By Steve Wickham
I have a sticky note plastered to a bookcase in full view as I type these words. It’s a prayer. It goes like this:
Lord, make me aware of what I need to be aware of in THIS situation. Amen.
A person like me, with my gifts and loves, needs to be reminded regularly of the seen and unseen contexts with which I’m required to operate. I’ve made too many errors by not having this prayer consciously before me. It’s a good weapon in my prayer arsenal.
Let me make a confession. It was my wife who, over a year ago now, suggested I pray this prayer as often as I could.
I mention this because only recently, during an ongoing conversation on our pastoral response to abuse generally, which is highly topical over the world presently, my wife shared with me another nugget of wisdom; another prayer. It goes like this:
Lord, reveal my heart. Am I seeking to serve or to exert power? Amen.
Especially as we endeavor to minister in spaces where exertions of power are manifest all the time, we’re reminded not to respond like-for-like. Conflict never abates when retaliation occurs.
It seemed to us, as we unpacked this revelation given to my wife, that, as a prayer, it’s a good test of our motives at any given time, for serving is the diminution to the denunciation of power. And that is always a good thing. Especially when we’re in roles with power, it’s important to discharge those roles without exerting power.
The exertion of power ought to be God’s prerogative. There are certainly times when we seek a demonstration of God’s power, but the exertion of power in relationships only serves to interrupt the dynamics of trust and respect.
Yet, we’re all tempted into acts of exerting power, and we’re all blindsided by others in their exertion of power against us. Of course, abuse is the misuse of power. Always has been, always will be.
As I pray this prayer I hear God reminding me of His power as I serve. And I’m able to hear Him gently reminding me of the inappropriateness of cavorting with power that isn’t mine to wield.
The exertion of power damages people and it dishonours God, but serving builds people up and it glorifies God.
Am I seeking to serve or to exert power? Am I genuinely trusting You for the next step along life’s path, or am I making my way in my own strength with whatever power I can exert? Especially in those fractured relationships, Lord, help me to seek to serve, and to trust You for the reconciliation I seek.