When You Don’t Know What to Pray

My friends, there are many joys and blessings that are given to followers of Christ, but there are also many frustrations and heartaches experienced by individuals yielding to Him. Many know what it is like to lose friends—even within church settings—when they are serious about the Bible and their walk with Christ. Sometimes God permits dreams to be dashed into pieces or desires unfulfilled. Sometimes God allows things to happen which breaks one’s heart to the core. 

When these happen, one can find himself in a place of not knowing what to pray. After all, he has prayed many times, and he has confessed of any known sin. Why bother praying? What good is it? 

We are far more stubborn, idolatrous, and autonomous than we care to think or admit. While I am not saying every hurt which comes is a result of these, but we must take these into consideration. Jesus desires for us to desire Him above all else, but if we are honest there are often plenty of other desires and loves surpassing our desire and love for Him. It is easy to sing a song saying that He is all we want or need, but when one had persons, things, plans, hopes, and dreams taken from him, his sincerity of passionate singing is put to the test. What is one’s honest reply when God speaks to him, “Child, you still have Me”? It’s okay for the heart to break and for a person to experience grief. This comes with being human. God is not angry with a person feeling disappointed. sad, or even angry necessarily. However, will a person continue to trust God, and even love Him, despite the inner ache? Every true saint must experience this to some degree. But what does one do when they are so broken and wearied that they just don’t know what to pray?

We are like wild stallions who must be broken if we would desire to be used for God’s good purposes, and one of His good purposes is to conform us to the image of His Son—to make us more like Jesus. This is a painful process of squeezing, molding, pruning, chipping, grinding, and purging. Are you and I willing to let Him do what only He can do? Will you and I yield trustingly to Him, knowing He is God and we are not? Still, what if we do not know what to pray? We are told,

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~ Romans 8:26-27

Go ahead and groan wordlessly. Cry, mourn, and grieve. Yield to the breaking, for it serves Kingdom purposes. If you and I should desire to be like Jesus, can we be so without hurt, disappointment, or suffering? Isaiah says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” (53:3). And just as we benefit from His suffering (see Isa. 53:4-6), so others are helped by ours. We are told elsewhere,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

When you and I go through difficult situations, bombarded by perplexity, hounded by questions, and frustrated by the agony God gives comfort in mysterious ways. Sometimes all this seems senseless, heartless, and arbitrary. Yet, God brings you and I into the lives of others experiencing these, and we are able to be ministers to them, applying the balms of both grace and empathy.

What does any of this have to do with prayer? Everything! We are utterly dependent on God, but too often we really do not believe this. But when we do, we don’t always know how or what to pray. This is okay. Just groan. The Holy Spirit will intercede through these, and conform us more into the likeness of Christ in the process.

Money, sex, power, empty praise, and junk awards—are these really worth the striving for? Is sacrificing one’s being simply to attain these for a measly few years truly worth it? Through Christ, God invites all to know Him and life. Yet, many are so mesmerized by the glitter of fool’s gold they reject the true treasures offered. 

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? ~ John 8:36

One Life to Live

“You only live once!” “Go for the gusto!” “Get all you can, while you can!” Such are some of the common declarations we hear. After all, it’s all about [us], babes (so we are told). But what if there really is far more to life than mere stuff and fleeting pleasures? What if it’s not about us, and that we were to someday experientially understand Jesus’ haunting words, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36, ESV)?

While the world uses “one life to live” as a declaration, the Bible uses it as a statement of caution. A psalmist lifts the prayer,

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. ~ Psalm 90:12

The writer of Hebrews warns, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (9:27).

The writer of Ecclesiastes had and experienced it all: wealth, fame, education, pleasures, luxuries, parties, etc. Yet, he found no fulfillment in any of these. After wasting so many years on himself, he ends the book with this:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

His point is not a warning of a capricious and vengeful God; rather, a relationship with our Creator and worshiping Him is the very purpose of our existence and what brings genuine fulfillment.

One life to live is all we have. Are we simply going to waste these fleeting moments on ourselves, or fulfill the true purposes in which we were designed for?

Be Still and Know

Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 47:10 (ESV)

We are a busy and active race, constantly on the move, either being productive or wasting time with meaningless pursuits and practices. The distractions are endless, but all of this comes with a price: missing the voice and knowledge of God. Creation declares His glory (see Ps. 19:1-4), and God promises to be found by those who truly pursue Him (see Jer. 29:13).

