I sat in the prayer room at Growth in Faith. My duty there was to pray for a half hour for requests turned in by the women at the retreat.
“Pray for my husband to open himself up to the Lord,” was the first request.
As I read it, I was convicted of my attempts to try get others to open up to the Lord. Too often I failed to pray God would help them do so.
A picture came to mind of me trying to open a soup can without the help of a can opener.
There is no way to open a can–at least not the old fashioned kind–with my bare hands. Yet at that moment I realized this is what I’d tried to do with people. Repeatedly I’d fallen into the trap of being convinced my words, my actions, my own wisdom without any leading or direction from the Holy Spirit could somehow get them to open up to God.
At times I fell into this behavior because I felt God was doing nothing in response to prayer after prayer from me pleading with Him to intervene in their lives.
In that prayer room, I was convinced of something else–that any self-effort to try to get others to open up to God are futile and a waste of time and energy.
I continued with praying over the other prayer requests that day. But since then I’ve been thinking quite a bit about that first prayer request and my attempts to try to force others to embrace God or to embrace doing the right thing.
While sitting in church this past Wednesday evening, I thought about a loved one I so wanted to see embrace a close walk with God.
“Why is this person not hungry for You?” I asked the Lord.
I saw that this individual was feeding on the junk food of this world and had little appetite for spiritual things. How often I’d done the same thing.
The warning that rang out in my mind was: Do not try to force-feed this person anything about God because it will do no good. I recalled past attemtps to do so, and how they ended badly.
I thought of me trying to open that can with my bare hands.
Then another picture came. It was me trying to force-feed a baby who wasn’t hungry.
I saw a little baby in a high chair with his mouth sealed shut. Yet I was trying to cram that spoonful of food into his mouth. The outcome was a mess of food splattered all over, an angry baby and me as a frustrated baby-feeder.
That’s what you’ve been doing with some people in your life, I sensed the Lord was saying.
For those I’m tempted to force-feed, I will now pray, “Lord, make them hungry for You.” Sometimes He has in the past and may in the future lead me to do or say something. But it’s the self-effort–my own plans and schemes—He wants me to do away with for good.
Tonight as I think about how to do that, this passage from The Message Bible comes to mind:
Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. (from Matthew 11:28)
This song God gave me years ago also serves as a reminder:
Your grace alone can set the captive free,
Your grace alone can let the blind man see.
There’s nothing I can do.
I must depend on You,
and Your grace alone.
How about you? Do you use your own efforts to try to get people to walk with God or do the right things? Are you ready to let the Holy Spirit more and more work in you and through to draw others to Him? Let’s celebrate in advance what wonderful results that will bring.