I was fourteen. I had been a Christian for all of a year. It was Wednesday night Bible study and we were sharing prayer requests in groups of five or six and praying for one another.
I asked prayer for the salvation of my parents. The woman next to me began to talk about how frustrated she was with her own teen-ager, how she felt she was near the end of her rope.
I innocently offered, “I’ll pray for you that God would give you patience.”
The circle fell silent and the woman looked at me aghast as if I had just offered to murder her kid to relieve her misery.
Another woman in the circle said, “Dear, you must never pray for patience for others. It causes trials.”
For a long time after that I believed and repeated what I had been taught in that small prayer circle. Many times I said the same words to other Christians, as if in jest. But always there was some deep-set fear in my heart that praying for patience could release the destroying angel into people’s lives.
Then one day the Lord asked me “Is patience a fruit of my Holy Spirit?”
“Yes Lord” I replied.
“Do you have difficulty praying for joy or faith to grow in people’s lives?” He asked gently.
“No Lord I do not.” I returned.
“Is patience not needed as much as these other fruits?”
“Yes Lord.” I answered beginning to get chagrined.
“Then you should pray for people to grow in patience and let Me worry about how I choose to answer your request. For I always know the best way to answer.”
The fact of the matter is that praying for patience does not cause trials. Life causes trials. Further patience is not a cause of trials it is a response to trials. Even further than that, I do not believe that praying for a person to grow in patience causes more trials than normal. I do believe it releases the Holy Spirit to convict a person about how they respond to stress and that can make stress seem, well, more stressful to the impatient heart.
In truth though patience cannot be seen by the human eye without the fiery blaze of a trial to light its existence. When all is peaceful and at rest we cannot say a person is patient because you do not have to be very great in patience to sleep on a hammock. But put a guy in the midst of an angry board meeting and you will see how deep his patience runs.
If we are to walk the pathway of god’s ferocious love we must have patience running deep in our veins. Paul evidently thought it important enough to rank first in his defining list of love traits.
“Love is patient.” I Cor. 13:4 NIV
Now the writers of the New Testament used two Greek words to describe this quality we call patience:
1) steadfastness, constancy, endurance
a) in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings
b) patiently, and steadfastly
2) a patient, steadfast waiting for
3) a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance
to be of a long spirit, not to lose heart
a) to persevere patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles
b) to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others
1) to be mild and slow in avenging
2) to be longsuffering, slow to anger, slow to punish
** Definitions care of blueletterbible.com lexicon
Now both definitions are incredible to meditate upon. However when Paul wrote, “Love is patient”, he actually said, “love is makrothymeō”.
In other words “love persevere’s bravely in enduring misfortune.”
My great grandmother had twenty-five pregnancies. Twenty of them were miscarriages. It had to be makrothymeō that kept her going for her family.
It takes makrothymeō to “turn the other cheek” or to love your enemies, because you have to bear with the offenses of others.
Patience of this kind doesn’t yell at the telemarketer or the bill collector. Nor does it run and hide from them. It deals bravely and peacefully with every person in every situation.
You know, looking at it that way makes me want patience. I need it. So I do pray for it because I want to love the way God loves and if I have to go through a few ferocious trials to get there…well I think patience will be worth the price.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;Knowing [this], that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:2,3 kjv
Let It be So!