I was raised in a particular way that may seem peculiar to some. From the time I was in high school, I have had it drilled into my conscience to not - under any circumstances - pray for patience.
(ok, maybe it was college - either way, I've lived this truth for about 15 years)
Why? After all, isn't patience a fruit of the spirit - and shouldn't we want to cultivate the fruits of the spirit?
Well, you see the root of the word 'patience' - is Greek for "long suffering." Do you actually want to suffer a long time? Probably not.
When I said that this was drilled into me - even last week, in the midst of my suffering (which seemed long; I know, I have no patience!), in a text message my mom said, "If you are praying for patience, STOP!" Does she know me so little? Does she think the Catholics have so thoroughly brainwashed me that I'd forgotten this?
I bring this up because of a conversation with one of my students yesterday.
She came in with questions - and, I think she feels a little insecure about having her questions. She said something like, "I'm sorry that I come in with questions so much; you're probably really tired of me." (I'm not at all; she's a great student.) I laughed and said something like, "No! I get to practice being compassionate and merciful - those are good things." I pray to be merciful and compassionate toward my students. Believe me, I get plenty of opportunities in a day to exercise this.
She said, "Oh, is that like praying for patience?" [Then, of course, I told her about how we shouldn't pray for patience - but in situations where I need to exercise patience, I ask for perspective, insight, wisdom, understanding, mercy, grace, or compassion - the spiritual elements necessary in order to persevere and endure suffering.]
...this got me thinking.
Patience - mercy - understanding - love - kindness - joy...the fruits of the spirit - are actions not feelings. I think often people feel that they need to be more patient with others, and they don't feel patient, and so they pray for patience. Well, praying for patience simply means that you are going to be given opportunities to exercise patience.
It's not reciprocal - if you feel patient, then you will act patient - which means that then you are patient. Praying for patience is asking for the opportunity to exercise patience. You cannot becoming patient by feeling patient; you become patient by exercising patience.
So, dear friends, remember that when we pray for the fruits of the Spirit to be evident in our lives: we are asking for opportunities to exercise this. In order to exercise this, remember to also ask for the gifts of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2-3) to empower you to act, and therefore, exhibit the fruits.
Which reminds me...when I feel that I am not loving enough, or respectful enough toward Dan...I need to let go of the need to feel that I am loved - and just act as though it were true (because it is) - and act lovingly.