And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
— Hebrews 10:24-25
When a person’s life seems out of control, either through their own choices or through no fault of their own, how can we pray? How can we pray for young adults facing a new world of choices they are ill equipped to make? When your daughter or son takes on the designation of prodigal, does prayer help? What does this kind of agonizing prayer sound like? Jesus prayed. Why did He pray? Repeatedly, Jesus acknowledges His total dependence on His Father:
The Son can do nothing of His own accord.
— John 5:19
I can do nothing on My own.
— John 15:30
I do nothing on My own authority, but speak just as the Father taught Me.
— John 8:28
The Father who has sent Me has Himself given Me… what to say and what to speak.
— John 12:49
When the crowds pressed in, He slipped away from His disciples to pray. He declared He came to do His Father’s business, not His own. Dependence on His Father was a sign of “childishness” that He said was a requirement for anyone who followed Him. Jesus calls on us to be like little children when it comes to our relationships to Him. In fact, the more childlike we are, the more transparent we become in our crying out to the Lord and oddly enough, the more mature in our faith we grow. The very circumstance or relationship that drives us into a valley of despair can become our pathway to experiencing such dependency, a priceless treasure often experienced in the darkness.
Prayer not only reveals our dependence on Jesus, it mysteriously connects us to one another emotionally and makes us participants in the “soul” work God is doing. A beloved friend asked me to pray as she entered a shattering family conflict with the hope of assisting in igniting a pathway of reconciliation. I accepted the task without realizing the emotional emptying that was to come in those moments of crying out to the Lord. The gravity of the brokenness and seeming impossibility of healing overwhelmed my soul and quiet praying broke out into pleading and sobs of hurt and need. I was far away from my friend but felt intimately present with her. In those trying moments, I felt transported to another place, learning later my friend felt freedom with her words and control over her emotions. Had God transferred her agony onto my shoulders? Was He mysteriously holding up her arms through those anguished words uttered in my office at the exact time of her meeting?
Through agonizing prayer we fall into the arms of Jesus, pleading for Him to do what we cannot. We not only agonize with another in their battles, but we also learn how to offer life-giving encouragement in practical ways. James reminds us:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him.
— James 1:5
How does agonizing in prayer help us to hold our tongues when self-righteousness demands an outlet? Through the years, silent prayer during a difficult conversation has helped me to wait before responding. If this person could listen to what is happening inside my head during our talk, they would hear:
“Lord Jesus, help me to reflect you. My flesh wants to strike, to respond based on one side of a story, even my anger wants to burst into flames. Please, Jesus, keep me quiet and reflect your love in my expressions. I don’t know what to do so my eyes are fixed on you.”
Sometimes I may leave such conversations feeling as though I may have missed an opportunity to speak truth, but often God opens my eyes later to the wisdom of Him placing a gate on my lips.
Oswald Chambers’ words remind me of my ultimate purpose in life: “I am called to live in perfect relation to God so that my life produces a longing after God in other lives, not admiration for myself.” My Utmost for His Highest, December 2.
I expect this will be a learning curve until the day I die because my self-righteous heart regularly forgets to push my thoughts and actions through prayer. When my ultimate goal is His glory and the eternal safety of a loved one’s soul, such silence is a stone in the pathway I hope will help produce a longing after God in their lives. I am learning that without agonizing in prayer, I will never be a sweet smelling fragrance of Jesus that draws others to Him.
LIFE GIVING ENCOURAGEMENT
Continue to develop a written record of your prayer journey. Keep your journal handy as you pray and jot down the names of those who come to mind. Ask the Lord how you can practically encourage them today, or soon.
Ask Him to uncover blind spots in your life that hide any self-righteousness, so you can let go of wanting to control others and surrender them to our perfect God, whose plans are far better than any we can conceive.
Oh Lord Jesus, we long for others to experience the life-giving salvation that You offer. Ignite a fire in our hearts that long for a life-giving prayer relationship with You, a prayer relationship that shifts us from “worry to watching.”