True conviction from the Holy Spirit is an experience unlike any other. It strikes a deep, silver tone in your soul that’s impossible to ignore as it resonates in your bones. Paradoxically, it is simultaneously both unsettling and comforting: it’s an undeniable call to redress, but it comes with the peace of certainty.
I can count the number of times I have experienced this on half a hand, and one of them was just before school started this year. I had gone to church with some friends of mine, and for some reason I was inexplicably angry. Out of sorts. Defiant. A spiritual rebel without a cause. Frankly, I did not want to be there, and I did not want to enjoy myself, dangit. I just didn’t care. I suppose there were just things going on in my heart that I had not dealt with: a collection of frustrations and shortcomings and sin that was finally culminating to a breaking point that evening.
Honestly, I don’t even remember what the sermon proper was about, but the closing challenge is something I know I will remember for years to come. First, the pastor challenged us to spend the week reading through Ephesians, taking a few minutes each morning to read one chapter. Six chapters, six days. We would be astounded, he said, how much our relationship with Christ would grow in just a week if we spent consistent time in scripture. By the time we got to this point in the service, I had become softened enough to come to terms with the fact that I needed to make some serious changes, so I vowed to do it. Next, he encouraged us to identify an area of our lives, a certain weakness or sin that was holding us back from experiencing the things that Christ had planned for us. He directed us to pray about it for a few minutes and ask the Spirit to bring something to our attention, whether it be sexual sin or addiction or bitterness or hatred, etc.
But I’m not doing any of those things, I thought to myself. I must be doing okay. No sooner did I think those prideful words than it washed over me with the sweeping force of a rip tide. Apathy. Apathy, apathy, apathy. That I wasn’t doing anything was exactly the problem. Settled in my revelation, I prayed that the Spirit would help me to overcome this because I surely did not know how. With amazing alacrity, the answer came to me the next day as I read Ephesians 1.
Those of you who have ever taken an NT class will know that Paul, just like any rational person, usually begins his letters with words of greeting to the receivers of the letter. Toward the end of the first chapter, Paul offers prayer and thanksgiving for the church at Ephesus. He writes, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, my give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Those verses really struck me; Paul was very obviously burdened for his fellow believers and their spiritual wellbeing. That was what I needed to do to conquer my apathy. I needed to pray like I meant it for those I loved. I needed to be burdened for them rather than just feeling sorry for them for a little while.
This was especially powerful for me because a number of my close friends have been experiencing some truly difficult and trying things, and I knew that a very large part of the apathy that I was so convicted of was encompassed in the fact that I was doing absolutely nothing to help them. I would hear about their troubles and feel kind of sad about it for a little while, but ultimately I would move onto other things in my life, unconcerned. I was not loving even my closest friends.
Elated and humbled with the breakthrough, I highlighted those verses and wrote next to them, “This should be my prayer every day for all of my friends. What better way to encourage them than to pray consistently for them? BREAK THE HABIT OF APATHY. BE BURDENED FOR OTHERS.” I also was convinced that this needs to extend past just my friends. Feeling sympathy for a person or a situation isn’t enough; it does not incite action. I think seeing need or hurt or brokenness and feeling burdened for it is the only way to move ourselves out of stasis. Being truly stirred by compassion and moved to action is the only way to show the love of Christ. Jesus never saw a person in need and proceeded to go on his way feeling sorry for her. He did something about it. In my situation, I knew that the most powerful thing I could do was to pray.
Since then, I have really tried to pray Ephesians 1:17-19 every day for those who are close to me. Of course, I have not been perfect, I can say that it has really changed me for trying. It’s a process.
With all of that said, I encourage you all to pray for one another earnestly and intentionally. How different could our walks with the Lord be if we really supported each other in prayer? How different could this campus, this community, this world be if we simply followed Paul’s example? I would really like to see. And so I pray for you, readers, that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that you may know him better, and that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened so you can know the hope and immeasurably great power that is available for us who believe.