If you were given an extra day each week, how would you use it? To read books, volunteer with a charity, perhaps catch up on sleep? In truth, I’d probably spend that extra day working. While I enjoy what I do, I don’t think that’s the healthiest of confessions.
One of my favorite Old Testament professors once shared this startling statistic: 40 percent of the psalms in the Bible are songs of lament in which the authors present their heartache and pain to God. But in the catalog of modern worship music, only 5 percent of songs could be considered lament, even by the most generous standards. My prof believes that part of the reason we don’t know how to lament is because modern worship tends to focus more on celebration and less on lamentation.
At times I’m hesitant to invite others to pray for me. If, for example, I say, “Please pray for me, I’m experiencing a spiritual attack in a certain area,” do I sound arrogant? Do I sound as if I think I’ve done something so important the enemy’s trying to stop me? Am I possibly calling something a spiritual attack that’s actually a consequence of something I’ve done or haven’t done? Will friends and ministry partners grow weary of repeated requests for prayer? Are my prayer needs too personal to share?
If you watch Orthodox Jews pray at the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, you might wonder about the leather band wrapped around their forearms and the box strapped to their heads. The objects are called the tefillin, worn during a prayer ritual that some believe dates back to the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 6:6-8). The process to don the tefillin is very elaborate and must be performed in an exacting manner. This illustrates that in Jesus’ time, Jewish prayer was very focused on the “how”—praying in a specific way.
A pastor went to a local coffee shop and placed a sign that read “Free Prayer” on his table. Soon a customer asked the minister to pray for a need. Since then, the pastor has gone to a coffee shop weekly to intercede for others. Some pour out their hearts, such as a man whose wife had left him and who had lost several friends and family to death. Regarding this man and others, the pastor states, “Sometimes we have to move beyond the shadows of a steeple to take care of our people.”
Sometimes I receive unexpected Facebook messages from people I haven’t talked to in a long time or from those I don’t know well. Some ask me about what it takes to be a writer or if I’d be willing to read something they’ve written. Others message me with prayer requests or life updates. But every now and then, I get a message of encouragement or unexpected good news. Someone thought of me, appreciated me, and simply wanted to tell me! Sometimes they want to know if I’ll use my gifts to minister in their church or ministry. It’s good news right out of the blue—totally unexpected.
Evangelist George Mueller was on a ship when a thick fog settled over the ocean. It was Wednesday, and Mueller told the captain he had to be to his destination by Saturday. “Impossible,” he said. Mueller then bowed in prayer. When he stood up, the captain asked if he too could pray. “No,” Mueller said. “First, you do not believe He will answer; and second, I believe He has. And there is no need whatever for you to pray about it. . . . Get up, captain, and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.” Indeed, it had vanished.
As shots rang out, assistant high school football coach Frank Hall had to choose whether to run toward or away from the sound. This self-proclaimed “regular guy”—afraid of confrontations, heights, roller coasters, and scary movies, and who practically jumps through the ceiling when his kids startle him—chose to charge the gunman, his voice booming, “Stop! Stop!” The 17-year-old gunman, who had already killed three students and wounded three more in the school, was startled by Hall’s blitz. He shot at Hall, missed, and then ran outside, where police apprehended him on a nearby road.
Who do you turn to in moments of deep distress? Some seek the counsel and comfort of family—a spouse, parents, siblings; and some call on close friends. We appreciate the words of advice, but mostly the comforting presence of those who know us. It’s reassuring to know that we don’t have to go it alone.
Jesus knew His Father couldn’t grant His request, yet He prayed it anyway. He had to die on the cross to save us, yet He still pled with His Father to take away “this cup of suffering” (Luke 22:42). Why did Jesus pray when He knew the answer was No? He prayed because of the sheer terror that lay before Him (Luke 22:44). Jesus prayed because prayer isn’t primarily about getting what we want. It’s about our relationship with our heavenly Father.
My husband’s job offer was a welcome answer to prayer, allowing him to spend more time with our family. It required a big move though—the third in 7 years. His work had previously taken us to the Middle East and South Africa, and now, with the prospect of returning to England, we felt cautiously excited. In the midst of all the logistics, important decisions, piles of paperwork that had to be completed, and the packing of all our belongings into shipping boxes, we also had an overwhelming sense of God’s “perfect peace.”
I’m a late convert to the Lord’s Prayer. Unlike others, I didn’t grow up reciting it regularly at church or school. Only recently have I discovered its power as a daily prayer. And when I get to the line “Give us today the food we need” (Matthew 6:11), three things strike me:
What if you were asked to write your failures on a wall for everyone to see? What if the person doing the asking was your boss? That’s exactly what happens every day at Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Jeff Stibel, chief executive officer, came up with the Failure Wall. Stibel encourages his employees to write their failures on the 10-by- 15-foot surface in order to succeed in their work and in life.
Most of us know someone for whom life has been particularly hard. Maybe they live with chronic pain, have faced the loss of a child, or have faced multiple adversities. Perhaps you’ve been in this place too. If so, you’ll know that dealing with these challenges can be spiritually depressing. We want God to intervene, but He hasn’t. And that can leave us feeling sad, lonely, and angry.