Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One Word

Have you ever struggled to pray? When your circumstances seem so overwhelming that you find yourself unable to form your thoughts into a structured petition before the Lord? I think we all have been in that position at one time or another, whether in trials, grief, or trouble. Our emotions rise to a boiling pitch and we are at such a loss for words that the only thing we are able to do is groan.

Before I knew Jesus, there were many times I felt this way; perhaps too many to count. I would cry out to God. I would beg for relief. I would plead forgiveness. I had been raised to believe there was a wrathful God Who would pour out His vengeance upon me if I did not live and think a certain way. Recalling the spiritual agony of these false teachings brings much regret over not knowing sooner that He is also a gentle and loving God Who is quick to forgive with just one word.

I used to be impressed by those who prayed with fine-sounding eloquence. Their many words seemed to flow from their lips with practiced ease. Their sentences were filled with flowery phrases. And the length of time in which they prayed seemed endless. But Jesus condemned the “hypocrites” whose desire it was “to be seen by men”, those whose intent it is to impress others and gain attention (Matthew 6:5). He instructed us that our prayer should be a time of communion and fellowship with God. Although there are times for public prayer, Jesus encourages us to seek Him in private, to “go into [our] room, close the door and pray to [our] Father Who is unseen.” (v6). This time of prayer should be intimate. It should be a time when you alone seek His audience and lay your petitions before His throne. And because He “knows what you need before you ask Him,” it is not necessary to burden God with the “babbling [of] pagans” in order for Him to hear you. Shallow repetitions coming from an insincere heart will not be heard by Him. But the few words from a honest and sincere heart will gain His ear (v7-8).

When Mary Magdalene wept at the tomb of our Lord Jesus, consumed with and stricken by utter grief, I am convinced she was unable to express it except with groans of complete sorrow. But Jesus heard her, and with one word lifted her from the depth of her despair. “Mary.” Her name was all it took to relieve her, and her single word response, “Rabboni!”, all that was needed to dispel all doubt and re-instill hope (John 20:10-18)

We know we have an Advocate, One Who “searches our hearts” and “intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Eloquent and lengthy prayer should never be a concern, for “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26-27) I am greatly comforted by this knowledge. Although I may often struggle in prayer, the utterance of just one word will cause the Holy Spirit to carry my plea to the Father Who waits patiently to hear from me. And the greater promise is that my “groans” will not go unnoticed by Him, and according to what He sees as best for me, He will respond.

Recommended reading (all citations are hyperlinked):

Psalm 6
Psalm 65:1-4
Matthew 21:18-22
Philippians 4:4-7
Colossians 4:2
James 5:13-16
1Peter 3:10-12
Revelation 5:8