“Is it possible that God has called us into this work so that we might pray,” Diane Mandt Langberg asks? ( In Our Lives First: Meditations for Counselors, p.13) She writes for counselors who work with people whose problems are many and varied, tragic and deeply troubling. Given the failures in the church, I can see why the professional counselors who serve so many hurting hearts are in need of revival for themselves. If they would lead others out of their darkness into spiritual health, the counselors must live what they recommend.
These meditations are having a restorative influence in my thinking, and I commend this volume, especially if it’s beginning to dawn on you that life is hard, and people we care about often behave very badly – too often in the church!
“Our intercession can cover far more people and situations than we can ever help in the literal sense . . . It is in the process of interceding that God’s purpose and wise order is brought about in this world. ” (p. 14)
First, in my own life – for when I turn my mind and heart to prayer for people I love –and not just toss out some rote lines – I see stuff in me that may be contributing to relationship problems. And I recognize how lame my love for them can be.
Second, praying revives my faltering faith. Too many times a day I wander into the pastures of, “Gee, doesn’t universalism (or humanism, or non-belief or skepticism) sound like a better coping mechanism than the conviction that God is?” (Exodus 3:15; John 8:58) But just coping can’t be all there is to living, can it?
On some days . . . yes it is.
On other days – I don’t want to just cope, I want to live every moment I have left; and I want to help others enjoy their lives. Prayer reminds me to let go and let God do for them exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ask or imagine. He didn’t die and leave me in charge!
When my cousin told her mother that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, my aunt told me that she became furious with God, whom she not wholly believed existed. As she railed against this God, whom she had doubts about, giving Him "what for" for doing this to her daughter – she caught herself: If He is real enough to get angry at, maybe He is real enough to hear my prayers? And she prayed.
Finally, praying to the God who hears and invites me to pray, and through this mystery, gives nourishment, strength and guidance. (pp. 14-15) Some days we get slammed with news of Christians behaving badly that is as grim and heartbreaking as receiving a diagnosis of cancer. (If the church is to be Christ’s representatives on earth, no wonder so many people answer None when asked if they have a faith!)
Like my aunt, I stumble in anger, doubt and fear, not so much at world events, but when Christians blow it. Worse, I am tempted to judge, dismiss, or rail at others for being so stupid, contemptible, crass, or weak – actions that would lead me right onto a dangerous slippery slope. (Matthew 5:22)
Prayer to the God who hears is the guardrail restraining my heart. It is the response that expands my hope that life has a purpose and meaning that is beyond “They lived happily Ever after.”
I turn again to Psalm 116, and hang onto the guardrails of grace – during a very bumpy ride, where my pride goes before many falls.