Praying instead of complaining and reciting offenses
Step 3 in “Checking your Baggage” is learning to pray instead of complaining and reciting offenses.
cour·age the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous
re·straint a measure or condition that keeps someone or something under control or within limits.
What if true courage and self-control are inseparably bound together, a by-product of yielding to Jesus? What if we exhibit many of the character traits of Jesus, except for the ones marked by restraint? What if the primary obstacle to our spiritual growth is self-control?
And what if God knows that growth in our prayer lives (and ultimately our connection with Him) is connected with courage and restraint? If true, God may allow us to encounter situations that drive us to prayer. Oh what fun…
Many years ago I was working for a guy who would “go off” on people and humiliate them publicly and privately. My friend and I escaped to lunch almost every day to commiserate and “recount the latest happenings.” I’ll never forget sitting in my buddy’s yellow Datsun, with melting tar on the floorboard staining the sides of my shiny white Reeboks…
Anyway, because we were both followers of Jesus my friend got the idea that we should start praying every day before we went back into the office. Instead of merely asking forgiveness for complaining, we would repent and ask forgiveness for our own sins (the things in our own hearts and lives that were similar to what we were offended by). Interestingly, that affected the rest of our conversation, because you end up complaining less when you know you are going to ask God to reveal your own shortcomings.
So what was the result of praying in this way?
First of all, our boss started to change. It was weird and unexpected. He became more self-aware and admitted his problem (btw, others changing isn’t always the result nor the goal).
Secondly, we ended up feeling more compassion for him, and were generally more humble in our perspective and actions (and we became better employees).
Third, we started believing in the power of prayer. We weren’t praying for him to change, but were turning the focus of our prayers to personal humility and repentance. Around that time I heard someone say, “the most powerful weapon you have in spiritual warfare is repentance.” So true…
That is how we began to experience the kingdom of God, through the gifts of courage and restraint. I say gifts because they really were gifts and not something we could muster up. And it has become a powerful and effective way to check my baggage over the years.
Are you in a tough situation? Can you start by confessing your own sins, and repenting of them? It’s as simple as saying “I confess x in my own heart and life, and I repent and turn from it now. Lord, have mercy on me and forgive me. Search my heart and reveal any other areas of sin, and please forgive me. Cause me to love with your love. Give me courage and self-control…”
Then praying blessing for the other person “Lord forgive me for judging x, for complaining and reciting offenses. I choose to forgive them and release them to you, and pray for your blessing on them. Reveal your great love to them.”
Of course there is always a place for speaking the truth in love to the person. But speaking the truth in love to the person is not complaining and reciting offenses to other people.
Speaking the truth in love always goes better when preceded by prayer, repentance and humility. And whenever we experience that kind of self-control and release through prayer, we die to our need to speak up and to make them pay.
Courage, restraint and prayer. Maybe they are more connected to our freedom than we know.