I get a lot of texts, emails and phone calls from friends, blog readers and fans of the bands I work with, asking me to pray for them or asking me advice on a certain spiritual subject. After a few years I have started feeling overwhelmed with all of this, hearing some depressing stories or stories of despair, struggles and addictions that seem like nothing good is coming out of any of them.
When I was a kid I used to have a glass piggy bank, after praying for something or someone I would write it on a piece of paper and put it in the bank. When it got full I would break it and read all the things I prayed for and what ever came of those prayers. 100% of them were answered. I am not saying I got everything I asked for, but I knew exactly what God did through those prayers. An example is that I wanted to learn how to kickflip on my skateboard so I can meet other skateboarders and show them God's love through skateboarding. When I read the piece of paper with that prayer, I realized that I still didn't know how to kickflip, but I knew how to do a one-foot nose-manual, an Impossible and other uncommon tricks. And I met more people through those tricks, I knew what God was saying to me, "if you knew how to kickflip you would just be a dime-a-dozen skateboarder, but knowing the tricks you know is what will break the ice with conversations".
Every time someone asks me to pray for them I tell them, "I will pray for you, but please keep me updated on this situation". I feel like a prayer is incomplete without an update. It seems like people ask other people to pray for them because it's the Christian thing to ask for or it's a way to share your hard times with someone without having to bring it up at random. So to offset that, I ask people to update me, if I am praying for something I want in on the end result, the testimony of it. If I am going to share sorrows with you now, I want to share triumphs with you later. I believe a huge part of prayer is seeing how God answers that prayer. After the piggy bank, I had a respect and belief for the power of prayer. So I always see updates are very important. Prayer brings Christians together, prayer teaches us and it especially does when everyone is updated. I truly believe updates are how God gets the glory. Just like in John 9. Jesus says "this man is blind so God might get the glory". When people saw the update that that man was no longer blind, Jesus got the glory. Prayer is admitting our weakness and updates are admitting God's strength.
After asking everyone I prayed for for an update, almost 90% of them have never given me one.
After about 3-4 years. I have heard a ton of stories and prayer requests of depression, addiction, struggles, despair and received only a handful of updates. After that time, without realizing it, I've lost hope in people, I've lost hope in myself and hope in God. About a week ago I was going to write a blog about how I used to selfishly desire for people to seek my advice but after hearing all of these stories I wanted this burden to be taken from me.
I have been praying for around six months for a revelation, I knew I wasn't loving people as God had me love them in the past and I missed that. I couldn't figure out what was wrong until a few nights ago, God showed me how we can't love someone with hope.
Basically after all these stories of addictions and struggles without any updates, I lost hope. When I heard yet another story of a struggle or trial, I didn't see any lights at the end of any tunnels. I just thought, "I'm sorry to hear that, that sucks". (Ironically at the same time I would pray asking God why I can't love people like I used to, I hope you can see the connection).
If you meet someone with a struggle or an addiction, you might pray for them or try to help them, but unless you believe and have a hope that they can be saved from that, then your efforts will be mediocre. Sometimes it's so hard to help the homeless because we think 'they will always be like that', but we give them a sandwich and let them go about their day.
Paul says, "out of faith, hope and love the greatest is love". It may be true, but let's not discount the other two. Unless we have faith that God's kingdom can come onto Earth as it is in Heaven, then we won't have the hope for it to, and we won't make the efforts to love and bring His kingdom onto Earth as it is in Heaven.
When I started thinking that 'they will always be like that", I started to think with my own struggles and addictions that "I will always be like this". Believe me, when you think like that, you don't make much efforts to change, you stay stuck, you stay addicted and stay struggling with those things. If you don't believe that God can redeem you and free you, then you won't get out of His way and allow Him to.
How does Jesus love the hopeless? Because he doesn't consider anyone hopeless. Your love for someone can only be as big as your hope for their lives.
I had a friend that was very selfish and rude. Everyone thought, "I've known him for 10 years, he will always be that way" but this was a few years ago when God changed my life and I had a fresh hope. I believed and had faith that God can change his also (even though he was already a Christian) and after 6 months, he is still a totally different person.
If you see your efforts as another drop in the bucket, your efforts won't take much effort. We got to believe that every act of obedience to love our God and love our neighbor will change the world. But if we don't believe that, if that faith and hope isn't in us, then how much do you think we will love one another?
Love is the car we need to be driving, hope and faith are the fuels. God is the giver of all three.