Because relationships are where we spend so much of our lives – where great joys abound, but also, where hurt and heartbreak often fester – it’s good to regularly pray for an ongoing transformation of our hearts toward greater love for one another.
It seems only logical – in our homes, in our places of work and in our churches – to pray for graciousness, kindness and patience in interacting with each individual who, ultimately, has been created by a loving God.
Countless times I have repeated Ephesians 4:29-32 to the Lord, after memorizing it years ago over the course of six or more months: “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (HCSB).
I remain painfully aware of various instances when I have wounded family members, friends or strangers through insensitive or judgmental words and/or actions. I have asked for and received God’s forgiveness and sought to heed His instructions for healing strained or broken relationships.
And, in yearning not to repeat misguided attitudes and behaviors, it has become a personal imperative to memorize/re-memorize/internalize a number of Scripture passages about relationships, each conveying additional nuances about God’s heart for how we should interact with one another.
One such passage is 1 Peter 3:8-12: “Now finally, all of you should be like-minded and sympathetic, should love believers, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing. For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and he must turn away from evil and do what is good. He must seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil” (HCSB).
Optimize your relationships by spending time in prayer permeated by Scripture — the optimal source through which God’s Holy Spirit stirs us to the highest levels of Christ’s love.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.