The Depths of Anguish

desperate-prayer“Can I help you?” It’s a common question. We hear it all the time. Whether it’s in our local store or on the phone with a customer service rep half way around the world, we all have heard some well-meaning person ask us how they can help. And, much of the time, these folks do a great job providing us assistance. They point us in the direction of the item we’re looking for or they help us solve an issue with our computer or with our phone bill. It’s great to get the help we need. But, where do we go with the stuff that bigger than all of these kinds of things? Where to we go with our fears and our heartaches? To whom can we turn when the stuff of life is just too much for us to bear?

In the opening chapter of 1 Samuel, a childless woman name Hannah is in the temple praying. As she pours out her heart, she silently mouths her prayer. The priest on duty accuses her of being drunk and asks her to leave. Hannah replies, “No, my lord…I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord. Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment” (1 Samuel 1:15-16, CSB).

I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord…I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.

Hannah knew where to take her heartache. She knew who to call with her anguish and resentment. She poured her heart out to God. She cries out of the depth of her anguish, so caught up in it that she’s oblivious to the fact that others are even watching her.

Many of us can identify with this kind of struggle. We know what it is to feel so burdened and overwhelmed that it’s hard to know what to do or we to go. Paralysis sets in and we find ourselves stuck in place with no idea what to do next. Whereas Hannah took these burdens to God, so many of us let our burdens crush our souls. We carry that weight and brokenness like a badge of martyrdom, completely unwilling (or perhaps unable) to let them go. We talk to friends and family about it. We post about it on social media. We might even ask others to pray about it. But for some reason, we fail to truly take them to God praying from the depth of our anguish and resentment. God is the one who can truly work in these heart-breaking, gut-wrenching situations. He’s the one who can offer help when we feel so helpless.

So, open up with God. Be honest with Him. Pour your heart out to Him. Be vulnerable. Show your brokenness. Pray from the depth of your anguish and resentment. Take these things to your loving Heavenly Father and trust that He will work in them for your best and His glory. Whatever the burden, however large or overwhelming it may seem, He can help you. He may not move in the way you’d like, but you can go to Him. Don’t be hesitant. Cry out to God, praying from the depths of your emotion and heartache. And, as you do, trust that He is able to help you in your despair. Have confidence in Him because he is bigger than whatever it is we bring to Him. He indeed can help.

Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. Hebrews 4:16, CSB

Tips to Improve Your Prayer Life

prayer20on20rock20silhouetteWe see throughout Scripture the importance of prayer. It is called for and modeled by Old Testament saints and prophets alike. Likewise, Jesus not only calls us to prayer, He also teaches us to pray and models for us a life of prayer. The early church was filled with praying believers.

So, with that said, let’s take a moment to look at some simple steps that can help strengthen our prayer lives.

Establish a time and place so you can get alone and eliminate distractions. It’s best if we can carve out some time each day to spend alone with God free from distractions. So, find the time that works best for you. People are seen praying throughout the Bible at different times and in different postures. God is more concerned that we spend time in prayer than what time we pray and He’s more concerned with the posture of our hearts than our bodies. Whatever hour might work best in your life, set it aside and make it a priority. Turn off the television and put your phone away. Try to eliminate as many distractions as possible so you can spend some time connecting with our Heavenly Father.

Remember that prayer is communication. It’s a conversation with God. For many of us, we try to find a balance between conversation and reverence/respect. Because we do, we tend to drift into “prayerspeak.” Through the years I’ve heard many people talk one way and then pray another. It’s like they’re speaking an entirely different language. Try to avoid this.

2013-10-02-lord-just1

original carton can be found here and is from the site Adam4d.com

As you pray, spend some time in silence. Allow God to stir in the stillness of the moment. It’s often in our quiet moments of reflection that God brings things to our mind to challenge and comfort us.

Speak openly and honestly with God. Don’t try to impress Him. He knows our feelings and emotions. He knows if we’re afraid or anxious. He knows if we’re angry. Acknowledge to Him and ask Him to help you move through those feelings. When we read the Psalms, we see the struggles of the psalmists. We also see the struggles of the prophets as they confessed they didn’t understand what was going on around them. Let’s strive to avoid the dangers of pretentious praying (Matthew 6:5-8). As we do this, it is helpful to remember that the Spirit prays with us and for us (Romans 8:26).

If we’re honest, we know that sometimes our prayer life becomes stale. We run out of things to say or we just repeat the same things over and over. Here are a few suggestions that can help us move beyond this.

  • Use the ACTS acronym – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication
  • Follow the pattern Jesus puts forth in The Model Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)
  • Pray Scripture, particularly Psalms – Donald Whitney has written a marvelous book on this entitled Praying the Bible (as a matter fact, anything by Donald Whitney is worth reading).
  • Perhaps it might help you to write our your prayers or to record them in a journal. You can do this in a hard copy or digitally. Day One, Evernote, OneNote, or any word processor (Word, Pages, Google Docs) can be a great tool for this.
  • Learn to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Take advantage of the moments here and there and pray whenever something…or someone comes to mind.
  • Pray through your calendar.
  • Prayer walking. Walk through your neighborhood praying as you go. This is a great way to pray for the people around you. Pray 4 Every Home is a great resource you can use in this endeavor.

