On Prayer & Friendship

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. “Friend”  is a term we throw around loosely, like it’s a common reality. The more that I talk to people about friendship, the more I’m realizing what a gift genuine friendship is.

I want safe friends who I can say anything to, who know my baggage and help me unpack it, who correct my wrong thinking, and champion my best. I want those friends who love my children, and who frequent my table. I want vacation-together friends, laugh until it hurts, but safe-to-cry with when everything hits the fan friends.

And every once in a while I catch a glimpse that those types of friends do exist.

One of the most profound realizations about friendship I have ever had happened in a women’s restroom. I was working in an office, and it was a particularly challenging day. I had been sitting at my desk blinking back tears of frustration and sadness, feeling all kinds of big emotions, and I stepped away to the women’s room to pull myself together. A friend of mine who has an emotional radar as spot-on as a sniper walked in. Without asking me anything she let out a big sigh, and put her arms around me.

I had planned to keep my battle to myself, get my act together, and finish the work day, but she entered my war zone. She asked if she could pray with me, and I swear the ground shook beneath my feet with the power of the words she prayed over me. She declared war against the lies, against the darkness that was shadowing my heart and mind that day. I was emotionally exhausted, and she took up arms to fight for me.

It was a profound moment. A humbling one. And one full of tremendous power, love, and a fierce boldness that I do not take for granted.

When I saw the new Wonder Woman movie I remembered that moment with my friend.  No major spoilers, but there’s a battle scene during WWII where allied forces are exhausted, scared, and haven’t gained ground in months. Wonder Woman, seeing their exhaustion and need,  steps out of the trenches and starts marching across the field taking blow after blow from enemy fire so that they could gain some ground.

When they were at their weakest she stepped in the gap and fought for them, taking hit after hit so they could regain their footing to fight back themselves.

That is what my dear friend did for me that day. She stepped into my battle and fought for me. Without knowing it, she completely changed the way I define friendship, and brought clarity to the type of friend I want to have, and the type of friend that I want to be.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he was arrested, he asked his disciples to pray. That used to seem like a docile request to me, but now I realize that he was asking his friends to step into the war zone with him in the most powerful way they could. Like those men, I often fall asleep on the job. I often neglect the weapon of prayer that I have to wield against the darkness. But time and time again I see that God has called us to arms. He has called us to fight with and for one another in powerful ways that shake the strongholds of Hell and break the chains that bind us.

So today, keep your eyes open. Be alert. And whether the people around you know you’re doing it or not, wage war on their behalf. If you’re the one in the battle, invite trusted people into your trenches and ask them to declare victory over you with the authority of Heaven through their prayers.

 

 

 

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We All Have “That” Friend

Have you ever found yourself in a one-sided relationship? You set out to spend time and get to know another person, but over time you realize that you are the one doing all of the listening. You are the one being asked favors. You are the one giving all of the advice to help and comfort.

When you start to share your heart and invite your “friend” to care about your dreams, concerns, and joys you are met with a blank stare. Or maybe you received a trite pat on the back, and a “there, there,” or the ever-popular, “I’m happy for you,” but no sincere concern or overt excitement.

It hurts to be in a relationship that is one-sided, parasitic, and unhealthy. We want relationships that are meaningful and comprised of shared stories, comeraderie, solidarity, and closeness. This type of intimate friendship cannot exist when one party is self-absorbed.

Sadly, I have often been the narcissist in my relationship with God.

I want God to love me. I want God to see me, to hear me when I call out to Him. I want God to care about what I care about, hurt about what I hurt about, smile at what I am happy about, and to be present in my life.

But if I’m honest, sometimes I would prefer if God kept His hurts and concerns to Himself.

Children traumatized by war? Change the channel.

Water crisis in Guatemala (or Flint, Michigan for crying out loud)? No thanks.

Maimed beggers in the streets of India? Steer clear of that.

Women and children overtly soliciting themselves in the Red Light district of Thailand? Just keep walking.

Abused, neglected, hungry children? Yikes.

My neighbors’ lives falling apart? Shut the blinds.

Give me what feels good and comforting about God, but let Him keep the heavy stuff away.

But if I really want a relationship with God like I say I do; if I really mean it when I sing “Oceans” at the top of my lungs, then I must love Him for who He is, and not just what He gives to me.

To love God is to love what He loves, and to weep over what breaks His heart.

He hurts over this broken world. He hurts that millions of men, women, and children have fled their homes in Iraq and Syria for fear of what ISIS will do to them. He weeps that 100 million children in the world suffer from malnourishment. He abhors the epidemic of human trafficking. The evil that exists and is expressed through war, oppression, abuse, neglect, and our own selfish hearts breaks the heart of God.

So today I am challenged to consider if I am “that friend” to God. Do I only want the feel-good parts of Him that help me? Or do I really want all of Him? Am I willing to love God for who He is, and to open my heart to the things that break His?

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley