Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Own Worst Enemy

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit (Galatians 5:17)

Jesus . . . spent the night praying to God (Luke 6:12)

The commercials looked intriguing. The very title of the show was provocative because it said something true, something most of us feel. The new TV series is called “My Own Worst Enemy” and on Monday night, unwinding after our Session meeting, I indulged myself in what Marnie likes to call “brain candy.”

The premise of the show is absurd, so hang with me here: One man is actually two different people. An intelligence agency made him this way by planting a computer chip deep in his brain. As circumstances required, they could call forth one personality and put the other to sleep. When circumstances changed, the other would be awakened and the one made dormant. I know . . . it’s ridiculous.

But here’s the drama. The intelligence agency has lost the ability to control the functions of the computer chip. Now they never know who will emerge or when or under what circumstances.

Sometimes we see Henry, a benign family man, somewhat timid, ordinary to the point of boring.

Sometimes we see Edward, a trained operative, skilled in espionage, comfortable with killing.

And Henry and Edward are aware of each other and strive against each other. Edward mocks the milquetoast existence of Henry; Henry resents the intrusive chaos of Edward’s world. All of this wrapped up in the same guy. Thus, “my own worst enemy.”

Sure, the TV show stretches the limits of credulity, but this story line is as old as the Bible. You don’t have to look too hard to find people of faith who were also their own worst enemy.

Abraham trusted God but kept trying to manage his life with his own plans. The same was true of Jacob, stealing blessing from Isaac when God had already promised to bless him. David was man after God’s own heart who couldn’t tame the lust of his eyes. Peter was brash in his declarations of loyalty, and prone to curse and deny his connection with Jesus. Paul said it best: “the good I know to do, I don’t do. The evil I know to avoid, I do anyway” (Romans 7:19).

All of us could add our names to that list. The flesh wars against the Spirit. Part of us desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is contrary to our self-centeredness (Galatians 5:17).

Nowhere is this more evident than in the life of prayer. When it comes to prayer I am my own worst enemy. I want to get up and pray, but I want to sleep in too. I want to linger long with God in prayer, but I’ve got to check my emails and get started on writing a devotional (about prayer). I want to go the mountain, but it really looks like there’s far more good to be done down here in the fray of daily life.

If left to myself I won’t follow Jesus in this area of life. I will admire Jesus. I will respect Jesus. But I won’t pray like Jesus. For that I need something beyond myself and my good intentions. I need grace.

A prayer time can be had through discipline and careful scheduling. A life of prayer is a gift of grace. If we plan to do battle with our own worst enemy, grace is really the only weapon we have.

Merciful God, we are divided people: divided in our affections and our intentions, wanting one thing and then its opposite, aiming to do your will but walking our own way. We ask for you grace today that we might be whole, of one heart and mind. Grant us grace that causes us to seek you. Make us a people of prayer, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

No comments: