Check out the featured post here: https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/when-all-i-can-do-is-pray.html
Last week, I hit a place that many of you know well. It is a place familiar to all of us but liked by few. Dark, dingy, and less than stellar, it is one I think we would rather avoid in life than have day after day. Nevertheless, these dark places of rock bottom are what test and strengthen our faith the most.
Peering back at my face in the mirror, I shook my head. Tear droplets rolled down my cheeks like the soft dew of morning grass. I tasted their bitter emotion as I wiped the stinging beads away and tried to collect myself for the day. But it was no use. The tears kept flowing. And my week continued to break as the dam engulfed me with rushing waters.
After losing my dog Chance, I was emotionally exhausted. I had lost my best friend and didn’t know how to cope. Grief is a funny thing that comes in waves. Some of them are pleasant. They make us laugh as we gently jump over their ebbs and flows. Others down us out to sea. They are suffocating, filling our lungs with so much saltwater we cannot breathe. Both are a part of this life.
Gripping the sink, I tried to get more than a grasp on myself, but on life. My head was swirling in anxieties, and I did not know how to keep up. How to keep me from drowning.
As my week progressed, so did the depth of my rock bottom. I felt alone. My mental health plummeted. Numerous blood tests and Doctor’s appointments left me weary and wounded with no answers. Undiagnosed diagnoses paralyzed my body, mind, and spirit. The distance between my friends and me widened my heart’s gap to belong. The disappointment of progress scattered my heart in a thousand pieces on the floor. I felt so shattered, broken, and damaged.
And for a moment, I began to believe that I was.
I bought into the lies that things would always be this way.
That I would never get better.
That no one wanted to be my friend.
I was a lost cause.
My faith had hit rock bottom.
For all I could do was pray.
In the book of Psalms, David expresses many feelings similar to my own. Moreso than any other narrative of the Scriptures, David is one I identify with closely. And why? Because while he expresses his emotions and circumstances, he does not allow them to contaminate his view of God or discourage his hopes for the future.
Psalm 129, verses 1-4 of the New International Version pens these words:
“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,” let Israel say; “they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me. Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long. But the Lord is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked” (Psalm 129, New International Version).
If you notice, David acknowledges his oppression. He does not come to God acting like everything is a rainbow and sunshine because it is not. Verse one clearly illustrates less than fortunate circumstances: People have oppressed me since I was young.
However, what I continually love about David’s psalms is not his willingness to be honest with the Lord about his circumstances but to redirect his gaze to the goodness and hopefulness of God despite them. David essentially says, “God, I am being persecuted. This sucks, and really hurts. But they have not gained the victory over me because you are the one writing my story.”
As Brandon Lake’s song Fear is not my Future indicates, “Fear is not my future; You are. Sickness is not my story; You are. Heartbreak’s not my home; You are. Death is not the end; You are.” And this is why David can say in verse two, “they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me” (Psalm 129:2, New International Version).
Like David or myself, maybe you are having days, weeks, months, and years of these dead-end, dark places. Your circumstances are overbearing, and all you want to do is run. The plows on your skin grow deeper and deeper to the point you can barely stand.
Physically. Socially. Emotionally. Relationally. Spiritually.
But know this.
The thought all I can do is pray is not a hopeless phrase we should utter, but a hopeful declaration of praise we should shout. It is not all I can do is pray; it is, “yes, Lord, all I can do is pray, and that is a good thing!”
Because I do not have control, I have to surrender. I cannot manipulate these circumstances, emotions, and heartbreaks, but you can! And even amid the things that break us and tear us apart, He is still good.
He is listening.
He wants to hear your prayers.
And He is able to answer them in His due time.
In James 5:16 of the English Standard Version, James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote these words: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16, English Standard Version). While I do not believe that my emotions and circumstances have been sinful in the past week, I do know that I have shared my raw heart with many, including the Lord, and that in the anticipated duration, healing will come.
Jesus did not give us prayer to use as a last resort of empty phrases when we feel low. Jesus gave us the gift of prayer for the “great power” it has “as it is working”. This is why Mark 11:24 writes, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24, English Standard Version).
Today, I still have a difficult time praying when I feel low. I struggle to see how there is power in something I cannot see and cannot control. But I believe the words of Jesus when He tells us to come to Him as we are, where we are, details in full:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, English Standard Version).
If all we can do is pray, I believe we are in good company.
If all we can do is utter sobs and cries, I believe He still hears us.
If all we can do is cry out His name in confusion and despair, I believe He comforts us.
Romans 8:26-28 of the New American Standard Bible reminds us, “Now in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:26-28, New American Standard Bible).
The circumstances do not have to be good for God to respond.
The words do not have to be pretty for Him to hear your heart.
The prayers do not have to make sense for Him to leave you with peace.
Because all He asks of us is to come to Him in prayer.
With open hearts, open minds, open ears, and open eyes.
If all we can do is pray, we are blessed to be able to do just that.