Moments in Prayer 2023
“The fruit of the Spirit is… self-control” (Galatians 5:22)
“For God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
“If [the grace of God]… teaches us… to live self-controlled lives… in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-14)
“… Make every effort to add to your faith… self-control… .” (2 Peter 1:5-6)
My frustrations had gotten the better of me, and I found myself unable to hold back. “He always does this. He never listens and he doesn’t care about how this will impact others,” I vented. As I shared my grievances to the closest ear, I became aware of the absolutes I was using (“always” and “never”) and how I was attributing motivations to someone else’s behaviour. It felt cathartic to vent, especially to someone I knew would support me. Can you relate to such an outburst? Does a personal experience come to mind, where you erupted during a disagreement or expressed frustrations in unconstructive ways?
I don’t regret the anger that surged within me because I value emotions that signal the importance of something. These feelings indicated that something important to me was being threatened, that something crucial was at stake and required my action. However, I’m less proud of my impulsive venting that involved another individual before I could seek clarity.
These moments where we lose control can arise instantaneously. Our bodies register a threat to something meaningful, triggering our automatic defences. In these moments, our mental faculties shut down, restricting our ability to problem-solve, process new information, and exercise discernment. This response, driven by adrenaline, can lead us to react hastily, saying hurtful things we don’t truly mean or behaving out of character. Such reactive responses can lead to trouble and even irreparable damage to both ourselves and our relationships. It is in these moments that we could greatly benefit from a greater filling of self-control from the Holy Spirit. This is the ninth and final quality in the fruit of the Spirit list found in Galatians 5.
When we pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with self-control, we are seeking guidance in managing our impulses and improving our decision-making. When faced with challenging situations, the Holy Spirit empowers us to respond with power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Embodying self-control reflects godly living, both in the present and in anticipation of the glorious appearing of Christ (Titus 2:11-14). We are encouraged to practice self-control, which is not a command to only hold back with passivity, but to act with discernment. While our responses to our circumstances can seem automatic, we can lean on the Holy Spirit to provide us with transcendent abilities to embody self-control amidst these challenges.
Taking some time for reflection (and a moment to catch my breath), I came to realize that I didn’t know the reasons behind the other person’s disappointing behaviour. I approached them and conveyed how their actions had affected me. To my surprise, the person responded with an apology and provided more context, which ultimately offered me the perspective I needed to move forward with understanding. Furthermore, after addressing the source of my frustration, I returned to the person I had vented to and apologized for unnecessarily involving them. (To be fair, I believe there are appropriate spaces for processing conflicts, but in this instance, my processing was impulsive and not well discerned.)
This experience served as a reminder of my ongoing journey guided by the Holy Spirit to cultivate greater self-control. As I engage with others, I strive to pay attention to what my emotions communicate to me, knowing that the Holy Spirit empowers me to exercise self-control, leading to meaningful connections with those around me.
To cultivate greater self-control, what would it look like to invite the Holy Spirit to help you become curious about your responses when you feel threatened? Ask yourself:
- What did I just experience that may have impacted me?
- What is at stake for me in this situation?
- How could I understand more about the other person?
- What am I missing?
Pray words of invitation and welcome to the Holy Spirit for your own heart:
- Welcome Holy Spirit! Come and Fill Me Today!
- Welcome Holy Spirit! Overwhelm me with self-control!
- Welcome Holy Spirit! Help me to invite you into my responses when I am feeling threatened or overwhelmed.
- Welcome Holy Spirit! Teach me to turn to you in my decision-making and when I am tempted to react rashly.
Pray words of invitation and welcome for the church:
- Welcome Holy Spirit! Come and fill us today!
- Welcome Holy Spirit! May May we be a community marked by self-control.
- Welcome Holy Spirit! May our actions of discernment and grace set us apart and attract people to follow Jesus.
Jodi Enns attends The Gathering Church in Abbotsford, BC. She is a Conflict Consultant and teaches Conflict Management at Columbia Bible College.