Not How I Expected A Prayer To Be Answered

God has some unique ways, tailored for the person, to answer prayer. In my case, I have a hard time with empathy or sympathy. Over the years I have put up a wall, brick by brick. Now it’s being weakened by a steady chipping away.

I thought that God would break it down like the Kool-Aid Man. Instead, he’s sending people into my path to teach me.

Lives Intersecting

GriefShare, a room full of hurting people, talking about their loss(es). I can usually identify with them all, except the widowers, though I wonder about it and fear the eventuality. When my friends tell a story about how they’re still dealing with the pain, a large chunk gets knocked off that wall.

The lonely kid that just wanted someone to talk to deciding to walk up to me, one of my ‘kids’, and her boyfriend. He reminded me of my own loneliness. More rock is chipped away.

A friend’s mom battling cancer, it was looking bad. I listened to him, I hurt for him. I remembered my mom’s bout with colon cancer. The hammer falls again.

A guy at work whose world falls apart in front of my eyes. His situation reminds me of the helplessness and anxiety I went through after my godson. Then the money is slowly drawn out of their bank account until he had only $110 left, and can’t go home.

Divorce looks imminent. My parents went through a bad divorce when I was a kid. Is that a hole in the wall now?

The friend whose mom is in a bad way had to put his dad in an assisted-living facility. At work he was unusually quiet. I was going to ask how he was doing, but got the sense that I should be quiet and reach out physically, so I put a comforting hand on his shoulder and met his eyes as I passed by.

I’m intersecting with a lot more hurting people lately, these were just a few. All I know to do in these situations is to listen, and pray. During these times, I notice that God is bringing parts of my own painful past to mind. The relevant moments where I can identify with them, it’s building something on the other side of the wall.

Growing empathy and this verse from Matthew 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

The Good From The Bad

Two good things came out of this: first, my friend’s mom got out of the hospital and is now in assisted-living with her husband. Second, an act of grace for the guy at work with no place to go.

Under my nose, the crew on my shift gathered money so he could stay at a hotel that weekend. I heard about it when he walked up, asking me if I knew anything about it.

No, but I could see the ray of hope in his eyes as he went from person to person, thanking them. I looked at another friend, saying, “That’s grace.”

I asked another guy whose idea was it was.
“Because I’m proud of you guys.” My heart was literally full and lifted by the demonstration of love.

He got a sense from God to do it. He left his machines with another, immediately setting off on his mission. All but one person gave. That was immediate obedience, Pastor Rod would be proud.

The wall is still up, but it’s weaker, and the chisels are still at work. In time…BOOM.

The Crops Are Ripe For Harvest; Learning Under Jesus

Note: This series is written as a first-person narrative in order to present Jesus in the context he walked with the unknown disciple that narrates presenting my thoughts and sparking more thoughts with his questions. Enjoy.

The Disciples Return

I heard voices approaching, turning and looking to see the others returning from buying food. They stopped, eyes wide in surprise at seeing Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman. They didn’t say what was on their minds, a man does not speak to a woman in private, it’s not proper.

The disciples didn’t question it either. We watched her leave, forgetting her water jar. We approached Jesus, trying to get him to eat. Enigmatically he responded, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

I didn’t see him eat anything. The others wondered aloud if someone brought him food. Maybe the woman had some?

My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.

He’s sustained and fed just by following God, that’s simple enough I thought. This other part, what crop? Sent where?

A Crowd Gathers

Then I heard more voices. The townspeople were coming down the road, the woman among them. She must have told them about Jesus! Were they going to run us out of town?

No, instead they gathered around us. Jesus began to speak as they listened, and many were believing in him because of her.

One of the other disciples nudged me, whispering, “She was sent.”

What Jesus had said fell into place, the town was the ripe field. Still, I cringed when they asked us to stay two more days. They voluntarily went against culture to generously care for us during that time. Hospitality is generally extended only to your people.

During that time, many more became believers.

Before we left I overheard someone say to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Savior of the world? I thought about that as we continued on into Galilee.

A Unexpected Explanation of Sanctification

I’ve been studying a book, The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves, written by the same people who wrote Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box. That book led me to write Self-Deception and the Problems It Causes, and this one is no different.

The Arbinger Institute seems to use Biblical principles, and in their models in chapter two, I saw a way to explain sanctification. I don’t know if that was their line of thought but I have to share.

1st Model—Behavioral Model

Imagine a triangle, that’s a person’s behavior. Now put a circle at the top for the results of the behavior. Behavior drives the results.

This reminds me of our natural self-interests we have that fuel our choices to take care of ‘number one’. The flesh, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:5.

2nd Model—Mindset Model

The same triangle and circle, except now the triangle is divided horizontally. The bottom half is mindset, the top half is behaviors. The mindset chooses which behaviors are used for the results you want.

I can see it as an example of a saved person’s regenerated heart (Ezekiel 11:18-20). It does good, not because of rules or the Old Testament Law, but because of the heart itself. It naturally wants to do good.

3rd Model—Behavioral Push Model

The diagram has changed, now the mindset half of the triangle and the current results circle are on the left. On the right is new circle, target results. The behavior half of the triangle is under it, symbolizing the target behaviors.

How did it get there? A change in rules or procedure pushed the behaviors to change, without a change in the person. This leads to forced compliance and underlying resistance.

Just like following all of God’s laws won’t change you. The resistance is still there without the changed heart. The mindset is still focused inward on yourself.

4th Model—Leading With Mindset Approach

Two circles still, current results and target results, the same split triangle. Except now the bottom mindset half is moving, not pushed, toward the target results. The behavior half is naturally following it.

I can see the sanctification process in their models. Your mindset is changed, and the behaviors naturally, or more appropriately, supernaturally follow to get the desired results. The ultimate result is to be transformed into Jesus’ likeness (Romans 8:28-30; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

How Does This Work?

The natural person, driven by instinct and impulses, is the first model. The regenerated, supernatural person that is made in the likeness of Christ, is the second model. The first one’s current results is sin, the second’s is sinlessness, which won’t happen until their dead.

That’s why there is sanctification, which is the setting of something or someone apart. You can do it by rules or laws, which is the third model, but it doesn’t change the inside of a person. Even a murderer can be polite, just look at Jeffrey Dahmer, which is how he lured his victims into complacency before he struck.

Except the Law demands perfection. Everyone who is perfect in every way raise your hands. You in the back, put down your hand.

The fourth model requires a mindset change, turning away from the former way and towards Jesus ( Romans 6:23Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9Romans 8:1). Instantly the Holy Spirit regenerates your heart into one bent towards God (2 Corinthians 5:17). It leads, behaviors follow, old behaviors fall away, all towards becoming like Christ.

Only the perfect can stand before God, and only God can supernaturally make you perfect. This is sanctification in action.