When We Pray

I made a remark recently in a sermon that I hadn't planned to make.  I caught myself by surprise when I heard myself say the words because I had never actually thought them through.  They just slid out of my mouth before I knew it, but once I said it, I immediately knew it was true.  Maybe you've felt this way before.


"I used to pray because I was supposed to.  It was a part of my daily spiritual check list.  But for the last few years, I've been praying because I have to.  I'm so desperate for God's help and God's presence that I don't even have to remind myself to pray.  It just happens naturally, all day long, because prayer is the only way I can make it through the day."


My weakness drove me to God in a way that strength and success never could.  I wonder how many of us have lost the element of desperation in our prayers?  I certainly tend to forget about how much I need God's strength in my life when things are going well and I feel confident in my own strength.  But when bad things begin happening, I am reminded of how powerless I actually am to do anything on my own without God's Spirit working in me and through me.


I think about our own nation and how strong we seem on the surface.  We have a military that is all but unstoppable.  We have weapons that can defend us against attack or wipe out entire continents with one launch of a nuclear missile.  We have the world's largest economy and our citizens enjoy the highest standard of living of any culture in human history.  Technology has allowed us to probe the depths of space, the depths of the oceans, and the depths of the human brain.  And yet, on a national scale, we lack the humility to admit that we are more vulnerable to moral decay than we are to military attack, more susceptible to arrogance than a cyber attack.  


As the National Day of Prayer approaches, let's pray for ourselves, our families, and our nations to regain a sense of desperation for our need for God.  We face mounting obstacles that only God can lead us through.  Global terrorism, crippling poverty, rampant immorality, political corruption, racism and pornography and addiction all remind us that ultimately, we face challenges that only God can can lead us through.  


The Norwegian theologian O. Hallesby wrote a book on prayer where he said, "Prayer is something deeper than words.  Prayer is helplessness.  As far as I can see, prayer has been ordained only for the helpless.  We try everything before we resort to prayer. but prayer and helplessness are inseparable.  Your helplessness is your best prayer.  It is the most powerful plea which rises up to the father heart of God.  To pray is to open the door unto Jesus and admit Him into your distress.  Do not be anxious about your helplessness.  But rather, thank God for it, because it is one of the greatest gifts He gives us.  Our helplessness opens our hearts to Jesus to help us in our distress according to His grace and mercy."


When we pray, we are admitting that we need God.  We are confessing that control is an illusion.  We are establishing intimacy with God through prayer.  We are interceding for those we love.  May God remind us of how much we desperately need Him, as individuals and as a nation.  May we call out to Him in humility and utter dependence, know that God alone can save and sustain us.