Whatever method or plan, time or posture, tool or resource, the important thing is to pray. So, spend some time today connecting with God through prayer.

Something to Say

Blogging is an interesting phenomenon. It many ways, it’s the height of narcissism. I mean, who really cares what I have to say about something. I’m not an expert in much, and in the areas I do know fairly well, there are countless people who know more than I do and whose opinions can be better communicated. In other ways, however, blogging can be therapeutic for both the writer and the reader (well, hopefully for the reader). Sometimes I write for others. Sometimes I write for me. Sometimes I write for both.

One of the challenges of blogging is consistency. To be frank, sometimes it’s hard to know what to write. Other times it’s hard to know how to write it. And occasionally, there’s the fear of not being able to communicate what’s on your heart for fear of being misunderstood or misapplied. I made a commitment when I started this blog that I wasn’t going to let the pressure of having to write something rob the joy I felt when I did write something.

With all of that said, I’m thankful that God doesn’t need me to put together three or four well written paragraphs in order to communicate with Him. I can pour out my heart in prayers that are deep and wordy and I can pour out my prayers in short utterances that are often dotted with the phrase “You have to help me ’cause I don’t know what to do or say…” And sometimes, I can pour out my heart without saying much at all. In all of this, I rest in the promise that He is my Heavenly Father who knows what I have need of before I even ask (Matthew 6:8)  and that He always has my best interest at heart (Romans 8:28). I don’t have to impress Him. I don’t have to be eloquent or profound with Him. I can just be honest with Him. And so can you. Don’t let the fear of not knowing what to say keep you from saying something. Be open. Be honest. Be real. Embrace the privilege of pouring out your heart to the creator and sustainer of the universe. It’s not as hard as it seems. You’ll be amazed that once you start, you’ll probably find something to say.

” pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)

Crisis Management

We live in the era of the crisis. It seems like every day we’re told of some new cataclysmic event. We’re either facing a security crisis or a privacy crisis or an economic crisis. Every weather forecast predicts some new looming meteorological crisis. The word is so over used that we’ve almost become immune to it…except for the fact that we all have to deal with the reality of the crises that hit our lives.

The thing that makes a crisis so difficult is that it seems overwhelming and beyond our control It’s too big for us. We can handle a leaky faucet. We simply ignore the constant drip-drip coming from the kitchen or we replace a washer and solve the problem. No big deal. A burst pipe, on the other hand, is a different story. We lack the tools and the expertise to solve a problem of that size. One’s a problem…a nuisance. The other is a crisis. Too big and too complex for us to overcome on our own. So, what are we to do?

Whatever shape or form our crisis comes in, there are a few things we can do to get through them. For one, we can pray it through. When things are bigger than us, we’d do well to find someone bigger than them to help us. God is our refuge and our strength (Psalm 46:1). We can turn to him to vent, to cry, to plead, and to find solace and empowerment. In Him, we find the resources we need to deal with our crises. In the midst of your storm, take some time to talk to the one who can calm the waves. Be open and honest with Him. Be vulnerable. Read the Psalms and see how David cried out in difficult times. Look at Jesus in the Garden and see how He poured His heart out to the Father the night before His death. Don’t try to manage it on your own. Let God in and let Him help.

Second, we can press it through. In other words, we keep moving forward. I know this sounds crazy. Sometimes the problems we face seem so big they just paralyze us. We don’t know how to move on through the pain or the fear. The reality is we have no choice. We have to keep moving. Time doesn’t stand still and neither can we. God still desires to use us in the midst of whatever trials we may face. Quitting is not an option. In the midst of our crises, we may find new people to whom we can minister and share the love of Jesus. We may learn new ways to touch lives. We may encounter new and exciting ways that God reveals His glory and power.

Third, we can praise it through. Take some time each day to thank God for what He’s done in the midst of your crisis. Some days it may seem as if he’s done nothing. We may go to bed that night and say everything is exactly where it was this morning. But, that’s not true. Even if the crisis is still there, it’s one day closer to being over. God has brought us through one more day of difficulty. He’s met our needs one more day in the midst of our struggling finances. He’s given us one more day of peace in the midst of strained relationships. He’s given us one more opportunity to be with an ailing loved one. Sometimes one more day is a big deal and we can be thankful for it. So, stop and praise for what God has done today in the crises of your life.

So when the leaky faucets of life turn into burst pipes, pray to the One who is bigger than our problems. Keep pressing forward through those problems. And, as you do, pause and praise God for how He’s worked in them today. These steps may not solve our crises (although I wouldn’t underestimate the power of prayer), but they will definitely help us manage them.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1-3 ESV)

Get Real

I love the sheer honesty of this verse:  “‘I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.’ And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night” (1 Samuel 15:11, ESV).  Samuel was angry. He cried to The Lord all night. No games. No pretense. He wasn’t trying to impress God. Sheer emotional honesty before His Lord and God. If we can’t be honest with an omniscient (all-knowing) God, with whom can we be?  Quit trying to impress God. Be honest. Be open. Get real with Him and see how He can work in your life.