When You Can’t Pray

I was totally overwhelmed. Mind going around and around on an endless track of useless thoughts: Now what? What if? How? I hardly slept. I could barely eat. I couldn’t focus on anything, much less God. No way I could pray.

Yet, I had never needed to pray more.

Have you ever felt this way? You’re in the deepest pit, and God is your only salvation. You know you need to pray. But you just can’t. And that makes you feel even worse. Like you’re a failure.

So many times I’ve read books or heard sermons telling me to “keep my eyes on Jesus” when the going gets rough. Of course, they’re right—we are supposed to look at God, not our circumstance. The story of Peter walking on the water (found in Matthew 14:22-32) illustrates this point. Peter was doing just fine walking on the waves until he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the storm around him. Then he started sinking.

The thing is, most sermons stop here. The pastor makes the point that we need to stay focused or we’ll sink. But the Bible keeps going… what happened when Peter started to sink? “[Peter] cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.”

We forget that Jesus is bigger than our attention span. He can weather the storms in our life, even when we are so overwhelmed that we can’t ask for help. Sometimes, in our distress, all we can manage is to shout, like Peter, “Lord, save me!”

And that’s what happened to me.

I couldn’t pray—so God sent literally hundreds of people to pray on my behalf.  We happened to be working for an international ministry, and the prayer request went out around the world. So many people responded—it was humbling and so appreciated.

And not only that, but Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Who is better at praying according to God’s will than God Himself!?

As I tried to explain months later, I felt as if I was suspended over the Grand Canyon, with no visible means of support—but I wasn’t falling. I imagined myself sitting on a swing, the ropes reaching up to heaven, swinging my legs—a thousand feet above the rocks below, but totally confident that the God who held me up would not fail me.

The situation didn’t immediately resolve itself. I was still overwhelmed, stressed, and sleepless. But I knew the truth of Jesus’ promise to always be with us.

Numerous verses tell us that we should always pray. It’s vital that we maintain our own relationship with God. Delegating it to someone else would be like asking someone else to fill in for you as a husband or wife!

However, when circumstances are so extreme that we are unable to think, much less pray, it’s reassuring to know that God won’t get angry. He’ll just reach out his hand and catch us.

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