Saturday, November 20, 2010

When You're Just Too Miserable To Pray

How does one worship from the depths of despair or from a hospital bed?  When we’re at our lowest, how do we find the drive or energy to come to God in prayer? I’ve been fighting a valiant, although losing battle with the latest flu/cold virus and succumbed to it’s nasty clutches over a week ago. As I lay immobile on the couch, sweating from the fever and popping throat lozenges and cough drops  as though they were Lindt chocolate truffles rather than some horrible tasting medicated sugar concoction, I wondered how people find the energy or motivation to come to God in prayer when life has thrown them into a pit of misery or despair. I certainly felt as though I was in my own personal pit, although I understand that a week long battle with a flu virus is very minor compared to a life long battle with cancer, multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, Alzheimer’s, depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, anorexia, abuse or any other number of illnesses or struggles that threaten to cast people into their own pits of despair.

Prior to getting sick I was doing so well, having my quiet Bible reading and prayer time with God.   That ended abruptly when all I was interested in doing was lying on the couch and pressing play on the remote control for the DVD player hoping it would whisk me into a world of oblivion while watching repeats of the  1990’s hit sitcom “Home Improvements”. What happened to my drive and desire to spend time with God? Somewhere deep inside I felt the tiniest flicker of that drive but the energy to take action and pray just wasn’t there. The best I seemed to manage was a silent prayer in my mind thanking God for each day and praying that the next one would be better.

I’ve wrestled with this question since, “how do we pray when we’re just too sick or too depressed?” and I’m not sure that I’ve really got a satisfactory answer. I think the ability to worship God and continue prayerfully when we’re living in pits of despair comes from developing a strong, close relationship with God outside of the pit. If we work at developing this close relationship in the good times, it becomes easier for us to look to God and trust in His goodness when times become more difficult.  Remember, we have the Holy Spirit on our side. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Roman 8:26 NIV) When all you’ve got to offer God is “wordless groans” (and there were a lot of those on the couch last week) remember that He is with you always. The Holy Spirit is there, offering prayers up to God when you can’t find the energy or words to do it yourself.

Another important aspect of Christianity is living in community. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or family to share your problems. Find a person you feel comfortable with, someone you trust,  and share your struggles with them. Ask them to intercede in prayer for you. When we can’t pray ourselves, the community of faith steps in to pray for us. Sharing our struggles and problems with other people isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of a supportive community who cares for one another as Christ cares for us. Make sure that you are open to listening to someone today. Take the time to be a compassionate listener, to pray with someone close to you and to make a difference in someone’s life.

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