Thursday, September 6, 2012

Praying in Desperate Times

Recently, I found myself in need of prayer.  As a pastor, I’m accustomed to being on the other side of prayer.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve spent with friends praying beside their hospital bed.  Sometimes, the orderly standing just outside the room waits to take the person to surgery.  Other times, a husband or wife or child has received a difficult diagnosis, something like, “The cancer was larger than we expected,”
            Praying in desperate situations is never easy.  We know what we want:  we want our husband well; we want our child to be just like the other kids; we want a self-respecting job again.    Instead of voicing our true desires to God, though, we often glibly and mindlessly pray “thy will be done.”  Praying for God’s will is not a bad thing, but I suspect it often covers our secret fear that God will not answer our true prayer.    Desperate situations force us to face a primal faith question:  Do we trust God.
            When these times come – and let’s face it, we all face them at some point - being a preacher does not take the desperation out of our praying.  Recently, I found myself desperate in prayer for something happening in our family.  I turned to some trusted friends around the country.  In my email to them about the situation, God revealed three prayer words for desperate times which have become transformational for me. 
            Desire.  Trust.  Release. 
            The Prayer of Desire:  This prayer removes the religious stuffing surrounding our lives and reveals the deep needs of our lives.  God knows us inside and out.  Still, God wants us to tell him our deepest desire.  In the prayer of desire, we lay bare our desperate desires to God as an offering.  “Heal my husband.”  “Make my son well.”  “Please, God open up a job this week before we lose the house.” 
            The Prayer of Trust:  More than anything, God wants us to trust in the person of Jesus and hope in his promise.  In our desperate situations – more than any specific result – God wants to grow our trust.  This prayer says to God, “I trust that you, Lord, desire the best for me, even more than I do.”  This does not mean we will not suffer or love ones will not die or a recession will not hit.  It does mean God will use these difficult times to draw us into a deeper trusting relationship with him. 
            The Prayer of Release:  This prayer asks God to replace our desire with God’s desire for our lives.  When we release our burden to God, God replaces it with a supernatural joy and peace.  “Lord, release me now from this circumstance.  It lays out of my control.  I give it to you.”  This does not mean we will not feel grief or sadness or disappointment – however, all of these feelings are found with the context of a loving God who is working on our behalf … Even when we do not see it or even like it. 
            I know many of us face desperate circumstances.  My hope is that the prayer words – desire, trust, release – will allow these circumstances to bring us closer to Jesus.  Amen.  

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