Every Wednesday (most Wednesdays, at least) I get together with two or three guys from the church just to talk about stuff. The meetings usually last an hour or so and we talk about pretty much any and everything, although our conversations usually tend toward spiritual things, which makes sense, considering that all things are spiritual things.
Today's meeting was just with me and one other guy, as the other two couldn't make it. One of our goals is to talk about things we're struggling with, and today my friend shared that he's having a hard time relating to his mom and dad. He's grown a lot spiritually over the past four years, and some of the conclusions and beliefs he's come to don't necessarily jibe with what his parents believe. He's tried to talk to them a few times, but most of the conversations haven't gone very well, and he and his parents tend to just avoid spiritual conversations now because they often lead to disagreement. Needless to say, this has led to some frustration for him, and he's struggling with how to pursue a positive relationship with his parents.
During our Family Night meal at the park tonight, I sat down with him, just to kind of conclude our conversation from earlier. I asked him how I could specifically pray for him and his relationship with his parents. (This is something I've been trying to do recently - ask people how I can specifically pray for their needs. People often just give the big picture of something that is happening in their lives and ask others to pray. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd like to know some specific details of the situation I can be praying for in particular.) His answer surprised me and convicted me. He said that his primary prayer request for this situation was for himself - that he be obedient to the command to honor his father and mother.
Why was this surprising and convicting for me? Because, instead of asking me to pray that his parents wise up; instead of asking me to pray that he have the "right words" to say to his parents; instead of asking me to pray that God change his parents' hearts; instead of asking me to pray that his parents be open to the truth; instead of asking me to pray for (fill in the blank), he asked me to pray for him and the way he interacts with and thinks about his parents. This was convicting to me in that, instead of asking for his parents' faults to be dealt with in prayer, he first wanted me to pray for his own tendency toward sin - that his thoughts and motivations toward talking with his parents be pure and above reproach, and that the methods and words he used to talk to his parents were honoring and respectful to them.
And that's the way it should be, but we so often do not consider about our own needs in prayer (at least when it comes to sin). Rather, we tend to ask God to change or do something in the people we have issues with. Don't get me wrong: there's definitely nothing wrong with praying for a situation like this, and asking God to open hearts, give people the "right words", etc. But what we often don't realize is that a lot of times those issues we feel are so important might have something to do with our own heart condition and sinful tendencies. So we tend to pray like this: "God, change that person's heart; make that person see this or think this way; change that person's behavior." Instead of praying for other people, maybe we instead need to pray for ourselves: that God would expose any sin in our lives that might be leading to unholiness or confounding the situation; or that God would show us how to be obedient to his word and to give us faith to trust him in this situation.
I've been blessed by the conversations I've had with these guys, and I thank God for the way he uses them to grow me in holiness. I'll definitely be praying for this guy and his relationship with his parents...and myself too.