When I see this photo of our youngest granddaughter, especially on days when I’m in pain, the picture reminds me of the proverb that “Laughter does us good, like a medicine.” Sometimes humor can ease life’s trials, but when the affliction does deeper, where do we turn to find hope and peace? When we experience suffering, everything from the textbooks springs from the page and morphs into bold strokes of reality. We cling to something or someone as we cry out in pain.
Having had over sixty years to deal with a variety of physical trials and some emotional/spiritual issues, I look for ways to secure my hope to Christ. At the present time, I turn to five places, one which I’ll explain today.
Weaving the Word into prayer allows God to speak directly to my heart. Take a passage such as Psalm 5, a good one if your trial involves someone who currently makes your life miserable.
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing.
2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.
6 You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.
7 But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies — make straight your way before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.
10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
When Christians suffer, or are under attack, we must take refuge in the Lord as our righteous defender…not Oprah, not WebMD, not a lawyer, not a self-help book. When we start there, we are looking for relief in all the wrong places! In verses 1-3 we learn we can pray honestly and personally. We come in need from the opening phrase where we beg our Lord, King, God to listen to us. This is intensely personal.
While the NIV uses the word sighing, other translations use groaning. The Hebrew for the word means “a barely audible voice, a low moan. The idea meant in the original? There’s nothing but pain in this sound. Been there? Whether our pain is emotional, physical or a mental and spiritual, we can be reduced to no words. Sometimes we think that we can’t pray at all because we hurt too much. We know I Cor 10:13, that “no temptation has seized us except that which is common to man,” but we struggle to process the truth of the well known verse. Although I’ll talk about orderliness in prayer in a minute, please know that Jesus always meet people where they were. Start by crying out to the God who does not extinguish a smoldering wick or snap off a half broken reed.
Verse 3 also repeats the phrase “in the morning.” The repeated phrase indicates persistence. Any severe trial consumes us and threatens to swallow us whole. As soon as the trial surfaces again, pray or cry out to God. The groaning and moaning we utter to the Lord will move us toward more organized prayers, whether we use The Lord’s Prayer, ACTS, or one the Lord gives us personally. Orderliness moves our prayers and thoughts beyond ourselves. We start to pray more systematically, more expectantly.
When I retired two years ago, the Lord gave me the framework of HOPE through a piece of artwork I had, and the cry of my heart that the Lord would refresh my prayer life. I begin to focus on the holiness of God, to envision Him as high and lifted up. Magnifying the Lord makes Him the centerpiece of the conversation we’re having. As I concentrate on His holiness, I open my sinful self to Him and acknowledge more of my heart. At this point I try to sit quietly for part of the time and allow Christ to show me my flaws. Facades come off as His holiness lays bare the agendas I have brought to our time together. Before long I find praises flow to God for who He is and all Christ accomplishes for me on a daily basis. What follows are requests for His eternal purposes in various situations going on in my life and in the lives of others. This last part changed many of my requests from “Lord please heal…” to Lord, I trust that You have eternal purposes for this person, the family, the medical staff, the visitors. I seek His will and gain a greater sense of expectancy, because I cried for help as verse 3 says. Tomorrow we’ll continue to pray/study through Psalm 5. May you seek Him today in your pain.
That’s an illustration of how to use scripture as a template for prayer.