Prayer For When We Fail

2 Corinthians 13:7-10

But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

“Why do we fall?” This is a question that is asked of a young Bruce Wayne, the boy who becomes a billionaire and soon after becomes the masked vigilante Batman. In the Christopher Nolan movie, Bruce fell down an old well. After pulling him out his father asks him this question: “Why do we fall?” The boy probably didn’t understand it at the time, and even after he’d grown and begun his life of heroism, he still didn’t quite understand what exactly his father was asking. Later, after he was unable to stop the villains from destroying his home, Bruce turns to his butler Alfred and says, “What have I done? I wanted to save Gotham. I failed.” His butler, a wise lifelong friend, simply asks, “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Many times as we struggle with doing the right things (and we do struggle), we find ourselves failing constantly. The church in Paul’s time was no stranger to this. As Paul rights to them in 2 Corinthians, he gives them his final words in chapter 13. His prayer to God is that they will not do anything wrong. We might read this and think Paul is setting them up for failure. He prays that they do no wrong, that they make no mistakes, that they don’t ever slip up, and we look at that and say, “Yeah right!” Does Paul actually expect these people to never do or get anything wrong?

If that isn’t the case, what is Paul really praying about? Well, let’s look at it this way: Jesus says, “Therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We can respond to this in two ways. One is to say, “Well, that’s not possible so why even try?” This lands us in a Romans 6 situation, where we decide we might as well “continue in sin” because grace has us covered. There’s no way we can achieve perfection, no way we can achieve righteousness, so we give up the effort and just let grace take care of us. The other way we can respond is to try to be perfect.

You see when we believe that we actually are called to be perfect, we try our very best to become exactly as Jesus was. However, we must do this with the understanding that we will make mistakes. All sin and fall short of the glory of God. If we don’t understand that, we will feel like Jesus or Paul really did set us up for failure when we mess up. But when we understand God and who He calls us to be, we understand that Jesus does call us to be perfect just as Paul does pray that they do nothing wrong. We must find a balance of the understanding of failure and the expectation of righteousness. When we can do that, we are on the upward track to becoming the most like Christ that we can be.


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