“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Suffering and prayer

 I was watching a TV show last night. In it, a couple was separated. As children, there was a scene where they were hiding from school authorities by lying on their backs in a field. At a poignant moment, the boy reaches over and holds the girl's hand. Later, they are best friends. When they are separated from each other, each lays in bed thinking of that event of holding the other's hand. Each  reaches out their hand to a space next to them and thinks of the other but no one is there. They are each completely helpless.

As I watched that, I felt sad. There was nothing they could do but sadly think about their missing friend and whether they would see them again. They could do nothing to help the other and perhaps alleviate whatever they might be facing.

I have been in that place where I knew of the suffering of friends and others that I love. But there was something that I could do. I could pray. Prayer is always a good practice. But particularly when you are in a place where there is nothing else that you can do, God provides something extremely powerful that you can do. You can pray. That is a big comfort! You have the ability to boldly approach God and ask him to intervene in a situation (Hebrews 4:16). You ask him for his will to be done (Mark 14:36). You ask him to comfort and give grace to those who are going through a difficult time (2 Corinthians 12:9). You ask him to help you and those for whom you are praying to not worry (Philippians 4:6).

People will also sometimes say, there was nothing I could do but pray. Can you see that prayer is the first and the best thing you could do? Of course when there are other ways to assist, we should try to do those things. However, prayer should not be minimized.

A hard right turn...

I worry about the direction our country is going in. We are moving away from foundational principles like freedom of speech. I talk about this in my university classes, but otherwise I am not sure what to do. But the Bible tells us what we can do. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 the Lord said the following to Solomon.

...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Notice it says "if MY people, who are called by MY name, will humble themselves and pray..." We have power to change our direction. The answer is not whining and condemnation of others. A major part of the answer is people's prayer.



Anonymous said...

Although a woman of faith, I can think of a few situations where fear and pain have been so overwhelming in me that prayer brought me little to no relief. Both of these times I had a loved one in the hospital after a tragic accident with long waiting periods of time(weeks) before we would know whether they would make it. Every single time my family and friends would come and pray with me and leave me small prayer books to comfort me. I would go in and out of moments of extreme faith- truly believing God could do anything and restore my loved ones fully. I would then be overwhelmed by suffering, and no prayer or verse could be understood by my logical thought process and sadly, my heart was broken to where prayer didn’t even make sense there either.

In my bouts of extreme faith and complete helplessness, both situations resulted in my family members coming out victorious with their health restored.

I think about Hebrew 11:1-3 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible”

Every time I think about these terrible moments. Sometimes I feel guilt for my moments of weakness. But after all, I am human. I know that the faith everyone had in those moments strengthened my loved ones. As life will continue to bring difficult moments and challenges , I now know that the best thing I can do when someone is in so much suffering that their faith feels faulty is pray for them. Just like that was done for me.

Anonymous said...

I can completely sympathize with being in the position that all you can do is pray. Where you feel that the earth has literally been unearthed from underneath you. I have felt that desperation where the only thing you can do is pray and have belief that a force greater than yourself has the grace to forgive you. Ultimately so you can forgive yourself.
But I also knew that the place I was, I was not going to get out on prayer alone. What does James 2:26 say… “… faith with out works is dead.” I had to put one foot in front of the other and although things were rough, and times looked bleak. If I just prayed alone, nothing was going to change. Nothing was going to progress, and it would be safe to just say, “I am praying”, as if I was waiting on God. That is not reality, I had to take myself out of bad situations, take accountability for my actions and be willing to do the work. Too many people have begun to just take the safe route and not actually be willing to do any of the work. It takes too much … work. Praying at least sends good vibes. Whatever that means!

kslagle said...

As I was reading this post, I was reflecting on my own prayer and faith journey. It can be very difficult to lift my struggles up to God before taking other routes of trying to "fix" or "help" myself and those that I love. While I fully believe in God's faithfulness to hear my prayers and comfort me through hardship, I struggle to let go of control and release everything to Him in prayer. It can also be discouraging to think that the only thing I can do to help someone I love is to pray because in my human mind, it doesn't feel like I'm doing enough even though calling on the name of Jesus is the most I can ever really do. Then, when God does not answer my prayers the way I want, it takes the greatest faith to continue to trust in His faithfulness and goodness knowing that He never changes or fails us even when we don't understand. I want to grow in my prayer life to continue believing in the power of prayer even when the outcome isn't as I have hoped. Great reflection and thought provoking commentary.

