Are you praying for me or rebuking me? The answer is important, for, however you answer could show if you are under legalism or grace.
In our relationships with those whom we are close to, we can become critical of them if they don't reach our expectations, especially if we are able to reach a certain standard ourselves.
Wouldn't it be more helpful if we prayed for those around us instead of criticizing them? If your child continually struggles with a bad habit, instead of rebuking him for his wrongdoing, how about praying for him? Let's say that your husband struggles with using coarse language, and he knows its wrong and seems to not want to do it again, how about praying for him instead of correcting him every time he opens his mouth like that?
There are thousands of areas where we can be praying for our spouses, children, relatives, and friends. Many of those we have relationships or friendships with will have weaknesses that will drive us crazy. Yes, there is a time for rebuking. There are times for correcting. But there are also times for praying for one another instead of offering criticism.
Most of the time, those who we would criticize know that their weaknesses are there and would change them if they could. Sometimes, they are not aware of their weaknesses though, and we can bring those gracefully to their attention.
I am not talking about outright rebellion where they opposing person does not care. I am referring to those kinds of relationships where we are growing in love with one another.
How about the next time your wife doesn't have dinner ready on time, or the wash done when you need clean clothes, instead of showing irritation or anger toward her, pray for her. Pray that God will help her get the housework done or wash the clothes you need for work. God can help her in a way that your criticism can't.
One final thought; when we dole out criticism instead of praying, it could mean that we ourselves are under the bondage of legalism. We could be placing our children or spouses under that same standard. They could even already be free in Christ, yet we are putting a yoke upon them when we heap harsh remarks due to their failure to meet our desired standard. Are we helping or hindering them as we react to their weaknesses or even their sin?
Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24 ESV
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV