About once a year, usually in December, I head off to a silent retreat place to pray about the coming year and try to get a sense of where God is leading and what he wants to do in and through me. Last year was no different, and I sensed God leading me to pray faithfully for a few specific things. Among them were prayers for six people that I'd been investing in. Three of them do not know Christ, and I've been praying for God to break into their lives, that he would reveal himself to them, and that other Christians might come into their lives to demonstrate the kingdom. Three of them are Christians, and I played a part in helping them to know Christ. For them, I prayed that God would give them a vision for their lives that goes beyond just an interest in comfort and self, but that they would truly come to know what it means to follow Jesus and be inspired to give their lives to bring his kingdom.
Ten months in, five of the six have disappeared from my life. They're gone. Some I can't even find to get a hold of, and some have just moved on to new people and new experiences. And for those I still talk to occasionally, I can't see any evidence that God has answered my year-long prayers for them. As for the sixth, though we still hang out, I can't even remember the last time we had a conversation about faith or spiritual things.
So what went wrong? Maybe God is still working in ways that I can't see. If so, I don't want to give up too soon. But maybe my influence in their lives has just come to a natural end so that I should focus on building relationships with and praying for others who've come into my life this year. Or maybe there's something I didn't do and should have or did do that I shouldn't have. I don't know. If it wasn't true that God has been answering some of the other specific prayers for this year in miraculous ways, I would wonder if God was even hearing me...
So this is one of those challenging things about living with a kingdom mentality. I have to stay sensitive to how the Spirit is leading and be willing to keep pursuing or to move on, as he leads. And even when I follow him where I think he's leading, I don't always see what I expect to. If you'd told me last December that I'd lose all these relationships, I don't think I would've believed that was even possible.
I should say that I think it's really important to build relationships with people that are real and genuine and not just based on me trying to get them to meet Jesus. I mean, I really want to know them and care about them as whole people. So even when I can't see the Spirit working, that's never a reason to abandon ship. That said, where I'm trying to build mutual relationships, sometimes the right thing is to let someone walk away.
I should also say that we can't discount the power of evil in the world. For all that God desires to do in peoples' lives, there is another who desires to prevent people from fully surrendering to God's reign in their lives. Perhaps the answer to my dilemma is simply that the powers of darkness are holding back the work that God wants to do. And if that's what's happening here, then I would want to dig my heels in and seek the prayers of my Christian community for my friends.
What about you? Have you ever prayed for God to move and seen what seems to be the exact opposite happen? What has that done to your faith? How do you think God wants us to respond in these circumstances?