Anonymous said...

I got a bit emotional when reading this entry. It made me think back to some of the most painful moments of my life, and the out of control feeling that came with those moments. It also reminded me of the amount of separation and loss we’ve all felt over the past few years. I was raised as a devout Catholic; so Catholic that my aunt was a Carmelite nun for the better part of 30 years. When our family faced a loss, we joined together and prayed. It was all we knew. For example, when we were losing my grandfather in 2017, we all brought our rosaries and prayed multiple glorious mysteries together. We did this over a period of 4-5 days before he passed. It brought a sense of peace to his death. This event brings to mind 2 Corinthians 5:8 - We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. This verse brought my family a lot of peace as we faced the death of our family patriarch. It helped us deal with the loss of control we all feel in difficult times. We could only pray.

Anonymous said...

As others described, this blog post made me rather emotional. I was adopted at 17 by a beautiful family. However, I greatly miss and think about my birth mother multiple times throughout the day. When I was adopted, I met Jesus. This completely changed my life and my worldview. When you described the comfort that can be found in prayer, I was reminded that although I may not be able to take away the pain and heartbreak that my mother has experienced, I can pray for her. Life can be very challenging, and I'd be lying if I haven't experienced the feeling of helplessness. Knowing that prayer is actually real and powerful helps me more deeply connect with the idea that God is all powerful. I am grateful to serve a creator who not only knows who I am but cares for me, and for those that I love.
Phil 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything make your requests to God"

Anonymous said...

When reading this blog post I was quite sad because I know the experience of losing a close friend. I think those that are suffering need friendship even more but usually people don't stick around. It pains me how self-centered we can be and will only stay in a friendship as long as it serves us. We need to consider others and how much they could benefit from our companionship. Friendships have gotten me through some of the hardest parts of my life. Friends can offer advice, encouragement and laughter. Sometimes all we need is for a good friend to be present with us during difficult times and offer that simple companionship.

On a separate note, I agree that prayer should be our first response to all situations. Prayer is powerful in changing situations and our perspectives. I think anyone that is suffering would benefit from a friend praying for them. We also should be praying for those that we don't even know. Prayer releases anxiety and is a great way to help those around. Sometimes prayer is the only thing we can do but other times action should precede our prayers. We should be ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Anonymous said...

As mentioned in the posts, sometimes the only thing you can do is pray however, prayer shouldn't be minimized. It is through the most difficult times that we pray and ask God for guidance and help to overcome obstacles. However, we should be praying to God in every moment of our lives the successes and the lessons. When others need us we should do everything we can to help them in addition to the prayers. It is crucial to pray to God to guide them through their distresses and to guide you to help them through a difficult time. Prayers to God are the most powerful way to help others. We must recognize that every obstacle in our path has a purpose that God put forth in our lives. As important as it is to pray for yourself and for others, it is also important to be grateful to Him for all the success and lessons learned throughout life. Just as every human being has a purpose in life, so do all the obstacles and learning curves thrown into our lives.

Anonymous said...

These days I feel like I'm in the old testament in terms of both the trouble and the Power of God I'm experiencing. This is season of my life I've lost my mother, struggle with her passing in my grief, develop PTSD from her passing , and I could list even more. The thing I find myself most happy in is knowing that know God. At 35, I've seen too much of the goodness of God and prayer is the biggest thing I've learned on during this extraordinary and unpleasant chapter of my life.
I clicked immediately with this statement you wrote:"But particularly when you are in a place where there is nothing else that you can do, God provides something extremely powerful that you can do. You can pray. " I am very much living in that world now. A world where I'm helplessness to heal my broken heart or regain a zest for life. I cannot but God can. I've been very bold in my prayers lately as I stand in my intimate knowledge of him and his promises. I find in full of faith and a childlike confidence in Who God is and it's been liberating. God is a living God. I'm so grateful that my parents taught me how to pray and now I can fully approach a God i cannot see but I know he is there when I come boldly to the throne of grace.