My son Tim McConnell, lead pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, is currently preaching a sermon series on GENTLENESS—part of the fruit of the Spirit listed in the Bible in Galatians 5:22-23. Listening to his encouragement that gentleness should be evident in the lives of believers today more than ever, I was reminded of a time when I saw the fruit of the Spirit come alive in a very real way.
It was years ago at a special prayer session called by the executive director of a nonprofit ministry where I volunteered. Family Life Services is a residential facility for single moms and their kids and, like many small nonprofits, it is a “pray and patch as we go” type of ministry.
On this particular evening a group of board members, staff members, and volunteers gathered to pray for the ministry in a more intentional way than we had for years. We were asked to begin our individual prayer time by finding a quiet place on the grounds, and by asking the Lord what He would have us pray for.
As I walked across the lawn, so many of the needs we had ran through my mind. We needed funds to replace some plaster falling from the ceiling on the third floor of the Victorian house that serves as ministry headquarters. We needed new carpeting. We needed someone to donate grounds keeping services. More important, we needed childcare volunteers for Thursday evenings when the moms meet for group counseling.
But then I quieted my mind and my heart and asked the Lord how He would have me pray. Clearly I heard Him say, “Pray for PEACE in times of conflict. Pray for LOVE to surround the mothers and children.”
When the group reconvened after 30 minutes of individual prayer, we shared what each of us had heard from the Lord. Soon it became evident that He had not instructed us to pray for anything tangible. The words GOODNESS and PATIENCE were quickly added to PEACE and LOVE. By the time we got all the way around the table, I realized that the Lord had instructed us to pray for everything comprising the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All gifts available through the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Jesus Christ.
What JOY we felt as we realized how intimately He was involved in our ministry. How encouraging it was to know that He cared enough to lead our prayers in the direction that would accomplish His purposes. Even when our eyes were focused on the things right in front of us, the Lord’s eyes were on the whole mission of the ministry and the lives He knew could be changed.
We need to remember to pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be evident not only in our own lives and personal ministries, but in the lives of all those for whom we pray. Instead of asking for a friend’s relief from financial or health concerns, maybe we should be praying that she will have JOY in the midst of the trials, or PATIENCE to wait for God’s solution in His time.
We can encourage a friend by telling her when we see the GENTLENESS in her response to a situation or the KINDNESS she shows to her elderly neighbor. Maybe you notice that someone who struggles with the need to gossip about others makes a conscious effort not to do so, and you can praise her for her SELF-CONTROL. Certainly a volunteer who dedicates year after year to a church or school near you should be commended for her FAITHFULNESS.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I choose to be grateful for the fruit of the Spirit. By recognizing it in others and affirming what we see, we can make this world a gentler place. And by praying for that fruit to be evident in us, we can live more fruitful lives.