I've tried so many times to correct people...I see some character issue or flaw and I take that opportunity to address it head-on. I wonder how many times I will do this in my life until I realize that it rarely works. I sometimes feel exasperated -perhaps because I am hurt by this sin pattern in their life again and again, or I watch this person fall into temptation again and again. How do I address this? What to do about it!??! There is a kind of false burden inherent in this - thinking that its my job to help this person change.
I've been learning about prayer lately, and I am especially thankful for the book by Paul Miller, "A Praying Life." He offers his three-fold pattern: (1) WRITE down your prayer concern for that person, (2) WATCH for God to work while you pray, then (3) watch how God provides an opportunity to "WORK out" that prayer request with an open door into that person's life in that specific area of concern. Paul Miller says, "By 'worked' I mean that God involved me in my own prayers, often in a physical and humbling way."
We usually reverse the process - we try everything on our own and when we fail, in desperation we turn to prayer. Paul Miller is suggesting the opposite approach, which is really an approach of HUMILITY. I can't change people, only God can. My job is to pray and wait.
I've seen this pattern at work in the lives of people close to me. Its amazing the stress that it takes off of my shoulders. For example, I see a discouraging pattern of pride in someone I am working with. Instead of attacking it head on, I pray and ask God's Spirit to work. I wait, I pray, and I watch. Soon, that person comes to me and says, "Val, I've seen this area of pride in my life...what can I do about it?" An open door suddenly exists to point them to Christ - whereas before my words would have been met with defensiveness or dismissal.
The especially humbling thing is that people, I hope, will apply this same pattern in reference to areas of weakness they see in MY life. Well, bring it on!