Mitchel and I have been friends since the 10th grade, despite being completely opposite in almost every way. He was outgoing and popular; I was quiet and subdued. He was politically interested; I was politically ignorant. He was an atheist; I was a Christian. Still, despite these differences, we developed a robust and lasting friendship.
One day, during our university years, Mitchel abruptly asked me to pray for him. We had spoken of faith from time to time, but this was the first time that he reached out in a deliberate way. “Of course,” I stated. There and then, in the quiet of my heart and mind I prayed for him. I prayed that Jesus flood him with the warmth of his love and that Mitchel receive a glimpse of Christ’s presence with him. I asked Jesus to open Mitchel’s eyes to the truth of the gospel, and the reality of grace.
As we continued walking, Mitchel turned to me again, “So…can you pray for me?” “I just did” I replied. And that was the end of the conversation. We continued walking along the path, engaging in the casual chit-chat that we both had grown accustomed to.
Why didn’t I pray audibly, especially when Mitchel was clearly reaching out for something? Frankly, I was afraid. On the campus that day, I focused on my perceived powerlessness. I saw only my lack of experience and theological know-how. Also, I feared how I might be perceived by those who walked by. Would people take offence to me praying for a friend on a campus bench? Would I be recognised later as the religious zealot who walked around campus praying for people? Would Mitchel reject the prayer that I offered? What if it my prayer was filled with “umms” and “errs” and awkward pauses?
I often look back on the scene and wonder if I could have done more. I did honestly pray for Mitchel, but still the question remains: what might have happened if I had prayed for him out loud? What might have occurred if we had sat down on a nearby bench, and if I had instructed Mitchel to open his hands as a symbol of openness before God. What if the heart-pouring prayer I prayed internally, was prayed audibly?
Fear still plagues me from time to time. Even today, I can be overly concerned with how people view me. And yet the good news is, God’s power can push through our fear. Even though I didn’t pray audibly for Mitchel, God was still working in his life. Following that day, many more faith-based conversations were had between us. More prayers offered, and eventually Mitchel even started to read the Bible. God wasn’t done with him, nor with me.
God’s not done with you either. So, before you condemn yourself for struggling with fear, know that you are not alone. All the great people of faith struggled with this dynamic. Peter’s first words to Jesus was “get away from me Lord for I am a sinful man.” His own sense of sin seemed far too big for Jesus’ grace. Similarly, Moses flatly asked God to send someone in his place. Instead of focusing on the burning bush before him, all he could think of was the slowness of his speech. Yet in each of these cases, God’s power was revealed. God pushed through the person’s fear, and with each person, as bumbling as they may have been at the time, the force of grace and love became evident.
Do you find that fear limits you from stepping boldly into the new life that Jesus calls you into? When we focus too much on fear, or the lies it tells us, we can easily get stuck in our faith. We may look at opportunities before us and believe that we are not ready or able to do what God asks. The truth is God’s grace often shines most brightly through the imperfect cracks of our lives.
If we are willing to walk the road that God holds out to us, as bumbling as we might be, we can be confident that that God’s power will be revealed. God’s faithfulness to us overshadows our fear. So, the next time an opportunity is open to us, walk forward in confidence and boldness. God’s faithfulness is more powerful than our fear.