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When prayer is hard

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We so often hear that being still before God is a most effective form of prayer. But have you ever reached a point when the weight of your circumstances prevented clear perspective on how you should pray? Paul addresses this in Romans 8:26-27. His words provided comfort and insight to the early Roman believers and are still proving when our connection to God seems broken, The Lord will provide a way.

We don’t know what to pray for.

We can get used to our prayers being a list of things we’d like to have or have happen. During good times, we can easily fall into what Matthew Henry explains,

We are not competent judges of our own condition…here we are often at a loss-graces are weak, affections cold, thoughts wandering and it is not always easy to find the heart to pray.

Times of distress seem to bring us back to the heart of prayer. Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the pain is more than we can bear – we no longer think we know better. We come before the Throne only able to say “I don’t know Lord.” God may seem distant, off tending to other things. The light of His presence may seem to have grown dim but it never goes out.

When we don’t know what to pray for, God Does.

With His Spirit is in us, there should be no fear when words won’t come. God has a perspective we don’t. He knows what our real situation looks like – in time and in eternity. We have only a limited, ground floor view, but He sees every aspect going on around us. He hears our hearts when they groan under the weight of our feelings. Commentators Jamieson, Fausset & Brown state:

But not in vain are these groanings. For “the Spirit Himself” is in them, giving to the emotions which He Himself has kindled the only language of which they are capable; so that though on our part they are the fruit of impotence to utter what we feel; they are at the same time the intercession of the Spirit Himself in our behalf.

When we don’t know what to pray for, God does it for us.

When we feel so far from wise – that is the best place to be because we no longer have to worry about figuring everything out. It is in those moments when we admit our lack of wisdom – the door to Heaven opens. Weakness – humility – is the kindling to the fire of The Spirit working in us.

Perhaps that was Jesus’ whole issue with the righteous men of His time. They did all the right religious things but never had the courage to admit they didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know The Lord because they were so filled with their own pride. They never admitted to a lack of wisdom and as a result, they never experienced the power of The Holy Spirit’s help.

When we surrender and embrace humility, admitting our weakness, especially in desperate times, we discover how we feel at the end of our prayer is so much more important than how we feel at the start. When we finish by declaring Who He is over what we know, we find we’ve received the help, comfort, direction and completion we need. It is in times when prayer is hard that we only need the Ear of The One who made us. As George Maloney writes in his book, In Jesus We Trust:

Our very weakness, when recognized, can become our strength as we lovingly surrender to God in all things. Any trials that come to us must be accepted joyfully as we place our hope in our weakness in God.

Don’t be afraid to pray today – especially if you don’t know what to say. Just pour out your heart in Jesus’ Name, The Spirit will transmit your prayers right to up to God!

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