It was a prayer request I’ll never forget, even though It was 58 years ago
In the fall of 1964 I moved into a home in Pasadena, California to receive training for Christian ministry. The leader in this home was Warren Myers, a single man who was in this early 40’s (a few short years later, he married Ruth) and I was one of a handful of men in their 20’s (I was 24 at the time) who were being developed by Warren to be future leaders in some capacity.
We studied together, ate meals together, shared life together, ran together for exercise and tried to learn everything we could from our experienced mentor, Warren.
One day he asked me to go on a walk with him to pray. We walked for an hour or so. I prayed a bit, but I must say that it was an education to listen to how he prayed for all the different people he knew. When we returned to the house, he asked me if I’d pray something for him. I assured him I would and then he gave me, what I thought at the time, was a very unusual prayer request. “Dave,” Warren said to me, “Pray that I would not die a bitter old man.” How strange, I thought to myself as I heard his request.
Warren died at 78 in 2001. He was the most gracious non-bitter older man I’ve ever known. Why that strange prayer request so many years before?
At times, I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:15 regarding bitterness: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble and by it many become defiled.” ESV
A few years ago I read somewhere that the major cause of burnout for men between 35 and 50 is anger due to bitterness. I fully understand how that could be.
Over the years I’ve begun to see the toll that bitterness can take on a leader. I’ve seen my share of older bitter leaders, both men and women. Bitterness robs us of joy, fruitfulness and the ability to trust the One who saves and calls us to leadership. From time to time I’ve felt in my own heart the root of bitterness creeping in.
We can become, and remain, bitter because of:
- Health issues
- Lack of perceived financial needs being met
- Not receiving the level of appreciation we think we deserve
- Being passed over and not getting an opportunity we think we should have had
- Somebody treating us unfairly or unjustly and not owning it
- Feeling like God let you down by not answering your prayer request (s) the way you think He should have
I have battled these and personally known other leaders who have as well.
I didn’t understand Warren’s request then, but I surely do now.
What about you?
Is there any root of bitterness growing in you?
How will you deal with it so that it doesn’t cause trouble and defile you and others?