Friday, April 17, 2015
Some time ago I was considering my prayer list. As I reflected on all of the ways that I wanted help for family, my friends, and myself, I had a realization. They all really came down to one thing: the fruit of the Spirit. As you'll recall from Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit is a multifaceted thing comprised of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Let me explain. When I prayed for a problem to be resolved, really it was because I wanted peace for myself or my loved one. When I prayed for a conflict to be resolved, really it meant that the people involved were going to need an increased measure of love, patience, kindness, and gentleness. When I prayed for some good thing to happen, really it was because I wanted joy for myself or my loved one. When I prayed for relief from temptation it was because I wanted faithfulness and goodness for myself or my loved one. To achieve this faithfulness we would likely need self-control.
Maybe a more specific example would help. I have a couple of preacher friends who are looking for jobs, and I've been praying for God's intervention. But WHY do I want them to find new jobs? Because I don't want their families to be discouraged and their faithfulness suffer. Because I want them to experience the peace that comes from a stable work situation. Because I want them to have the joy that comes from a fulfilling work. Because I want to see the brethren deal with them with patience and kindness. Because I want God to continue to use them to increase the goodness in the people that they have the opportunity to minister to. See what I mean? Really, I am wanting to see the fruit of the Spirit abound in their lives, and in the lives of those around them.
Literally, everything that I could think of related in some way to the fruit of the Spirit. If the fruit of the Spirit was present in sufficient quantities, then the problems would either be resolved or they wouldn't seem as important anymore. When I made this realization, it changed both my prayer-life and my personal outlook. Rather than focus as much on the surface situation, I pray that God will increase the fruit of the Spirit in my life and in the lives of the other people for whom I am praying. Then I trust that God will know the best ways to bring about the result. The ways that I think things should be resolved might not actually be the best in the long-run, but God always knows what's best.
The title of this article may be a little hyperbole. I still pray for many things, but with this one thing in mind. I try to focus on the real result that I'm looking for and leave more of the "how to get there" up to God's wisdom and discretion.
I mentioned that it has also changed my personal outlook. By this I mean that if I want more peace and joy in my home, then I need to work to increase the role of the Spirit in my home. This emphasizes the need to be a good spiritual leader in the home. If I want those things for my friends, then I need to try to help them increase the role of the Spirit in their lives. This emphasizes the need to be evangelistic.
My most effective life-tools are Bible study, prayer, fasting, serving, teaching, and other such spiritual disciplines. When my life seems off-track it is usually because I have slacked in these things. When I am diligent in these things, then life seems to recenter regardless of the external factors around me.
Spirituality is not just a part of a person's well-being. It is, in fact, the entire supporting structure that holds a life up. Attempts to have fulfillment in life will be like trying to scratch an itch that we just can't ever quite reach until we realize that love, joy, peace, and all the rest ultimately only come from God's involvement in our lives.
I pray that you find your life abounding in love, joy, peace, patient, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What more could you ask for?