In conversation with two men yesterday, concerns about the weather surfaced – which may represent the conversation as rather shallow (isn’t weather the thing you talk about with people when you don’t know what to talk to them about, the ultimate small-talk topic? Perhaps not so among farmers, though these two were decidedly city-dwellers) – but it took a turn. One of the men remarked to me that everyone complains about the weather, but there’s nothing any of them can do about it. The other gentleman commented that one could, perhaps, pray for better weather.
Isn’t it striking that prayer is so often about outward circumstances? Better weather; changed and eased conditions in life; the needs of others; the desires of our hearts. In human relations we can recognize that we only have control over our own way of relating – our own actions, our own reactions, our own words. How do we relate to those other circumstances in life – stressful work or family situations? physical or mental fatigue? bad weather? bad drivers? noisy people in quiet restaurants? How quickly we move to “solve” these outward circumstances, when we should know that the real problem is inside!
I arrived at the Legion yesterday evening for the Green Braes practise (yes, I am making an attempt to learn to play the bagpipes), and it was as though that same conversation struck up again – though now in the mouths of different people. One commented that work would be so much easier if there weren’t customers coming through all the time; another, that work would be so much easier if there weren’t other employees. I commented that it sounded like they were observing that wherever there is more than one person, there is strife.
What about you? Do you find something similar? Would life be easier if other people weren’t always “getting in the way”? The love of Jesus for us sinners calls us out of the blame-game of scapegoating and irresponsibility. It takes two to tango. We know that we can’t change other people and their actions/reactions/words (though we still try often enough!), but only ourselves. Jesus calls us to a higher standard, which begins with personal responsibility and ownership, but proceeds to transformation. You may say that this transformation hasn’t yet taken place, but it begins with the desire for transformation – with the resolution to be done with the way things have been – with a commitment to, as John the Baptist puts it, “bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8)
So the next time you find yourself praying about outward circumstances, pause. Pause, and consider. Consider if, while you are focused on the external trouble, might God be more concerned with your internal life? Consider that rather than stopping at praying concerning outward circumstances, you might also pray for inward grace and transformation – whatever the circumstances.