One of the hardest disciplines for me has always been prayer. I think it may be partly due to my skeptical nature (Does prayer really work?) and partly due to my reluctance to ask for help. In this way, I am not unlike my Jonathan, who at this stage in his life has to do everything himself. It seems like it would be easier to try to figure it out on my own instead of asking someone else, even if it is God, to help me. And so, I must confess that I have a hard time praying. This year, however, I realized that prayer is an act of faith because I am placing my trust in the hands of another for answers. (I know, I am a slow learner!) Deep down inside, I long for a strong marriage and godly children, but have no idea how to get there. The success of these relationships do not depend on me alone. There is no guarantee, even if I do all the "right" things, that my marriage will be solid or my children will follow the Lord faithfully.
And so, I have committed to start learning how to pray for the ones I love the most. As a guide, I have been using Stormie Omartian's books The Power of a Praying Wife and The Power of a Praying Parent because I seem to just get stuck praying the same thing. I have appreciated her insights and her use of Scripture as a basis for her prayers. What I do is read a section of the book until a prayer request surfaces and then I journal my prayers for my husband and children. I aim to pray regularly for them, as part of my personal devotional time each morning.
One of the first things I have learned is that it is often easy to pray for our husband or children to change, especially in the areas that particularly irritate us. After all, they do need to change! However, what I learned from my personal experience is that often, as I start to pray for those areas in their lives, the Lord gently has to re-focus my attention to those very same areas in myself. In times of conflict, they are usually (more than I care to admit) not the only ones with sin or areas of weakness to correct or address. Needless to say, this has been very humbling.
Yet, at the same time, it has also been very good for my own spiritual growth and maturity. I cannot change my children, try as I might by nagging or constantly correcting them. I cannot change my husband by giving him the silent treatment or planning some stinging remark that I think would wake him up. As the Lord has showed me the weakness of those methods, as well as the sinful heart behind them, I have begun to change my prayer from "Please, Lord, change ________________" to "Please, Lord, change me."
One of these areas concerned my (lack of) communication between me and one of my children. Our different personalities made it difficult for us to get along well. As I prayed for this child, I knew I was quick to point out their shortcomings, but as I did so, I sensed also that gentle voice of the Spirit saying, "But you do the same thing too..." I needed to deal with my own issues first with the Lord before dealing with my child's. It was one of those things that I knew needed time to change, but I knew that I needed to do that first. I am still in process with this issue, but interestingly, I have noticed that changes are already starting to happen because God is changing me, not my child. The things that used to irritate me are becoming less of an irritation because I am realizing that they are in process, just like me.
Another child had a problem with cleaning up. It was driving me crazy! Every day at dinner time was a battle as I tried to get the house tidied up. Evidently this child did not find it a problem at all. Through prayer, I began to realize that in this case, I needed to do some thinking and looking below the surface. I personally believe that tidiness is a life skill that will be a blessing to others, even if you are not so inclined yourself. And for the sake of others, I want my children to be tidy, even if it is not their natural bent. As I began praying, the Lord began to show me that I was expecting too much and that I was being unrealistic. Through prayer, He began to help me to look at what motivates this particular child and to design a training plan that would help to facilitate their development of this skill. Now, I can safely say that this child is now my most reliable when it comes to clean up! I can say that it is not me, but God who helped me to understand my child as I prayed so that I can help them.
This is also true when it comes to my husband. I am often so quick to find his shortcomings and overlook my own. But God is reminding me there are two people in this relationship and that while I cannot control my husband, I can work on myself. I have many things I need to change when it comes to conflict resolution, but little by little, I am learning to take the hard road that God is showing me to take so I can do my part in making our relationship as strong as it can be.
Psalm 66:18 says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." I hope that we will become women of prayer, bringing ourselves before the Lord along with our families, so that we can be transformed into the likeness of Jesus together.
But it starts with me.