How to Pray When Life Falls Apart

 pray life falls+

 

In the midst of broken dreams and riveting pain, how should we pray?

Should we pray for healing and deliverance, believing that we just need to ask, because God can do anything? Or should we relinquish our desires to God, trusting that even in our anguish he has the perfect plan for us?

Yes. When life falls apart, God invites us to do both. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced unimaginable suffering. Sweating drops of blood, he fell to the ground and prayed: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Jesus, in his agony, is teaching us by example how to pray when we’re desperate.

Abba, Father

Jesus does not begin with, “Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth.” Of course, God is Lord of all and deserves honor and reverence.  But Jesus chooses a term of endearment: “Abba.” While “Abba” does not mean “Daddy,” it was used as an intimate, personal term for Father. Jesus is asking his Father to do something for him.

I grew up calling my father “Daddy,” and still do to this day. “Daddy” was a great name when I was happy with him, but when I was upset, I wanted to call him “Sir.” I could feel distant and defiant on the inside when I called him “Sir”, but there was no separating myself from him when I said “Daddy.” And my father, who wisely knew that, insisted that I call him “Daddy” after our disagreements. When I was able to use that name sincerely, he knew our reconciliation was complete.

In a similar way, I need to draw near to God in my pain. He’s the Almighty Lord, but he’s also my Abba Father (Rom. 8:15). I need to approach him as such.

Nothing Too Difficult

Jesus knows God can do anything. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50:10). All things are his servants (Ps 119:91). Nothing is impossible with him (Luke 1:37). While I know those Scripture verses by heart too, I often functionally doubt God’s ability to change my situation. I scan my circumstances and assume things will continue as they are. Even as I pray, I don’t look for miraculous answers; my prayers become rote recitations of requests more than earnest petitions of faith.  

But in Gethsemane, Jesus knows his Father can grant his request. God gives life to the dead and summons into being things that don’t exist.  And I need to remember his limitless power when my situation looks insurmountable.

Remove This Cup

The cup Jesus asks God to remove isn’t mere physical suffering. Disciples and martyrs through the ages have faced physical pain without fear. Jesus is anguished over suffering that’s infinitely deeper. He is facing the terrifying fury of God’s wrath over our sin. And he’s facing that wrath alone, with no comfort from above.

Jesus knows God can change this horrifying situation. So he asks. He wants God to remove the very suffering he was sent to bear, the suffering he willingly came for, the suffering that would secure salvation for his people. Jesus wasn’t coerced onto the cross. He lay down his life of his own accord (John 10:18). But now Jesus is asking if there is another way—any other way—for God to accomplish his purposes.

So many times I filter my requests. Should I ask God to relieve my suffering when I know he can use it? Is it okay to pray for healing, or is that presumptuous? Should I not ask for anything and just accept what I’ve been given? That posture seems more holy.

Yet, Jesus asks God to remove the cup. If Jesus can ask, I can too. It’s appropriate to ask God to remove my suffering, change my situation, keep me from further pain. He longs to give me good gifts. I’ve begged God to heal friends, save family members, and give clarity, and he has answered “yes.” But I’ve also pleaded with God to save my dying son, heal my escalating disease, and bring back my husband, and he said “no.” So even though I don’t know how he will answer, my Father still bids me to earnestly petition him for the things I desire.

Not My Will, But Yours

Jesus finally relinquishes his will to God’s. When denied his desire, Jesus accepts the decision completely. He stumbles to his execution without murmur or complaint.

This relinquishment isn’t easy for me. When I keep God at a distance, I can stay detached and without expectations. But if I draw near to him and truly believe he can change the situation, I can start to clutch the outcome I want. I may verbalize “Your will be done,” but I’m white knuckling my own will. God often has to pry my fingers off my desired outcome. Though I’ve felt devastated by his “no’s,” as I submit to his will—often with disappointment and tears—he assures me he’s working for my good. I see only part of the picture. He has a purpose in his denials.

The Father said “no” to the Son. And that “no” brought about the greatest good in all of history. God is not capricious. If he says “no” to our requests he has a reason, perhaps 10,000. We may never know the reasons in this life, but one day we’ll see them all. For now, we must trust that his refusals are always his mercies to us.

Run to Your Father

And now as we wait, still struggling to make sense of the storms in our lives, let us pray as our Savior did. Let us draw near to God, believe he can change our situation, boldly ask him for what we need, and submit our will to his.

Our Father’s plans are always perfect. They will always be for our good and his glory.

 

 

Adapted from a post on The Gospel Coalition website and taken directly from my book The Scars That Have Shaped Me.

 

  • April 14, 2017 - 7:26 am

    Because I Believe – Melinda Inman - […] And this: How to Pray When Life Falls Apart […]ReplyCancel

    • April 18, 2017 - 6:17 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much for writing, Georgia. A dear friend of mine has said to me numerous times that God’s refusals are always his mercies. And I remind myself of that frequently when I find myself frustrated that God hasn’t said “yes” to my every request. His will must be done and not mine!ReplyCancel

      • April 21, 2017 - 8:55 am

        Georgia - You’re 100% right and it reminds me of that verse in John 6:38 when Jesus said “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”

        Awesome blog, keep up the great work!ReplyCancel

  • April 17, 2017 - 3:43 pm

    Georgia - “His refusals are always His mercies to us”

    That is my quote of the day, thank you Vaneetha. I just heard a sermon yesterday (and I admit that I cringed because the pastor kept emphasizing a type of “name it and claim it” faith in God and the “if you ask it and believe you’ll get it) faith in God and I think he misinterpreted where God was coming from. I certainly could be wrong but I think that one of the most important parts of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was that Jesus prayed according to God’s will. As you said, Jesus ultimately was willing to relinquish His own will in favor of God’s sovereign will even though He asked for it to be different. And to me, another prayer – the Lord’s Prayer – the most important part of that was when Jesus said to God “Thy will be done.” I remember another great post of yours a while back that said that God calls us to a kind of duality where he wants us to come to him always with our prayers and we are always free to ask him to remove our thorns and sometimes he will do that, BUT he also wants us to trust him enough to relinquish our will in favor of his even if his ultimate answer to our prayers is “no” and we don’t understand it or like it. That message of yours along with this one really has encouraged my heart (despite decades of hearing “no” from the Lord on a certain issue) because you are one of the few who I feel who allows God’s real truth and sovereignty to come through in your commentary and you don’t just write the feel-good fluff stuff that a lot of folk insist on hearing all the time. Real faith has both high mountain peaks but also many valley lows…thorns that are removed and some that may stay but ultimately we are called to trust our Father’s plans like you said. They are always best. Yours is a real faith and you have real insight into Scripture (a rarity these days) and I thank God for you, God is using you in a mighty way.ReplyCancel

  • July 10, 2017 - 1:00 pm

    Ann - Thank you for this post.
    Your words are a blessing.ReplyCancel

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