Judgment or Prayer?
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding . . . Colossians 1:9
Those struggling with drug and alcohol addictions often appear to have an uncanny ability to repeatedly make poor choices. This makes working with them challenging, as it’s easy for me to see what they should do, only to watch them do the exact opposite. It’s tempting to sit back and criticize. How could you be so foolish? This is a normal reaction to idiotic behavior, but, if I’m not careful, my thoughts can become toxic, hateful, condescending, and prideful.
I don’t only do this when working with the addicted though. At my worst, if I let my prideful nature run wild, I can be hypercritical of anyone. In my self-centeredness, I think I know more than everyone. In this condition, I’m prideful, angry, hateful, and full of resentment about what I see as the stupidity of others. This kind of thinking is of course, toxic to my spiritual and mental health.
In today’s passage, though he didn’t specifically address my condescending attitude, Paul did present an alternative to my resentful, toxic thoughts. In it, he said that he prayed – and prayed often – for the Colossians to whom he was writing. Yes, they’d made some poor choices, but Paul responded by continually praying for them, asking that they be filled with God’s wisdom.
Anytime I have downtime, I can waste a lot of time on unhealthy thoughts. At my worst, I indulge in my prideful, resentful thinking, which always turn me to self and away from God. This is toxic to my mind. When, however, I choose to pray for others, instead of looking down on them, I transform my thoughts and emotions. Instead of condescension and hate, I embrace love and understanding. I do believe that through prayer God changes people, but even if it didn’t do anything for anyone else, God changes me when I pray instead of sitting in judgment of others.
This doesn’t happen automatically for us as Christians though. Prayer is a discipline that we must practice. When we have some conflict with others today, our first instinct won’t be to pray for them. It will be to think hateful thoughts. If we choose though, we can pray instead. In doing so, God may work on them, but he will always work on us, transforming our minds. In daily choosing prayer rather than judgment, we will find that our thoughts, emotions, and resentments are changed for the better. Today, it’s our choice to sit in judgment or prayer. The effects will be predictable.