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Dear Lord, help me not to be a jerk today!

This week, while preparing to teach in a new state, at a new school, for a new school year, I taped a poignant prayer to my computer monitor.

It wasn’t the masterful, insightful words of a Francis of Assisi, or Teresa of Avila, or even an average pastor on an average Sunday morning. It did not ask God to glorify himself through me, or to make me a better man, better teacher, or better Christian.

It was far more basic and less spiritual:

“Dear Lord, help me not to be a jerk today.”

That’s all. I wish it were something more profound, but the truth is – sometimes I can be a jerk.

There are a number of reasons my jerk nature erupts. Sometimes it’s because I just disagree with someone about something. Or I’m ticked off about the way something went. Or – here’s a big one – some authority over me (say, my employer, or my local government) implements a policy that I hate.

Most often, I become a jerk when I feel I am not in control. This is pretty scary, because when am I actually in control of anything? So opportunities always abound for me to be a jerk. I can think of too many relationship moments I have blown because – instead of being the approachable, trustworthy person I want to be – I was a jerk.

And I am a good one. I suspect “being a jerk” is one of my spiritual gifts, and I am sure it is in the Bible somewhere. I can be an aggressive jerk that picks fights over the silliest, most trivial things, or a critical jerk that tells everyone they’re off the mark. If my arguments are proven wrong, I am put to shame – but even if I am proven right and “vindicated,” what good is that if I’m a jerk about it?

I can also be a passive-aggressive jerk – being nice to people’s faces, but bashing them behind their backs. I can be gossipy, sarcastic, or just plain mean. It feels good, but it does not enhance my spiritual growth or build trust with others.

So I taped this prayer where I can see it every day.

When I pray, “Lord, help me not to be a jerk today,” I am thinking only of myself. Narcissistically speaking, this prayer is all about me, and me alone.
Sure, it always feels better to point out how others are being jerks and how they should stop. Sadly, I absolutely love doing that! But the whole splinter-vs.-plank-in-the-eye thing that Jesus taught kind of sucks the fun out of it. In fact, my desire to call out others for being jerks probably says more about my own jerk status than it does theirs.

So I can only discuss me being a jerk.

I don’t want to be a jerk. But the truth is, sometimes I can’t help myself. Giving in to my jerk nature is too easy, and at times I don’t even know I have given in until it is too late. I immediately regret it, but often the damage has been done.

Unfortunately, my jerk nature is yet another embarrassing symptom of my sin nature. It is a part of my brokenness. And no matter how I try, I cannot just wake up one day and get rid of it by will-power.

Instead, I must lay my jerk nature at the cross. I must give it to the one who has conquered all sin. Every day.

So this little prayer begins with “Lord,” establishing who I serve: my Savior, not my sin nature. It is Jesus who brings peace amidst the turmoil that triggers my jerk nature.

The prayer continues with “help me,” reminding me that I cannot stop being a jerk simply by my own effort. I need the power of the cross to overcome this sin. I must give my jerk nature to Jesus. To this day, I am amazed at his unconditional acceptance of me. There is no sin so big that the cross cannot cover it – and conquer it.

Then the prayer asks that I not be a jerk. This is the heart of it – what I want the most.

Finally, the prayer ends with “today” – a reminder that I need Christ’s power now, today, every day. Without the word “today,” I could be overwhelmed by all the days ahead of me, and also waiting a long time for help. I need victory today, not tomorrow.
And when tomorrow does come, my prayer will be the same:

“Dear Lord, help me not to be a jerk today.”

Published inDiscipleshipJourneyObediencePrayerSin

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One Comment

  1. Loved this. Probably because I’ve prayed that simple prayer often, myself. Really. I have.

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