From Complaints to Prayer by Rev. Nathan Lewis
Excerpt from Nathan Lewis' book, Prayer: from Vice to Virtue
From an early age we begin to hone the skill of complaining. We devote much time to it. What if we re-invested the time we complain in prayer? What would happen if we employed the same skills necessary for complaining in prayer? The result would be an increase of prayers and a bold and clear petitioning of God for everything we need.
How much time do you commit to complaining? For years, I took Mondays off and much of that time was given over to home improvement. As I would clean the rain gutters of leaves in the fall, my mind would often mull over everything that was wrong in my life. In other words, I would waste the time brooding about what people had said to me in a wrong tone or inopportune time. My brooding was my â€œprep timeâ€ for complaining to my wife about all that was wrong with a certain project or relationship. In a groove, I would begin to complain about what I read in the newspaper or what I heard in a passing conversation. A critical spirit would descend and hover like dense fog for
weeks at a time.
Years ago, when I was a youth pastor, two teenage boys would sit in the corner of the room, as far away from me and the action as possible, whispering to each other. They were first cousins, intimate since birth. They would complain in hushed whispers about everything that happened in the youth group and about everyone involved. Every thirty to forty seconds, they would stop whispering and look about the room with disgust and disapproval on their faces. Then, they would return to their secretive complaining. These were bright boys with highly developed language skills. When I began to confront them about their whispering, confirming that I was indeed correct concerning the content of their private conversations, they would complain to me openly and eloquently. I found it difficult to disagree with them, tempted to enter into their critical spirit, agreeing that they had perfectly pegged
some of the members of the youth group. Complaining comes easy to us.
What would happen if I had resolved to pray while I cleaned gutters? Obviously, I would have found more time to pray! Another result would be the redeeming of my skills wasted on complaining. What would the spiritual impact have been upon these two teens had they decided to pray in the corner for all of the juveniles in the youth room, playing silly games and submitting foolish remarks in the Bible studies?
What about complaining can be redeemed for prayer? Firstly, the persistence of complaining can be transferred to persistence in prayer. Most of us skilled complainers do not merely complain once but instead, we complain over and over again. When we complain, we must not think that anyone is listening to us and so we repeat ourselves until our loved ones go quite mad. Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow, who visited the judge day after day bringing her complaint until he was sick and tired of hearing from her. He was an unjust judge, but in the end, he granted the widowâ€™s complaint, not because he was kind or a lover of justice, but because he wanted to put an end to her petitions. Jesusâ€™ punch line is: How much more would a loving Father God answer the petitions of his
children praying to him!
Persistence serves prayer, especially â€œpraying without ceasingâ€ quite well. What if we were to persistently petition God in prayer rather than complain to mere human beings who may or may not be able to do anything to solve our problems? Where would I find the time to pray persistently? I would take my usual time dedicated to complaining, and switch it over to praying. At first, every time I would begin to complain, I would be reminded by my very complaining that I have committed to
Excerpt from his book, Prayer: from Vice to Virtue