“Pray first before you eat!”, my mother-in-law chided my son, Josiah, before he tucked into his dinner at my in-laws’ home. There were years in my husband’s life when such sentences uttered from his mother’s own lips would be unthinkable.
In Ronald’s younger years, his mother was severely opposed to him attending church, due to her own past emotional baggage when one of her brothers converted to Christianity, prompting conflict within their family at the time. It would take many years before my mother-in-law would be open to Ronald not only attending church services weekly, but also stepping into a church service herself. The needle of my in-laws’ discomfort with Christianity has gradually shifted over the years.
From being severely opposed, to quietly accepting, to now, asking us to pray to God whenever they encounter personal issues or extended family members have fallen ill, my in-laws have certainly come a long way in their pre-believing journey. They even encourage our son to give thanks before his meals, as they are aware that this is our habit. Strangely enough however, it has also led to our complacency.
There is a sort of comfortable status quo that we abide by whenever we spend time with Ronald’s family. Whenever we come together for a family meal, my parents and brothers-in-law will start eating first while Ronald and I will give thanks together with Josiah. We will then proceed to make regular conversation, much of it now centering on Josiah’s development. Once in a while, when an evangelistic Christian event such as Easter or Christmas begins to draw near, we will invite them to
attend our church service, and perhaps when they mention an issue that they are struggling with, such as ill health or a family conflict, we will tell them that we will keep the situation in prayer. But the conversations rarely, if ever, delve deeper than that.
To put it simply, from a daughter-in-law’s perspective, I don’t quite know what else to do or say. How do I talk about the urgency of salvation from sin when we continue to live remarkably mundane lives where nothing much happens? How do I randomly bring Jesus and the Gospel up in conversation when all my in-laws want to talk about is how well Josiah is eating and how much he weighs?
In recent times however, I have been reminded that evangelism starts with prayer. If I am not even regularly keeping my in-laws in my prayers, then of course the task of evangelizing to them will seem impossibly huge, and I will perpetually be paralysed in fear, unable to speak to them about anything beyond this life.
I am appreciative of the One For Jesus movement, where we make it a point to pray for our OFJ, or in Ronald’s and my case, 4 OFJs. I commit to keeping Ronald’s family in prayer, that the Holy Spirit will soften their hearts and prompt them to consider deeply what lies beyond this earthly life and that they would desire to know the Way, Truth and Life. I commit to praying for Ronald and I too, that we would not fall back into comfortable complacency, and that we would have sensitive hearts to the Spirit’s guidance, that when He opens up the opportunity to have deeper conversations with the family, that we would be obedient to Him in those moments. I commit to praying for my in-laws to receive salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone very soon.
Would you pray alongside us too?
By sister Ethel Yap