October 13, 2010
Wednesday, 9:00 p.m.
Letter #155: Taking It Seriously
Greetings! Wow—thank you to all of you who have been praying for me! Though I’ve had a fairly consistent prayer life since giving up my car keys 2½ years ago, I’ve never spent time praying for my needs. I’d spend over an hour every day seeking God to bless this person or fix this situation or provide for that family or heal those relationships … and never bring myself up. Not that I wasn’t aware of my own shortcomings and failures, for I was well aware I had needs. I was just deluded into thinking that if I were to pray for myself, it would be selfish. I should be more concerned for others’ needs before my own and their well-being ahead of mine.
To a certain extent, this was good thinking, and certainly well-intentioned. (Applause here.) The fatal flaw—a minor point, really—is that praying in that way was simply not Biblical! From Christ’s model prayer where He encourages us to pray “Forgive us our sins as we forgive … keep us from temptation,” to the many prayers recorded in the Psalms where the Psalmist speaks to God about the condition of his own heart: “My sin is ever before me … lift up my countenance … search me, O God, and find any wickedness in me … ” the pattern of prayer in Scripture is that of getting right with God that our personal walk would glorify Him.
Well, I’m sure you realize that I haven’t always exactly followed the pattern of Scripture or glorified God in my life, right? (You do know this letter is from a prisoner, not the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, correct?) Well as well-intentioned (or lame-brained) as my prayer life was, I was due for a major spiritual overhaul.
My desire to serve God, to please Him, to honor Him in all my ways was a good thing, but I wasn’t developing my love for God. Jesus made it plain how to demonstrate our love for Him: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Simple enough. And I had it lived out for me by the Greatest Family on Earth™. But I let the desires for the things of this world choke out my love of—and obedience to—Christ.
Now I recognize the validity of the lyrics to that cheezy-sounding song, “It’s me, it’s me, O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.” Yes, indeed! So, I’m getting back to basics with my prayer life, selfishly asking God to break me and make me into what Jesus died for me to be.
I spoke with the chaplain briefly before service last Wednesday evening, letting him know that I needed to meet with him about my current spiritual condition. The service began before I could get a response from him. During the service, I was sure he’d call me to the front to confess, but he never did. Not wanting to presume that a public confession is what he wanted, I remained quiet, waiting.
At the end of the service, one guy from my Self-Confrontation class, who has just decided to get baptized this month, stood up asking for prayer, that he feels hypocritical right now. Sean is someone I’ve given counsel to on a couple of occasions, and he is trying to grow in Christ while battling so many memories of his past.
At the close of the service, Chaplain Lungu pointed Sean out to me and told me it was my responsibility to pray with him(!) The next day, the chaplain came to my pod and let me share with him in detail about what I’ve been going through. He said that he’d like to meet with the Executive Body of the church, along with my accountability partner, Denis O’Brien to determine what the next steps should be.
I just want to be single-minded in purpose for once in my life, and I need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get to that point. Part of the seriousness of all this is that the chaplain has wanted to utilize me in ministry here. A month ago, he took the only four elders of the church—all of whom have been faithfully serving in ministry for over two years in this church—and created the new Executive Body with them, appointing other elders from faithfully serving deacons and appointing new deacons from those of us who are relatively new here.
Besides the four elders, he also added one more to the Executive Body, the group of men who help the chaplain accomplish what the Lord leads him to do through example, service, and leadership. That other guy is me.
Whether or not I stay on in leadership, I do know that God has called me to serve Him here, so I will continue to make the most of my time here.
I set an appointment with Sean, after getting special permission to go out to yard with his side of our housing unit. We spent over an hour going through his current issues from a Biblical perspective. I gave him projects to read Scripture every day, begin some correspondence Bible Studies, and stop some wrong activities he’s been involved with. So far, he’s been doing this!
Please pray for my faithfulness and wholehearted devotion to Christ … that I would love Him above all else and thus be effective in His service.
I love you all!