My friend Malcolm Woody once sent me an e-mail that included an awesome prayer. The prayer came from John Baillie, the Scottish theologian who wrote the classic book A Diary of Private Prayer. The prayer goes like this:
Teach me, O’ God, to use all the circumstances of my life today that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness rather than the fruits of sin.
Let me use disappointment as material for patience.
Let me use success as material for thankfulness.
Let me use trouble as material for perseverance.
Let me use danger as material for courage.
Let me use reproach as material for longsuffering.
Let me use praise as material for humility.
Let me use pleasures as material for temperance.
Let me use pain as material for endurance.
The idea behind this prayer is that everything that life brings our way can be harnessed and used in God’s service. There is no circumstance that can’t be redeemed. Good days, bad days, ups, downs, joys, and heartbreaks can all produce what Baillie calls “the fruits of holiness.”
Romans 8:28-29 says:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (N.K.J.V., emphasis mine)
Those verses mean that God doesn’t waste anything. He repurposes all things (disappointment, success, trouble, danger, reproach, praise, pleasures, pain, etc.) by making them work together for a very specific type of good in the life of the Christian. And what is that specific type of good? It is the conforming of the Christian to the image of Christ.
You see, a life filled with nothing but disappointment will conform a Christian to some of the image of Christ but not all of it. Likewise, a life filled with nothing but success will conform a Christian to some of the image of Christ but not all of it. It really does take the whole gamut of human experiences to conform a Christian to the complete image of the Savior.
Someone once asked a certain Christian, “Why do you work so hard at trying to be like Jesus?” The Christian answered, “When I get to heaven I will at last be made completely like Him, and I don’t want the change to be such a shock to my system.” That’s the idea! The more we are conformed to Christ’s image in this life the less radical the completion of the conformation will be in the afterlife.
And how do we become more and more conformed to that image in this life? We allow God to use ALL of life’s varied circumstances to mold and shape us. That’s why John Baillie’s prayer is so worth praying. So, Christian, why not pray it today? Better yet, why not make it a part of your daily praying? After all, it’s really not all that hard to memorize, and it will help you to truly grab hold of the teaching of Romans 8:28-29.