Monday, May 14, 2007

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I received a good bit of positive feedback from last Thursday's post, so I want to take this space today to elaborate and/or qualify a little bit to avoid confusion. Today exists as Thursday's footnote.

Thursday's post stated that we must actively choose to hope and oftentimes battle to do so because it does not come naturally. In fact, much wordly evidence argues for the foolishness of hope. Christianity, however, offers us good reason to hope, both for tomorrow and for eternity. This all begs the question how one should fight for hope.

The obvious answer is willpower. We simply do it. We choose to hope and stubbornly refuse to not do so. Like a marathoner hanging on to dear stride amidst the pain, the elements, and the miles, we just keep going. Yet, an inherent problem lies in this response, one of which I remain all too familiar.

Last summer, a friend and I met a woman on an airplane. After hours of conversation, we disembarked and parted ways, my friend and me heading one way and she heading another. Minutes later, I told my friend that we should commit to praying for our new friend every day throughout the summer. He replied that he did not want to do this; in his experience every time he committed to pray for people, he always ended up failing. He would strive to pray for her over the summer but would not commit to anything.

Internally, I scoffed at this. How could he NOT commit to prayer when so much stood on the line? I assented to his convictions, but inside, I knew, just knew, that I would pray all summer.

By mid-June, my newly acquired friend was nowhere to be seen in my prayer life.

You see, I have this problem trying to do that which I want to do. I do not believe I remain alone in this quality. As Exhibit A, I offer you the crowd discrepancy at your local gym on January 2 and March 2. New Year's Resolutions do not last long. Furthermore, I submit to you that even when we succeed in our commitments, the primary motivator is often sinful (Hello, Pride!). Thus, even when we succeed, we fail.

These same tendancies creep into my desire to hope. The Lord constantly reminds me of the goodness of and reason for hope, yet I so often succomb to the desparing rationale of the world. I fall short on my choice to hope. Ergo, His constant need to remind me.

When it comes to hope, I do believe we must orient ourselves in preparation for perseverance and endurance. We must be ready to stand. But in our own will power, this alone will fail.

We must pray.

And yes, please forgive my Sunday School answer and potentially obvious solution to the problem. But I could not let Thursday's post go without mentioning prayer because I believe it is that vital, so vital that I will shread my longstanding desire to avoid cliche. We must pray for hope.

Ephesians 5 describes the Christian as a warrior putting on the armor of God. After verses of description, three of the next four verb commands are: "pray," "always keep on praying," and "Pray also." We fight, we battle, we war by praying.

We have seen that we fail to uphold our commitments with simple will-power. We fail "in our own strength," if you will permit me a little Christianese. We can only maintain hope like we can possess any other gift, by God's grace, the undeserving work He accomplishes in our lives. Whereas choosing hope orients our flesh to persevere, praying for hope submits our inadequate nature to God's power. What's more, I believe that prayer also calls down that power from Heaven and actually gives us the ability to hope (Rev 8:3-5).

Over the last couple days, I have thought a lot about hope and about my post on it. I have found myself not hoping, despite saying that we must choose to hope. I kept choosing to hope over and over and yet finding myself not hoping over and over. I tried to hope in my own stregnth by simply choosing to do it, and I failed. It had the appearance of godliness without its power. I write today to amend Thursday's post so that others may not experience this. I exhort you all who wish to hope, who battle for hope, to pray to the Father for hope and to receive the gift when He pours it out over us as He so longs to do.

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