A mistake that I made in my prayer-life for many years goes something like this. I used to say things like. “Lord Jesus, please help me to be more loving.” Or, “Lord, please help me to be more compassionate and merciful.” Or, “Dear Jesus, please help me to not be so critical of others.”
Does that sound ok to you? For a long time it sounded good to me. After all there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be more loving and merciful and less critical - right? No there’s nothing wrong with that. What was / is wrong is me thinking that I can be part of the solution when I am, in totality the problem. The thing that’s wrong with asking God to “help” ME to change is that it shows that I still want to be in control of how and where I’m going to change. The wording of that kind of prayer shows that I’m just asking God to come along and give me some assistance “as needed.” In reality I don’t need some assistance, I need a total make-over. I need God to change me - inside and out. I need, I critically need to take my hands off the wheel and say to my Creator, “Here, You drive.”
The nature of this problem hit home one day as I was working with a client in a fairly typical counselling session. The client wasn’t happy with her spouse (It happened to be a female client in this case but just as often it’s been a man with the same type of complaints). At any rate, this client's husband was a pretty good man but not good enough. Yes he prayed with her, but not often enough. Yes he did this or that, but not all the time. Yes he loved her, but she needed more affirmation - that kind of thing.
I have in the past and still do point out to people that we are not in charge of changing other people. God is the one who does the changing. In fact, when we’re honest with ourselves, surely we can see that God has more than a lifetime of changes to be worked on in our own lives. We don't need to waste our time on earth trying to make improvements in other people. Anyhow, it was that line, “It’s God who changes people - not us,” that caught my attention.
If that is true, that it’s God who changes (other) people, then it’s God who changes me - not me. Not exactly rocket science - I know. Nevertheless, I’ve been a Christian for thirty years. And even though God has totally transformed my life, even though I’m as different now from my pre Christian days as any man can possibly be, it wasn’t until the last year or so that I’ve understood that this change has come about in spite of me, not because of me.
Thank you Lord for being the sole source of change in me.