9th October 2017

Praying in Difficult Circumstances

And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought
always to pray and not lose heart.
~ Luke 18:1 (ESV) ~
Some circumstances are not only difficult but seem at
first almost impossible. I once asked a hospital chaplain
what he prayed when there was no hope of viable life for
the patient he was with. He replied that he had noticed in
John’s Gospel, chapter 12, that Jesus, having looked at
the grim destiny that awaited Him seemed to have a
moment of crisis: ‘Now is my soul troubled – what shall
I say?’ In the end, however, He steadied himself by
simply saying, ‘Father, glorify Thy name.’
‘That made sense,’ said the chaplain, ‘so whenever I find
myself at the bedside of someone who is alive but
beyond apparent recovery, I simply pray: “Father,
glorify Your name – in this person’s life.”’
That chaplain was right. When things are dark, we may
not know what to say or do, but God does, so we
acknowledge that and hand it to Him.
That ‘handing over’ takes us to our second point.
Scripture tells us that Jesus took authority over whatever
stood opposed to God’s good will for us. He then handed
that authority over to us. This means that when we are in
a dark place and feel assailed by trial and trouble, we
should not feel intimidated from taking command of the
situation in His name.
We start with an affirmation, such as, ‘Greater is He that
is in me than he that is in the world.’ In Jesus’ name we
bind whatever bad force is thwarting God’s benign will
for us; then we order it to be gone, and finally we hand
the situation over to God. Since we know He will take all
of it on His shoulders, that means if thereafter we still
have the stress of it, then we still haven’t given it all
to Him.
That brings us to a third point, which is to do with care
in the language we use in prayer at difficult times. When
Jesus spoke to situations, He did not use ‘if’ or ‘maybe’,
but – as in the raising of Lazarus – ‘Thank You Father,
that You have heard me.’ Clearly, our prayers are going
to be more effective when made from within an
atmosphere of positive, trust-filled language. Since we
walk by faith and not by sight, we take care to speak
words of life over even the most crushing and hopeless
of circumstances. What’s more, we keep on doing so.
As Churchill famously said in a speech in 1941,
‘Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never.’
Fourth, when a hard situation is troubling us and we turn
to our prayers, there’s something we perhaps need to
think about first, and that is that God rarely does
anything for us to keep us as we are. If all we want is for
something to go back to what it was, then we are
forgetting that in everything He is God the Creator, and
His engagements with us are almost always to move us
on. If we pray and feel He is not hearing us, it may be
because He knows that we are not ready to accept His
involvement as a means of going on.
So a good starting point is always to affirm that
whatever happens, we are prepared to accept His lead
on the matter. If that is a step too far, then we pray for
Him to work on our feelings, saying, ‘I am willing to
be willing!’
Fifth, remember that the word of God is alive and active.
So keep a Bible verse up your sleeve for the tough times.
This means that if things are so bad that you just can’t
manage to pray, then you still have something to hold
onto and repeat to yourself.
Useful verses are ‘Stand firm and see the victory of the
Lord’ (2 Chronicles 20:17) or ‘my God will supply every
need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ
Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19) or ‘He has rescued us from the
power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom
of His dear Son’ (Colossians 1:13).
Lastly, if even a Bible verse is beyond you, remember if
nothing else, you are precious, you are loved and you are
known. Life may batter and cut you, but you are not lost,
you are God’s and you do not walk alone.

Together We Pray
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