"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him."
- 1 John 5:14-15 NIV
Years ago, my husband, Joe, and his sister had a serious disagreement, and as a result, they stopped speaking to each other. I tried several times to intervene and bring them back together, but every attempt of mine failed. Whenever I tried talking to my husband about reconciling with his sister, I was met with increasing resistance. I finally put the matter in the Lord's hands and told Him that I was counting on His help. I began to earnestly pray for a reconciliation, but I didn't talk to my husband about it. One morning, Joe confessed to me that he had a dream about making peace with his sister. He began sharing with me how often he thought of her, and how he felt like the Lord might be leading him to call her. Finally, the day came when he did just that. His sister wasn't as receptive as he had hoped, but with the Lord's help, Joe lovingly persisted, and they have enjoyed a peaceful relationship ever since.
In addition to his full-time job, my husband used to work part-time for a large tax preparation firm during tax season. Every year during tax season, our kids and I knew we weren't going to see much of their dad. Besides that, Joe had to work on Sundays, which made it very difficult for us to attend church as a family. I often complained about his second job, and pleaded with him to quit. But no matter what I said or did, he refused. I finally gave up and decided to put the matter in God's hands, and I began earnestly praying that He would make a way for my husband to leave his part-time job. After several weeks, when Joe began complaining about all the negative changes that were being made in his company, I casually suggested that perhaps it was God's will for him to finally quit. I was stunned when my husband went into work the following day and gave his notice.
I had read about the "shut up and pray" principle, and I believed it was the strategy God wanted me to employ in both of these situations. I was relatively certain that I was praying according to God's will, and I claimed God's promise in the verses above. But to be honest, I wasn't completely sure until I witnessed the Lord's supernatural intervention.
David prayed, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." (Psalm 141:3 NIV) If we pressure people, or say the wrong things when we want them to change their behavior or course of action, we can make them more stubborn and resistant. In these cases, we're not helping God, we're hindering Him. Often, the Lord won't get involved in matters like these until we back off and hand them completely over to Him. If we stop trying to accomplish what only God can, and if we invite Him into the situation through fervent prayer, He will do what we cannot do. He knows how to reach these people, even when we don't, and He can put pressure on them in ways that will turn their hearts toward - not against - Him and us. If we're ever tempted to harbor bitterness or resentment against the people involved, we must repent and ask God for forgiveness and help, otherwise our prayers won't be very effective.
If you feel like you've tried everything to get someone to change their behavior or course of action, and you've gotten nowhere, let me encourage you to entrust the matter to the Lord, "enter His rest," and "cease from your own labors." (Hebrews 4:3, 10) Persevere in prayer, then be prepared to witness the miracle-working power of God!
Prayer: Lord, show me when to confront someone about their behavior, and when to just be silent and pray for them. Help me to do my part, and to let You do Yours. When I'm tempted to hold anything against anyone, help me to forgive them quickly and thoroughly. Thank You that because of my right-standing with You in Christ Jesus, my prayers shall have "great power and wonderful results"! (James 5:16 TLB)
- J. M. Farro