Focal Passage: Rom. 8:12-17, 26-27
Sometimes we just can’t pray.
Dennis Apple is a staff minister at a Nazarene church in Kansas. His book, Life after the Death of My Son, chronicles his journey of doubt and faith when his teenage son died unexpectedly.
Apple was in “a spiritual fog,” unable to pray or read the Bible, feeling abandoned by God, just going through the motions of ministry.
At the same time he was afraid that if his church people found out how he really felt, he’d be fired.
Eventually, though, he decided to tell his story to the congregation in worship.
What surprised him was the support he received, and the number of people who came to him afterward seeking pastoral care, needing to tell their own stories of spiritual crisis.
It’s more common than we think, or would like to admit. But we shouldn’t be surprised.
We are not compartmentalized people.
What affects us mentally, emotionally and physically can also affect us spiritually. Sometimes we just can’t pray.
Other times we can, but we’re not sure what we should pray for.
I visited a neighbor, a member of another church, in the hospital.
He was an elderly man, near death after a long illness. The family asked me to pray.
I prayed realistically, asking for the patient the peace of God and the hope of heaven, and for the family endurance and comfort.
After the “Amen,” a family member grabbed me urgently by the arm and pleaded, as much with her eyes as with her words: “You didn’t pray for him to get well!”
It’s the only time I’ve ever been asked to redo a prayer.
So what to pray for? For the man to “depart and be with Christ,” as I did the first time, or for him to “remain in the flesh” on account of his family (Phil. 1:23-24)? Is “Thy will be done” sufficient? What’s best? Who knows?
The Bible says God “looks upon the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7), and “even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, You know it completely” (Ps. 139:4).
Prayer is not a matter of giving God information He otherwise wouldn’t have. Prayer is a relationship. It’s placing ourselves in God’s presence, at God’s disposal, and in God’s hands.
When sense and expression fail, when we don’t know what to pray for, when all we can cry is “Abba! Father!” or the best we can manage is “sighs too deep for words,” God hears (8:15, 26-27).
It may be the most eloquent and effective prayer of all.