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.

Hope for Troubled Hearts in Troubled Times

The days in which we are living in are so uncertain. Some talk about a great economic collapse that will be felt around the world. In the midst of discussions and rallies crying out for peace there is so much anger, unrest, and violence. The news consistently reports acts of terrorism around the world. As the world grows smaller because of technology, ironically, people are feeling more isolated. And with Covid restrictions, there has been an alarming rise in depression and suicide.

Many questions are floating around. Will America experience another civil war? Is our economy going to collapse? What’s going to happen to churches and Christians? Will things ever return to normal? What is God doing? Is He even there?

When Jesus was speaking to His disciples, He is also speaking to us:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. ~ John 14:1

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

We live in a fallen world, and Jesus teaches that as His return draws closer there is going to be a rise in lawlessness, lovelessness, and chaos. Just hearing this and observing the world around us can cause an increase in one’s heart rate and anxiety. Nevertheless, in Christ we can experience genuine peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~ John 14:27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Philippians 4:6-8

While requiring self-discipline and effort, the key to acquiring His peace which He abundantly offers, we must fix our eyes on Jesus and not on the troubles around us. We must pray and bring our anxieties to Him, along with thanksgiving. We are granted so many blessings, but how often we take them for granted!  And finally, we are to shift our thoughts on what is true, lovely, pure, etc. How easily we can fill our minds with “stinking thinking.”

God’s people are not forsaken by Him—never! 

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

Today, may your attention be set upon Christ, His sacrifice, and the living hope that only He can give. And may He grant you His peace that passes all understanding, and the richness of His presence.

Blessings upon you, my friends!

One Step At A Time

Sometimes God’s leading seems to fuel more questions rather than answers. Like children we want to know where we are going, how long it is going to take to get there, why we have to stop by here, and is the driver (in this case, God) lost? We are told, however, of God’s instructions for Abraham:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. ~ Genesis 12:1 (ESV)

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. ~ Hebrews 11:8

Notice, God did not give specifics. Abraham did not know where God was leading, he only knew God told him to take steps away from what was familiar. Abraham made mistakes along the way, at times running ahead of God’s leading. This only added to the difficulties of his journey of faith, but God remained faithful.

Perhaps your journey does not seem to make any sense, do not lose heart. Obey where you know to obey; rest where God permits you to pause; be productive in any work He assigns. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

A Score Is Being Kept

Politics and major businesses are filled with corruption and all kinds of wickedness. So much evil is applauded, justified, and covered up—all for the love of money and power. Nevertheless, the people of God are told:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. ~ Psalm 37:1-2 (ESV)

Furthermore, we are told to:

  • Trust in the Lord, and do good (vs.3);
  • Delight in Him (vs. 4);
  • Commit our way to Him (vs. 5);
  • Be still before Him and wait patiently for Him (vs.7).

Although the wicked see themselves  as invincible and untouchable, and they boast, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1), and “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not see” (Ps. 94:7), the Lord is keeping score. He is keeping track of their lies, bribes, coercion, thefts, extortion, and murders. He is preparing judgment for their persecution of the righteous and silencing the cries of the innocent.

Like pins standing proudly at the end of a lane, God’s wrath is going to charge down:

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. ~ Psalm 1:5-6

Dear ones, the days might become difficult, but let us keep our eyes on the Lord and our faith anchored on Him. Trust in, delight in, commit your way to, be still before, and wait patiently for Him. In the end, God will preserve His own, and the wicked will face the horror of the consequences of their gross rebellion against Him.

Pain Accompanies Spiritual Growth

“Lord, use me for Your glory!” Have you ever prayed this? If so, this is an invitation for pruning, and pruning hurts. Furthermore, if you are sincere about such a prayer, the Lord will answer your prayer. Strangely, the way we tend to envision the answer is not at all the way it comes.

A. W. Tozer once penned, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Whenever God uses a man or woman for his kingdom purposes, He will cut away pride, selfishness, hatred, and self-sufficiency.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:1-5 (ESV)

Jesus states several crucial elements concerning our spiritual health, growth, and fruitfulness. First, the Father is the One who brings about growth and fruit. Neither of these are by our own doing.

Second, part of our growth comes through pain. The Father “cuts away” what is either dead or “diseased” (i.e., injurious).

Third, if we truly desire to grow, bear fruit, and be useful to God in His kingdom, then we must abide (dwell in, remain) in Christ and His teachings. This does require a measure of self-discipline on our part.

And finally, Jesus says that apart from Him we can do nothing, which explains why much of the church is impotent. This is not a criticism but simply a statement. Too often we set our plans into motion, lift a small prayer for blessing, then watch the results fade away like smoke. Hence the reason for pruning—dependence solely on Him.

As mentioned, pruning hurts; yet, this is necessary for spiritual health and bearing fruit. Sometimes when pruning (various trials) comes, persons often think it is because they have done something wrong, as though God is upset with them. But notice what Jesus says: “Every tree that does not bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

“Lord, use me for Your glory!” If you truly desire this, then there will be times of pruning, but do not be disheartened. Just as the Father disciplines those that He loves (see Heb. 12:5-8), so He also prunes the fruit bearing ones who glorify Him. Indeed, pruning hurts, but it is necessary for healthy growth.

When God Is Silent

There, perhaps, is no other indescribable anguish of the heart and spirit than the silence of God—especially for those who have experienced His love, witnessed His power, and can recount times of closeness and answered prayer.

Extended periods of God’s silence and inactivity can truly test one’s faith. Emotions can seem like a turbulent sea, with questions tormenting the mind like seemingly endless waves pounding on the shore. Dark storm clouds block out the light of the sun—and nights are ever darker still.

Such experiences are not uncommon for the people of God. The psalmist writes, 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? ~ Psalm 13:1 (ESV)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. ~ 22:1-2

The prophet Habakkuk cries out,

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? ~ Habakkuk 1:2

The prophet Jeremiah pleads to the Lord,

Be not a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster. ~ Jeremiah 17:17

In the New Testament, although it was clearly confirmed to John the Baptist that Jesus is the Messiah, after being imprisoned he sent disciples to ask Jesus,

Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? ~ Matthew 11:3

Times of divine silence, especially extended periods, causes common questions to arise:

  • What has happened?
  • What did I do?
  • Is God angry with me?
  • Will God speak again?
  • Has God abandoned me?
  • Is God trustworthy?
  • Why?

The reasons for God’s silence varies. Sometimes it is to humble us, and to remind us of our dependence on Him. If we are not careful, we can become conceited and think we are quite “spiritual”. Such pride usually lacks love.

Sometimes God’s silence is due to willful and persistent sin.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

Still, sometimes God is silent to stretch and grow our faith. We live in an age in which feelings are exalted. Too often we lean, depend, and even put trust in our ever-changing feelings. However, our faith is to be anchored on God, His character, and His promises.

When experiencing God’s silence, what are we to do? First, we should examine ourselves. Are we refusing to confess and repent of sin (e.g., immorality, unkind words, unforgiveness, idolatry, prayerlessness, etc.)? Second, we need to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. God is unchanging. He remains faithful. Third, and this is the most difficult, we are to continue to trust in spite of our feelings and doubts.

The prophet Micah shared in such experiences, too. He writes,

My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. ~ Micah 7:8-9 (CEV)