We pray for power. Maybe we ought to pray for compassion first because compassion paves the way for miracles
I had one of those ‘pastor moments” recently. My pastor, Guy, and I visited a man in the hospital whose 20-month old son had just died. I had already visited the little one twice when he was in the hospital at Reims and it was a heart-rending story. The little one had battled cancer almost from the beginning of his life. The family had fought, cried, prayed and done everything medically possible to see the little one live””even after the doctors counseled to let him go. But Wednesday, the battled ended and Guy and I stood with the distraught father, looking at the earthly part of a little fellow who was now with the Lord.
At times like this you can’t say a lot. You pray. You try to express your love. You philosophize about the meaning of life. Your heart goes out to the tearful father. Part of you hurts. That’s called compassion. The root of this word, from what I’ve read, means ‘(com) together, (passus) to suffer, to feel pity.” We enter other people’s suffering to help them carry it. It’s hard to really hurt like others hurt. Guy and I hurt with that father and still do to some extent, but there’s no way that I hurt like that family hurts. Usually, we have the most compassion for those people and things that are closest to us.
How much time have you spent hurting for eastern Congo, lately? Nearly four million people have died there in the last six years. “… Congo is the deadliest war the world has seen since the end of the Second World War, and … these staggering figures have gone largely ignored by the media and world leaders,” said Dr. Richard Brennan. (Associated Press Television News in New York) If we happen to see a report on Congo in the media, we feel a twinge looking at those tortured faces and momentarily think how it would be if it were us and our kids hiding in the jungle. We breath a tiny prayer and flip to another channel to get lost in ‘Let’s Make A Deal.” What can we do about it anyway?
One of the keys in Jesus’ healing ministry was His ability to feel what others felt. That compassion galvanized him into action. An anonymous mom walked in a funeral procession next to the coffin of her dead son. Jesus came up on this scene and had the craziest reaction. ‘When Jesus saw her, his heart broke.” (from Luke 7, The Message). He didn’t even know her! But his deep-felt reaction was a key to the incredible thing that happened next. ‘He said to her, ”˜Don’t cry.’ Then he went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said, “Young man, I tell you: Get up.” The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother.” (The Message)
Jesus stood before Lazarus and wept with the weeping family, though he knew He was going to do a miracle. Maybe he was weeping at their unbelief, but knowing Him, I can’t help but think he was entering into their suffering. We pray for power. Maybe we ought to pray for compassion first because compassion paves the way for miracles, shoves us into action. Jesus felt everything that touches us intimately. That’s how He was able to redeem us.
‘Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy].” (Isa. 53:4, Amplified version)
Compassion drives us to action. Compassion gives passion to our prayer so that we can pray as an intercessor, instead of simply an uninterested bystander. An intercessor hurts with the hurting person. We feel for those who are going through pain that we have gone through. Sometimes our pain prepares us for compassion. God hears every request but I think He hears the broken-hearted prayer more clearly than any other. ‘The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18, NIV)
Often the Holy Spirit gives us compassion for people and situations that we don’t even know. He lets us feel so that we can pray with power and effectiveness. If we’re actually indifferent about the outcome, we probably won’t pray with faith. One woman felt compelled of the Holy Spirit to get out of bed and intercede for the feet of a missionary haf a world away. What’s worse, she had read that the missionary was probably dead (long story there) She obeyed and later this missionary came to her church, feet intact. At the time she was interceding, he had been trying to cross a high-mountain range to safety and his feet were nearly frozen. Her prayers made a difference.
People with faith really want what they’re praying about. Do you dare to pray for compassion today? It will bring you to your knees seeking God. It will put you on your feet to see what you can do about the answer. Real compassion–contrasted to a few tears that do us more good than anyone–real compassion makes all the difference in the world.
Hmmm… ‘Bad times are good times for the Church. I would rather pastor in a crisis than in a boom any day. People are going to be more open to the good news in the next year and a half than in any other time in our lifetime.” Rick Warren