Being patient is one of my worst qualities. Whether it’s waiting for my two-year-old to pick out which shoes she will wear or waiting for the next step in my career, it’s really difficult for me to be in the moment instead of wishing people or time would move a little faster.
Patience is also one of the hardest things for me to pray for. I’m almost too stubborn to pray for patience. I have this feeling that if I ask God for patience He might give me one too many opportunities to practice it.
All that to say, it feels too hard to learn the rhythm of patience. Because that means I’m not in control (yes, I realize that I might have underlying control issues). When things happen on my watch, life feels more comfortable. And with comfortability comes less relying on the One who is actually in control of my life, whether I want to admit it or not.
Romans 12:12-13 in the Message says, “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.” The NIV’s version is a bit shorter and may be more familiar. It says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
But I want to go back to the Message version. I really love the phrase, “Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.” It fits with where I am in life right now and probably is the opposite of what I feel like doing. Lately, when I have to do hard things, it just feels like too much. I would much rather curl up on my couch and binge watch Parks and Rec for the third time with a big bowl of popcorn. But that’s not real life (at least, unfortunately, it can’t be all the time). In real life, I (and you) have to do hard things. We have to get up each morning and tackle the day’s agenda. For me right now that means waiting for what’s next. For you that might mean working an eight plus hour day while trying to balance your social life, spiritual life, and self-care. Or maybe it’s getting through one more day of staying at home with a grumpy toddler (I see you stay-at-home parents!). Wherever you are and whatever your hard times might look like, Paul urges you to not quit but pray harder.
Pray harder. That’s one of those “easier said than done” phrases (in my mind). And thinking about praying harder means, for me, getting uncomfortable. It means praying for patience and being willing to put it into practice. Praying harder also means being a little more honest in my prayers. Instead of staying on the surface with God, praying harder means diving deeper, getting riled up (and knowing it’s okay), and taking time to listen to what God is really saying. Paul also reminds us to be cheerfully expectant even when things are hard. He calls us to find ways to cheer on our brothers and sisters even if we might feel like we’re stuck in the mud. That’s when community thrives. When we wade through the hard together and encourage one another to pray harder.
So, instead of curling up on the couch for another episode, I’m choosing to reflect on what it might mean for me to pray hard for patience and listen even harder to God’s response. And, specifically, what it might look like to even practice patience harder during this muddy, unclear season. Whatever your hard situation might look like right now, I urge you to join me in praying harder. Let’s lay down our control and lean into the One who has it all in His hands. We can do hard things. Let’s start by praying harder.
Written by Kelli Gilmore