At a Loss for Prayer
Author Tim Smith
Tim returns to write for Hope after spending 2018-2019 as Hope's Youth Director. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene with a degree in Bible and Ministry. He and his wife Vanessa live in Chicago.
As a Christian, I am often asked to pray in many situations. Many, though, are unaware that leading in prayer is something I do not always enjoying doing. Not because I don’t fully love leading others into God’s presence but because I often feel (like the disciples) at a loss on how to pray (Luke 11:1).
Recently, I was asked to pray over a Zoom call with people about our current COVID situation. Once again, I sat in a situation wondering "How do I pray for something like this? What would I say or ask of my Lord and Savior during this time?"
There are a number of ways we can respond to our struggle to "know what to pray". First, I should point out that praying is much more than speaking, (even if speaking is often part of it.) One method to help us in our verbal prayers is to read prayers from Christians before us. The beauty is that it connects us with the community of believers, both those living now and those who have passed before us. We also can read the Psalms which are hymns and prayers of the Israelites.
For the Zoom call, this is where I went.
As I searched the Scriptures I found Psalm 143 which reads:
“Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my plea! Answer me because of you are faithful and righteous. I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. I remember the days of olds. Come quickly, LORD, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you” (v. 1, 4-5, 7-8).
While these words were not my own, I felt that the Psalmist embodied much of what I was experiencing. The search for hope, the problem of fear, nostalgia for the days of old, problems with mental health, and the need to know that God’s love is still present. After reading this Psalm and praying it on Zoom, I decided to look at the next two Psalms written by the same author.
Psalm 145, had a very different tone then the two before it in it’s verses:
“The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. All of your works will thank you, LORD, and your faithful followers of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign. For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The LORD always keep his promises; he is gracious in all he does" (v. 8-14).
Psalm 143 and 145 obviously have two very different tones. 143 came from a place of need in the midst of trial while 145 came from a place of praise after a trial. I believe that as Christians living through the COVID-19 Pandemic (or other trials), we ought to have prayers like Psalm 143; prayers of genuine honesty with our God. At the same time, we are to anticipate that we will come to a time when our prayers transform into those like Psalm 145. This is what these two Psalms and these two prayers shape in us; recognition of our present sufferings and expectations for a glorious future.
So pray an honest prayer. Are you losing hope? Are you full of fear? Is you depression deepening? Pray these things in full unashamed honesty. In the midst do not forget that "the Lord always keep his promises, he is gracious in all he does." Anticipate those promises and let us experience hope in our present suffering.