If you have ever prayed for someone you can understand how difficult it can be to get that prayer answered. It is especially difficult if you have strife with someone. There is no prayer you can pray that will impose your will on someone else. I have had to do this many times and I can tell you from experience that praying for people is the most difficult thing a believer can do. It will seriously wear down your faith.
The problem is pride.
There is no doubt that God can answer prayer but He will not force anyone to do anything. People have free will to make their own decisions. Although God won’t make someone respond to your prayer He can make someone wish they had.
If there is one thing I can tell you from experience – don’t give up. I know it becomes repetitive and you can go days, months or years without seeing any progress whatsoever but eventually something can happen.
Most recently for me I reconciled with my dad shortly before his death. Before that last month of his life, we had gone almost eight years without speaking. When my mother passed away, I thought he had shut the door on us forever. But…..I kept praying for him and me. I had to pray for myself just as much as I did for him. If I wanted God to answer my prayer and reconcile me and my dad I had to be ready for it. My heart and mind had to be prepared to forgive and let things go. That’s hard. I won’t lie. I had a hard time with that. I had this ritual every morning on my first walk to my work location that I prayed for him and me. Some days is was the same worn out prayer every day and some days I was quite angry about the situation. I didn’t understand it and I vented to God about it.
Let me tell you that my dad was a stubborn man and set in his ways. I prayed that God would soften his heart towards me. There are some days I was just ready to write him off. “I’m done!” I would say. Praying for someone isn’t always so glamorous. It’s hard work.
Still I managed to pray through the situation where it looked like nothing was happening. I prayed through my own anger and frustration. I can even remember times I would have a profanity-filled tantrum about it. God understood.
I wrote letters and sent cards which were never answered. Still I kept praying. I would get aggravated with myself because it was the same prayer and I was bored with it but God knew my heart in the matter.
Shortly before my wife and I went on a trip, I felt like writing him again. I wrestled with doing so but the thought that kept going through my mind repeatedly was this: “It is never wrong to do the right thing” so I wrote him a letter and put it in the mail. When I picked up our mail upon our return, I received a handwritten letter from him. He apologized for everything and wanted to see me. As I stood there reading that letter I could hardly believe what I was reading. After all of the time that had passed, my prayer was finally being answered. It was a weird feeling. I can’t say that I was overjoyed but it took a while to sink in. Then I wondered: Was I ready for this? I struggled with this thought. Could I possibly let everything go and press on?
When I called him for the first time, he gave me details about his medical problems which were very serious. He told me that he had bladder cancer and was scheduled to have his bladder removed the week of Thanksgiving and wanted me to be there. He was also having issues with something called Pulmonary Fibrosis. He had just finished his last chemo treatments for the bladder cancer and little did we know at the time that these treatments had made his Pulmonary Fibrosis worse. When my cousin called to inform me that he had been admitted to ICU in Gainesville, Florida weeks before his bladder removal, I decided to go down and be with him. He passed away a week later due to complications from the Pulmonary Fibrosis. In that time we had together, were able to talk and we made most things right. Some things we couldn’t but I will always be grateful for the time we had.
If you saw the movie “I Can Only Imagine”, I felt like I lived that movie with my own father. It was tough.
Yes, God answered my prayers but you never know how that answer will come or how it will be. Being an impatient person, it is agonizing for me to sustain prayer for something or someone for this long. I tell you that you get weary with it. Fed up with it. You want to give up. But God understands more than you think He does and He sustains you even when the prayer gets stale and boring. I can tell you that some days I just honestly ran out of words to pray about it.
I have now heard people tell me about how Dad was wearing down and being drawn toward reconciling with me. Pride was the barrier that kept it from happening sooner than it did. It’s hard to pray against someone’s pride and resistance. I did that and I was blessed that God finally broke through to my dad’s heart to let me back in.
So how did I do it? I didn’t do it by prayer alone. I also had a wife that encouraged me and reminded me that I had done everything I could do. She had to remind me to not blame myself.
If you think I’m some kind of super intercessory prayer warrior like that Miss Clara in “The War Room” you would be seriously mistaken. I was nowhere close to being like that. The only thing I can tell you is that I never gave up. I may not have had papers pinned up in a prayer closet somewhere but I always had the prayer for him. I also had several songs which encouraged me as well. I salute the song writers out there who put words to these songs that encourage us. Many of them are still on my playlist. Here are those songs:
Gather At The River by Point of Grace
God Is In Control by Twila Paris
It’s Not Over (When God Is In It) by Israel Houghton & New Breed
Jesus Is by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Made Me Glad by Hillsong
Never Been A Moment by Micha Tyler
Overcomer by Mandisa
Warrior by Steven Curtis Chapman
Although I wish the prayers had broken through his pride sooner so we could have had more time, I am still very thankful that I had that last week with my dad. It wasn’t a Hollywood ending but it was good way to end when he said his last words: “Beam me up Scotty”. I think he was finally ready.
So, yes, praying through someone’s pride is difficult but not impossible. Galatians 6:9 tells us “Let us not be weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”