Turn of the noise and take time away from distractions. Be still and know.

The Detriment of Distraction

Ours is a society that not simply loves—but is addicted—to noise. From getting up in the morning to going to bed at night we are bombard with noise: Radios, podcasts, television, news, sounds from traffic, from the workplace, from school, and from people all around us.

Sadly, we are not encouraged to truly think for ourselves. News media, celebrities, politicians, and “educators” often try to tell us what to think and how to feel—regardless   how illogical. With the passion of a bushfire, but sometimes intelligence equivalent to that of a bowl of mashed potatoes. Yet, many will mindlessly agree.

Daily we are blasted with such messages: anyone who disagrees is  a bad person, hate-monger, racist; corruption and lies are okay in politics, these simply come with the territory; hypocrisy is only wrong in religion; truth is relative; those who hold to values are dangerous; because there is evil there is no God; humility is for the weak; do what thou wilt, let the chips fall wherever they may—THINK LIKE THE SYSTEM—DO NOT QUESTION IT. LEARN WHAT IT TEACHES; FEEL WHAT IT INITIATES (TO HELL WITH CONSCIENCE); BECOME ONE WITH THE SYSTEM. YOU’RE AN INDIVIDUAL—BUT REALLY YOU’RE NOT!

We have become so accustomed to noise and distractions that many people literally cannot handle periods of getting alone to think and ponder the deeper things in life. What should bring a measure of clarity is thought to be too boring and unnerving, instead. Many people do not know how to handle the combination of silence, stillness, and the triggering of their own thoughts. Furthermore, we have become so adapted to the system (i.e., the world) we do not even realize how much it seeks to manipulate us.

Let’s question the system for a moment and consider:

  • You disagree with persons, sometimes with your closest friends. Are you, therefore, a bad person? A hate monger? A bigot? Are your friends with whom you disagree?
  • Is lying and corruption to be permissible in politics? Do we not resent liars, thieves, and backstabbers when we find them in our midst? So why are these applauded in politics?
  • Why is hypocrisy only shunned when it is found in churches? Why is it not shunned in politics, business, schools, and Hollywood? Many claim to not go to church because of “all the hypocrites,” but the aforementioned have the church beat by far when it comes to hypocrisy.
  • Is truth relative? If so, then how can anything truly be right or wrong? If truth is relative, then all is mere opinion; and things like bigotry, slavery, and oppression are merely neutral. If truth, indeed, is relative, who is anyone to condemn anything?
  • Are those who hold to values (virtue) dangerous? Borrowing from the illustration of another, if you were walking a street at night, who would you rather see? A group of thugs who mock values or a group of people who try to live by values?
  • Because there is evil there is no God? If there is no God, then there is no Standard by which we can discern good or evil. “Good” and “evil” become mere empty words we assign false meaning to. If there is no God, then evolution might be true. If so, then we merely witness “survival of the fittest” when it comes to oppression—simply nature running its course (IF evolution was true).
  • Is humility a sign of weakness? Without humility we cannot truly show genuine respect to one another. Humility is required to recognize and respond to the value of others.
  • Do what thou wilt? This is precisely why our world is in the mess it is in—people living as they will, doing “what is right in their own eyes.” Every action has a reaction. Every choice comes along with consequences.
  • One other thing I will mention concerns slavery. Constantly media and education reminds us of the slavery in our nations past, and the evil thereof; however, for all the supposed hatred of slavery, how come there is not a unified outcry against modern slavery—human trafficking? For all the outcries against the oppression of women and minorities (which are the majority of the victims in human trafficking)  c there is relatively little outcry. Interestingly, some in Washington, Hollywood, and the sports world are known to have profited from slavery. Strangely, for all the outcry against the slavery of the past, too often a blind eye is turned away from today’s slavery!

If, indeed, there is truth to be known, is it good or wise to scornfully sacrifice the quest of it in order to indulge in our pleasures, greed, and pride?

The writer of Ecclesiastes, in his quest for happiness and purpose, indulged himself in pleasures, entertainment, work, education, prosperity, etc. He admits that in proper moderation many of the things he enjoyed are good—but not when they distract us from our deeper purpose. He ends the book with these words:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ 12:13-14

The writer of Proverbs writes:

Let the wise hear and increase in learning…. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction…. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? … Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. ~ Proverbs 1:5, 7, 20-22, 29-32