By Alex Anderson, Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church
I want to share a recent email from a friend. I warn you it may cause some spiritual discomfort.
Hi Pastor Alex,
I was thinking today of how amazing it is that you just sent a Dangerous Prayers email lesson on this subject.
My husband and I have led a small group based on your book, Dangerous Prayers and it was awesome! I am excited for your new book, Prayer Killers, because it is so important that we look in our heart to see if we are holding on to anything that could be a prayer killer! I pray a lot for the people God places on my heart. I usually ask God to show me anything in my heart that is not pleasing to Him: Pride, Judgment, Bitterness, anything that is not right as King David did in Psalm 51:10.
Well, many months ago God placed someone I personally knew on my heart to pray for. Someone from back home, a former boss’ husband; a police officer that had done things that landed him on the wrong side of the law and went to prison. He was released a few years later and his wife faithfully stuck by his side. So for some odd reason I got up that morning and I felt like I needed to Google his name, “weird,” I thought, but proceeded to do it and his story was there. It was an amazing story of how God had helped him and I thanked God for the encouraging story.
Around two months later he was back on my heart, but this time as an urgent prayer for him. I didn’t know why, so I Googled him again, and he had been arrested again for very similar charges as before. What he did was so wrong and I personally knew some of the people he hurt, including his family. This time I struggled, but I decided to pray for him and his family.
As I prayed, I felt something cold in my heart. Something foul was in my soul. I was unsure of what it was, but knew that holding on to something crummy would not be good. And it seemed like my prayer was being smothered. I wondered if it was something towards the man. I asked God, “What’s wrong? Am I just mad at this guy? I mean you asked me to pray for him, but something feels disconnected… I know he is your son and you love him no matter what.” God was clear, “You are holding on to bitterness and judgment towards someone else.” I was? Who? As I asked another person’s face started materialize in my mind. And it was not one person, but two faces! Ugh! I realized then that I had started my prayer by asking God to cleanse my heart, and so He was.
Buried bitterness toward these two people was inside of me… so deep that I had even convinced myself that it was not there. “God forgive me for holding on to this foul selfishness for so long and help me forgive myself.”
After that I thought, “Great, all is well, right?” NOT! God said, “You need to speak to these people and let them know that you have been judging them and ask them to forgive you.” What? I can’t do that. I knew God was stretching my love towards Him and others. But can I be honest Pastor, it was very scary…. probably the scariest thing I had ever done.
I decided to seek counsel and they said I really needed to confront this. So with some God-given courage, I was transparent with them about our past painful interactions that caused my buried hatred for them. I was afraid…but I experienced an amazing life-lesson.
I felt like a piece of me that was not good just left; like a dead branch of my life had been trimmed! I knew inside of my heart that now I had room…room for more life and more fruit!
You see Pastor, I have an issue and it’s my mouth. I can be very direct, and though my words are honest, they can be biting and well… not very life-giving. God has been working on that. I am glad that I did follow through with the confrontation because I learned that I was bitter over something that I was partially responsible for with my own tongue. Now I am learning to speak life, and to confront things, with an “I am seeking to understand attitude.” What an eye-opening experience!
I’m very sorry for the long email, but I wanted to share this after reading your last email lesson, Prayer Killer.
Thanks again Pastor, Kerri.
To your spiritual health,
Alex E. Anderson
Author of the book, Dangerous Prayers