Every single one of us is walking through each day unfinished. I drove by a local bridge that was under construction yesterday. Stark, pale orange, newly-cut 2 by 4’s were raw, bright and unweathered against the rainy backdrop of forest. I knew more was to come, but the building process gave an impression of architectural awkwardness. The usually picture postcard-worthy rural bridge did not inspire a photo.
My colleague went back to school, and his ninth grade daughter helped him with the documentation for his term paper. She told me that they did their research papers together this year. It is unlikely that he foresaw this as she sat in his lap as he read to her for so many years. Now she reads constantly, but out of his lap. He is pleased with the character and initiative that she displays. He wonders what she will do, who she will be. She is so much more than he foresaw, but so much less than God foresees.
Many times I have told my kids that one of their biggest blessings is the praying grandparents that God has given them. I drove my son to a YWAM mission trip a few days ago and tried to explain how this very trip was the result of years and years of their prayers on his behalf. God was responding to their consistent concern and hope for his life.
Did he know that every single day his grandparents sat at breakfast, oatmeal, toast and coffee in duplicate between them, and prayed for each of their children and grandchildren? This was no small task. There were more than a handful of each. They asked for God’s blessings on him, by name, every morning. Did he know that they were deeply concerned, not just about his health, but about his spiritual growth and choices as he chose a college and career? No, he had not thought about that. I was sure I had told him over the years. Did I take for granted that he knew? I think I did.
Those praying grandparents took all the credit, in my mind. Praying grandparents keep parents humble.
His grandmother on the other side of the family has prayed for him regularly, too. Especially when he was sick or hurt. He was neither sick or hurt this last week and was the picture of health, and I realized that she may have contributed significantly to this fact. As I hugged him and walked away with his cell phone in hand (so the kids “would not be distracted”), I marveled that he seemed relieved to be taking a vacation from it. He was excited about what God had for him. Those praying grandparents took all the credit, in my mind. Praying grandparents keep parents humble.
For the record, you don’t need to have praying grandparents in order to live wonderful lives for God. While I believe this is how He ideally set it all up to work, God works in all sorts or ways. When I was a teenager, my best friend’s mother, a wonderful pray warrior for God, said that she wondered who had been praying for the children in my home when we grew up. My trip back home this last week brought that question up in my mind. I have often wondered, too.
All of these years I have tried to figure out who prayed for us. Was it our neighbor, Mrs. B, who was verbal about her faith and brought us hot, steaming, homemade dinner rolls when our parents were not around? We gobbled them up. She never invited us over, but she must have dropped them off dozens of times over the years. She sat in her car, engine running, while one of us flew out the front screen door and quickly took them from her hands as she offered them out of her car window. We didn't understand how much she cared. She was gone like a wisp, after every delivery. Were her rolls just a spilling over of her prayers for us? For now, only God knows.
If you are a Christian, and you have a family, God has placed you in a unique position. Mrs. B had watched us from down the country road. You get to see your family members’ needs, upfront and close. Some needs are out there for the whole world to see. You can hope that other people are praying for those things, with you. But other things are there for only you and you alone to see. God has entrusted these needs of others to us to bring before Him. God is very clear that He has chosen to involve us in His work in the lives of people around us. Jesus instructed us;
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”–James 5:16
We don’t need to confess our sins to the same people that we are praying for. Confessed sins remove any junk that may be standing between God and us. When we have a clean heart, God comes closer as we draw near to Him. Then He hears us and responds to us as we walk in righteousness.
We tend to think that the people that annoy and hurt us the most will always be exactly as they are today.
We need to get that sin out of the way by confessing it to a trusted brother or sister in Christ, then we are good to go. Pray away. Pray in faith. Your prayers will be “powerful and effective,” so ask the Holy Spirit to lead you, and ask for the needs that you have, and be sure to include those of your family members. Don't give up if things don't seem to be budging. He is doing things behind the scenes. Watch. Expect that God will do His stuff. That's faith.
We tend to think that the people that annoy and hurt us the most will always be exactly as they are today. We may pray for their situations to improve, but we know that God is hugely concerned about character and Christlikeness. Our prayers, then, should reflect God’s agenda for them. We are called to pray, not just for circumstances, but also for spiritual growth. We can pray that other Christians come into their lives and come alongside us in how we are trying to be light in their lives.
You may be thinking about your parents, or siblings, or kids, or nephews and nieces, or spouse. Or all of them. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas speak to their jailer who asks them “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (verse 30). This is what followed;
“They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.”–Acts 16:31-34
Our family members have an uncanny ability to hurt, annoy or challenge us unlike other people can. Our spouses may not agree with our priorities and purposes. It’s important to remember that God is at work. As we pray, changes are happening, maybe less quickly than we would ideally hope, but God is working. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says,
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal”
If you think that no one sees the hard things that happen when you struggle in your family relationships, you are simply wrong. The opposite is true. God certainly sees. He is pleased when we endure suffering and still chose to persevere, to trust Him, and to pray for those around us. He gives us His heart for our family members. He asks us to partner with Him in bringing them closer to Him. While we may be looking at the unfinished, awkward process, He always knows that the final project will look like. We must always remember that our prayers are moving people along.
While we may be looking at the unfinished, awkward process, He always knows that the final project will look like.
Matthew 21:22 is succinct; “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” If you are discouraged, then pray! One of our biggest joys as parents, relatives and friends are seeing prayers answered in the lives of the people around us. To see them grow from being completely dependent on other peoples’ prayers to praying for other people, well, that’s just pure joy. It’s a wonderful cycle that someone has to start. God bless us all as we send those prayers up. Your prayers are uniquely able to effect your family. They are powerful and effective! No one on earth loves your family like you do.