Friday, April 21, 2006

Compassion and prayer

A few days ago I read an interesting and convicting post over at Daily Life in a Homeless Shelter which generated many thought provoking comments. Then, as the Lord so often does, our post today at Christian Chapter Chat kind of dealt with some of the same aspects of RWK's post, at least involving mercy/compassion etc. Well, all of the above has caused me to think more deeply about compassion.

In my mind, spiritual compassion has in it the quality of mercy. It's nature may be of pity, but it moves the soul, filling it with feelings of tenderness for others. Compassion is moved at the sight of sin, sorrow, and suffering. It stands at the exact opposite extreme of indifference to the wants and woes of others. It is far, far removed from the insensibility and hardness of the heart that can show up in the midst of need and trouble and outright wretchedness. I see compassion standing beside sympathy for others, showing interest in others and, is concerned about them as people.

What excites and moves compassion to work? So often a person will catch sight of multitudes in want and distrss, helpless to relieve themselves of the circumstances they are experiencing. I do believe that compassion is drawn to hopelessness. Compassion is silent but it does not remain secluded. Compassion begins reaching out at the first sign of trouble, sin, or need. When a person sees (or hears) of others in need, sympathy arises and pours out in earnest prayer for them. Prayer for others is born of a sympathetic heart. In fact, prayer is natural and almost spontaneous when compassion is born in one's heart. Prayer belongs to compassionate people.

Don't get me wrong. There is a certain compassion that belongs to people who do not know Christ, that is, the natural man. It expends its force in simple gifts to those in need and should not be despised by anyone. But, spiritual compassion, the kind born in a renewed heart, which is Christlike in its very nature, is deeper, broader, and more prayerlike. I find that the compassion of Christ always moves a person to prayer. This sort of compassion goes beyond the relief of mere physical wants. It reaches deeper down and goes much further.

Compassion isn't blind at all. Rather, the person who has compassion of the soul has eyes to see the very things which excite compassion. Remember it said of the Lord, "Seeing the people He felt compassion for them" (Matthew 9:36). First He saw the multitudes with their hunger, their woes, their helpless condition; then He experienced compassion which moved Him to pray for them. It is a hardened man, and far from being like Christ, who sees the multitudes but is unmoved at the sight of their troubles. He is a person who has no heart of prayer for people.

People may not always be moved by compassion but compassion always moves toward people. And, it may not always turn people to God, but it will and does turn God to men. While compassion may be helpless to relieve a need, it can, at the very least, break out into prayer to God for others. When I think about compassion I think it is never indifferent, nor is it selfish, or forgetful of others. It's focus is on others only.

However, compassion doesn't just deal with the body and its disabilities and needs. It also moves toward the soul's distressing state. One's soul has needs and this does appeal to compassion. This type of compassion belongs to grace and sees not only the bodies of people, but their souls, as well, soiled by sin, unhappy in their condition without God, and in danger of being forever lost. When a compassionate believer sees the sight of dying people, then they break out into intercessions for those people before the throne of grace.

One reason why we, as sinners, are not consumed by God's wrath is found in Lamintations 3:22-23, "The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness." This quality is what makes us so much like God. I am also reminded of Psalm 145:8, "The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness." Really, it's no wonder the Word records of Christ that He "was moved with compassion." How could anyone doubt that His compassion moved Him to pray for those suffering who came across His path?

Now, if He is filled with such compassion that it moves Him, seated at His Father's right hand, to intercede on our behalf, then by all means we should have the same compassion on those around us and be on our knees praying for them. Compassion isn't enough to simply say, "Here, take this" but it should also drive us to our knees for those who need Christ and His grace.

May our compassion be far more than the physical needs, may we also have eyes for the spiritual needs around us.

1 comment:

HeyJules said...

"People may not always be moved by compassion but compassion always moves toward people. And, it may not always turn people to God, but it will and does turn God to men."

That was the best two sentences I read in the last month - maybe more.

Geez, when you get fired up about something, you just blow me away.