• Amber Albee Swenson

Pray the Hard Prayers

In the last three or four months I've begun praying differently for my family. In the past I had a lot of "keep us healthy" and "let them do well in school" prayers.

Sometimes when things are going well it's hard to see the problems underneath the surface. And when we don't see the problems, we tend to ignore them.

For instance, as long as I don't gain weight, I don't pay much attention to overindulgence. Without a consequence it's off my radar. Once my pants feel tight, I think twice before reaching for a second, or third, piece of chocolate.

As my children get older and I realize I may only have a few years left till they start leaving home and living with others who have more influence on them than I will, I am far more concerned with preparing them spiritually than seeing success.

My prayer has been that God would teach them the lessons they need to learn for them to be powerful and effective spiritually. I pray God would keep them on a short leash, so that as they start wondering off, He does what needs to be done to bring them back. I pray that when it comes to sin they are caught sooner rather than later so it doesn't become a life long habit that could have been curbed in their youth. And as they walk out the door I pray God would protect them, especially from the temptations and traps lurking "out there."

Little did I understand the turmoil these prayers would bring. It's far easier to get the emails raving of a child's good behavior than the ones alerting to poor behavior. It's easier to celebrate the great grades than to realize poor habits have consequences. It's so much easier to cheer the child with all the playing time, than to remind the child on the sideline that their behavior off the field is every bit as important as when they are on the field.

The hurt of watching my children struggle has been deeper than I could have imagined. But I've found the love I feel for my children in the struggle has deepened, too. I've been able to explain to all my children that no matter what they do, and how bad it is, when they come to me I will help them make the situation right, regardless if that means going to the principal or the police. I will love them through it.

I've come to realize, too, that God prepares me for the hard news, and puts just the right person in my path to encourage and cheer me. Just days before receiving a less than stellar midterm I heard a best selling Christian speaker talk about failing most of ninth grade. Another friend a few days later told me of their uncle, the one who barely passed high school, the one who today is a neurosurgeon.

Spiritual maturity rarely comes without a struggle. James tells us as much. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

And yes, I pray the same for myself. One of my favorite songs says, "Reverent love burn us up until what I was is gone. Holy Love burn us up until what I was is gone like clouds dissolve in sunlight" (Crowder's "Fall on your knees"). This song brings me to 1 Peter 1:6-7: " In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

Like John the Baptist, I need to become less, and my sinful nature needs to become less and my children's sinful natures need to become less, so that Jesus and a sanctified life, might be more.

So please excuse us if you notice we are a little delinquent or a lot delinquent these days. We're dealing with heart issues over here and we've found that takes a little more work, a lot more patience and a whole lot of leaning on Jesus. Eventually I'm hopeful it will pay dividends both here and in eternity.

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