Prayer, the right way

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,

with sorrow in my heart every day?

How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

…But I trust in your unfailing love.

I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

Psalm 13:1, 5

The excerpt above from a Psalm of David perfectly captures the simultaneous feelings of despair and hope that sometimes plague believers. On one hand, we know intellectually that God is good (all the time) and will never leave or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). On the other hand, circumstances of life can sometimes feel so unbearably heavy and crushing that it is tempting to wonder if the former hand is really true.

During his earthly life, Jesus uttered tearful prayers and appeals to God, and he was heard because of his reverence. Hebrews 5:8 says that even though he was the Son of God, he learned obedience from what he suffered.

These days suffering is a tough topic for us because our culture is hyper-focused on preventing anything to do with pain, suffering, or discomfort. In that focus, we forget about the benefit of suffering to our souls.

God wants to hear our prayers. The Bible tells us in countless places that God’s ears are open to the prayers of the upright, meaning people who turn away from evil in reverence to God. The Bible also provides example upon example of believers who cried out in the midst of their circumstances:

  • Daniel confessed sins to God on behalf of Israel and Jerusalem, urgently asking forgiveness and mercy: Daniel 9: 4-6; 9-10;18-19
  • King Hezekiah and the nation of Israel faced dizzying odds when several nations ganged up to destroy them:  2 Kings 19: 14-19; 34-35
  • Hannah was desperate to pour her heart out to the Lord, after being unfairly treated for her childless state: 1 Samuel 2: 1-10
  • Jesus knew what he was facing and cried out in surrender for the strength to obey: Mathew 26: 38-41

Take a moment to look these up in your Bible. Go to your room and shut out all distractions for 5 minutes. Feel the pages as you turn to each verse. Quiet your mind and read. Every one of these prayers was actually prayed by a living breathing person, desperate for God’s intervention. We notice that these prayers:

Are prayed in faith (James 1:6)

Recall God’s prior faithfulness (Deuteronomy 4:39)

Rejoice in what God will do in the future (Zephaniah 3:17)

True God-honoring prayer is first and foremost a declaration of trust.

We may or may never see the end result we are hoping for in our prayers. We trust that God sees, hears, knows, and will act according to his justice one day. 

Sometimes we are asked to let go and allow ourselves to be “blindly led”, in the sense that we cannot see the future or understand its purpose. As we allow the holy Spirit its sanctifying work in our souls, we realize that in fact, receiving what we ask for is not the true point of praying in the first place.

One of my favorite verses is when Joshua echoes Moses’s exhortation to the Israelites, telling them essentially, that they need to “pick a side”:

But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

My answer to that determines where my trust lies. God asks for all or none of our hearts (Revelation 3:16; Psalm 91:14). 

Friend, where do you stand?

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