Be Careful What You Pray For
By Kate Maddox
My Bible study group was doing a 9-week course on the fruit of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV.)
We were on week four — patience. This is a fruit that is not always found in my basket. In fact, it is very rarely in season at my house. It doesn’t take much to get me to lose my patience. My daughter can’t find her shoes when we are leaving the house. Someone cuts me off on the highway. There’s only one checker at the grocery store. Standing in line anywhere.
So I was eager to go to Bible study on this particular night and learn about Job and how he patiently endured all of his trials. I knew we were going to talk about Job because I had managed to find time to do the reading. I had even filled in the blanks in the workbook. First, we had to list Job’s troubles: His children died, his livestock were struck down, his servants were killed, and his whole body was covered in sores. Then, we had to write down Job’s response: He thanked God. Job had patience. He was a pillar of patience. Through all of his trials, which went on for many years, he continued to praise God. As we studied Job that night, we learned that if we let the Holy Spirit control our lives, He will give us patience.
So I prayed for patience. Every morning when I got up and said my prayers, I made a special request for patience. And like He has done so many times before, God answered my prayers. He gave me lots of opportunities to practice my patience.
The first day I prayed for patience, I ran into Starbucks to get a latte before picking up my daughter from school. The line wasn’t long, but the man in front of me ordered eight Venti coffee drinks. I felt impatience welling up inside me like Old Faithful about to burst, but then I remembered my prayer and it actually made me laugh. God was giving me a test of patience right then! So I prayed the serenity prayer and relaxed, and had a nice conversation with the man in line. It didn’t take more than five minutes, and I was still on time to pick up my daughter.
I kept praying for patience every day, and God kept giving me opportunities to practice it. I got lots of long lines to stand in, traffic to wait in, crazy drivers to dodge and kids to get to school on time. I got to go on a trip with a friend and share a room with her, practicing patience while she stayed in the bathroom for 45 minutes putting on makeup. I got to look at my own impatient nature, and pray a lot to God to help me practice love and patience – and it worked. As soon as I started feeling agitated or uncomfortable, I realized I was being self-centered, and I prayed. I asked God to give me patience and to teach me how to love — how to have real agape love for other people.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote, "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." (Galatians 5:17-18 NIV.)
Each week, through the course of the Bible study, I learned that when I let the Holy Spirit control me, instead of me trying to control me, I can develop the fruit of the Spirit, with prayer and willingness.
Kate Maddox is a writer who lives in Westlake Village, California. She has two children, ages 12 and 9, and attends Calvary Community Church, also in Westlake Village. You may write to Kate care of the Letters page of this magazine.
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