One of favorite prayers in scripture is found in Acts 4:23-31. I love that prayer because of its daring boldness to ask God for the empowerment to speak his word boldly as God performs signs and wonders. I also love it because as the disciples are praying, the entire place where they are gathered begins to shake (v. 31). How cool is that? I’ve prayed this prayer before with some disciples and even though the place we were gathered in didn’t shake, our souls were stirring within us. It was awesome!
But I must be honest. Not every prayer ends in such dramatic fashion. In fact, most don’t. Sometimes nothing happens, even after the most fervent prayers. Or at least, what happens is…well, I’m still not sure how to say what I mean. Ten years ago at this time, my wife was in her third trimester as we were anxiously awaiting the birth of our first child who eventually died. I’ll have some more posts about that later this year, I just want to mention that as a reminder that sometimes we pray, just as we did for our son, and those prayers seem to go unanswered.
Why? I wish I had the answer to that question but I don’t and frankly, I’m skeptical of those who claim they do. The Psalmist asked the question of why in Psalm 88:13-14:
But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
If you read that entire Psalm, you realize that its author has been experiencing some serious suffering for quite some time and yet there is no answer as to why.
What seems all too easy to miss is that even among the deep cries which question God, the Psalmist is still praying. The Psalmist still has faith. In C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape writes to Wormwood saying:
Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment. (ch. 4)
I think Screwtape would also like us to believe that prayer is only of value if sincere, honest prayers, like praying for the well-being and health of our children, are answered accordingly.
I struggled with prayer after the death of my son. I couldn’t reconcile the point of prayer when things turned out so badly. I’ve been in recovery since, slowly overcoming that struggle. It’s difficult to pray when nothing happens or when what happens turns out to be bad.
Praying is a choice that must be made, not based on feeling or experience but based on faith. I believe in God, the Father, Son, and Spirit. Even in the midst of grief and pain and among all the ups and downs of life, I believe.
I want to be like the Psalmist, who prays in faith even when nothing seems to happen.
Maybe if this is your struggle too, this will encourage you to pray as well.