Early in my teaching career and as a new Christian, I made it a habit to pray for patience – especially because I was experiencing some challenges teaching high school aged kids. Interestingly, some of the tougher kids just kept getting testier….until one day:
My boyfriend (now my husband, Joe) gently stopped me as we were praying together when I asked for patience. He said, “When you pray for patience it’s like you’re asking the Lord to give you more challenges and struggles, which would lead to needing patience. Instead of praying for patience let’s pray for God to give you wisdom and understanding.”
Immediately I began praying for one particular student who was quite the trouble maker. As I prayed to better understand her and for wisdom in handling her misbehavior, the Lord began (through His word and through prayer) to show me the godly responses I needed with her. After a relatively short time, I recall her (and me) softening and eventually we developed a sweet relationship because I understood her background, her personality, and some of the reasons why she was acting like she did.
That observation and instruction from Joe changed part of my prayer life forever. Never have I prayed for ‘patience’ again, but for wisdom and understanding over these many years.
It has been interesting to watch the Lord give insight in many situations – from people I just didn’t care for, to helping people with their unending struggles, to dealing with challenges in my personal life, our marriage, to raising an adult child with special needs.
A few years later, when I had children in early elementary school years, I ran into this former student who was now, along with me, a mother to a child in the same school. She reflected with me how tough she was back in high school and said, “I don’t know what happened, but I remember it was really rough for a while and then we really liked each other.” I said, “It’s because I prayed to understand you.” She smiled, and as we talked a little further, I think we both understood and knew the source. Maybe that prayer focus I learned so many years ago changed her prayer life, too!