Prayer For Job's Friends
And the Lord made up to Job for all his losses, after he had made prayer for his friends: and all Job had before was increased by the Lord twice as much. (Job 42:10 BBE)
I realize that this text could easily be misapplied as some sort of formula to follow to expand one's base of wealth. But there is a very important principle in this verse that I need to appreciate and benefit from in my own present circumstances. I believe that God's statements and laws and ordinances are all either based on or are explanations of basic principles of reality that God has established in creation. Far from being arbitrary, God's laws are best understood as being the rails upon which we can travel at much higher speeds and which will guide us safely to where we are designed to go.
Job went through a great deal of learning and maturing during the saga described in the book by his name. He had a level of trust in God that was advanced enough that God took a huge risk in wagering a bet with the devil about Job's potential loyalty to God under extreme pressure. However, just because God declared at the end that Job was perfect does not mean that Job had not expressed some rather harsh and immature things about his perceptions of God during his experience. To take Job's desperate statements in the midst of his struggles to make sense out of the insane conditions he was experiencing as holistic truths about reality and about God is to miss the main points of the whole story.
I have been reevaluating my perceptions about the book of Job for a number of years now and keep adjusting what should be embraced in that study. Job is one of the least understood or appreciated books in the Bible. Many of the conclusions that people draw from the book of Job are often backwards and upside down and misapplied. Even Job's seriously misinformed and confused friends are quoted by some as proof-texts for assumed beliefs that we should embrace even though these men had wrong-headed views of God that Job rejected and God censured in the end.
These so-called friends, these theologians and sages who claimed to have the wisdom of religion became a source of Job's emotional discomfort possibly no less than the physical pain he was enduring. He himself called them miserable comforters which in my opinion may have been a compliment compared to what they deserved to be called. These were men who were insinuating all sorts of subtle accusations about Job's character and God's reputation and persisted in pressuring him constantly to confess to the supposed wickedness that they were certain was hiding deep inside of him. To call these kinds of people 'friends' is an act of grace itself.
Yet in the verse above God reveals a very disturbing truth, yet one of those eternal principles of reality that I come across on a regular basis. It is also a truth that is that comfortable and thus is not very popular but nevertheless is very powerful if I am willing to align myself with its reality. I don't understand much about this, but still it remains a principle of reality and if I will simply appreciate and align myself with it as much as I can I will likely experience similar results at some point that happened in Job's life.
When God asked Job to pray for his friends, He was asking him to pray for the very ones who had most abused him, maligned his reputation and added to his already great pain. These were not comforters in the sense I would think of comfort at all. These men ostensibly had come to make Job feel better, but their beliefs about what God is like and how reality works were so typically religious and distorted that the effect was that they conflicted sharply with Job's growing awareness of the real truth about God. And anytime a person begins to cling to the real truth about God's goodness and righteousness they are going to find themselves at increasing odds with those entrenched in religion and tradition.
Yet the kind of spiritual reality that God was bringing Job into more fully included the presence and choice of forgiveness, grace, kindness and freedom from offenses that describe how God deals with all of us. Through this experience Job was being drawn into a much deeper appreciation and knowledge of what God is like and was learning to reflect that growing awareness in the way he was to relate to those who most strongly opposed his views of God.
An important point in this story and relating to this principle is one that might be easy to miss. It was not when Job prayed for himself, for deliverance from his troubles that God turned things around, it was when he chose to pray for the very ones who were amplifying his problems and pain that God was able to intervene on his behalf.
So often I find it much more natural to start out praying primarily for my deliverance from problems and difficulties with my prayers pretty much focused on what I want God to do for me. But what I see in this verse is that there is something vitally important about keeping attention on praying for others rather than becoming so introverted in my relationship with God.
I have felt impressed repeatedly recently that this same principle must be appreciated and employed in my own current situations. I have people right now who seem to be intensely opposed to my growing appreciation of the truth about God's character and how He relates to sinners. Because of their ignorance or unwillingness to believe the truth about God as I am coming to see Him in His Word, they seem compelled to oppress me, speak evil of me and even hate me. They circulate false rumors about me and try to destroy my credibility and reputation. They pretend to be my friends, but as someone once said, 'With friends like that who needs enemies?'
Yet in this verse I feel God speaking to me that there is this established principle that applies directly to my situation just as it did to Job so long ago. And even though I may not understand how this principle works very well, I can see enough of it and appreciate its effects in this story that I can still apply it myself. Just because I don't fully understand how electricity works doesn't prevent me from utilizing it frequently for my benefit. And just because I don't understand this principle of praying for my enemies (as Jesus more accurately put it) doesn't mean that it won't have the same power that it did in Job's life.
Does that mean that I can induce temporal blessings from heaven if I will just pray for those who mistreat me? I'm not too sure that is a very good way of approaching this principle, though I would also be cautious to not discount that potential possibility either. But I do believe that God wants to impress upon me deeply the importance of making choices to change my attitudes and reactions towards those who fiercely oppose me and to better reflect the Spirit of the kind of God that I want them to know.
God's secret weapon against evil and for recapturing the hearts of rebellious sinners is to surprise them with love and kindness instead of employing the vengeful, harsh tactics that they expect from Him. Paul stated that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. So if I am reflecting the mind of God toward those who disagree with me and oppose me so intently, I will be willing to allow the kindness of God through me to ambush my opponents and catch them by surprise and possibly win their hearts into repentance and to come to know Him and the truth about Him for themselves.
When Job chose to pray for his 'friends' who had been so abusive of him and had sought to seriously malign his reputation based on little to no evidence, he was choosing to align himself with God by reflecting the same kindness that God always has toward those who hate Him. Job was allowing God to transform his own attitudes towards his opponents which in turn allowed God to open up even more channels of blessing to Job himself.
I very much want to be squarely inside those channels of increased blessings from God. But that means that I also must be willing to have my own heart more fully converted to be reflective of the kindness of God toward my enemies who harbor such misconceptions about Him at this point. But to do this primarily to solicit blessings for myself is also to miss the point nearly completely, for that is still based on selfish motivations. I need to have my own heart transformed by the heart of God dwelling in me that is willing to sacrifice itself for the good of others at any cost. That requires a real miracle of grace, but it happened to Job and it can just as surely happen in my life too.
Father, transform the way I view these people who oppose and malign me so much. Please fill my mind with heaven's perspective of them and fill me with Your kindness in the way I speak with them, act around them and especially in the way I respond when they trigger my weak areas emotionally. Let Your love and grace be what they see in me instead of my fear, shame or resentment. Fill me with the same attitude that You put into Job when he became willing to pray for his miserable comforters. Do this in me not just as a means of springing open doors of blessing for me personally, but more importantly to open the doors of other people's hearts to attract them to want to know the truth about You better and to experience Your love in their lives personally.
Fill me to overflowing with Your lovingkindness, Your compassion, Your unconditional forgiveness and Your grace in every encounter that I have with them. Fill me with these things even in my thoughts about them and in my discussions about them with those around me. Change the way I live my life in relation to them so that they can begin to see that You are not like they thought You were all of their lives. Allow them to begin to catch a glimpse of Your beauty and grace in the way that they see You reflected in me. Do this for Your reputation's sake, Amen.