpful in most other areas of life.
The past sixteen years of ministry has not been without its ups and downs. I have seen miracles from God and I have walked deserts of silence from the same God. I have experienced mountaintops where the fulfillment of purpose wells up. I have also experienced valleys with fleeting thoughts about ways out of ministry instead of ways through it. And every time the low moments come I am reminded that I contain no power, no talent, no gifting, no ability that can ever bring about change in my life or anyone else’s for that matter. The impulse to give up is strong. Because it is humbling to be reminded that your gifts and strength are, to use the Apostle Paul’s words, “rubbish”.
And I always find that this the best possible place for me to be. Yes, you read that correctly. It is the best possible place for me to be. For it is from that place that I am driven to my knees in desperation. It is from there…and there alone…that I am reminded that prayer is where God’s will is accomplished. It is from this place of prayer that I have found the provision of God’s grace.
Let me encourage us to not give up on prayer. It is a common theme that drives all of my work because I see how prayer clearly drove Christ’s work. If the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, needed to pray then how much more do I.