Circumstances will change prayer from a duty to a life-giving connection to God’s Spirit. During a prolonged period of hardship in my life, a friend wise in the ways of prayer spoke words to me that changed my prayer life forever.
“Andi,” she said, “you need to force-feed yourself the Scriptures, even if it’s only a verse a day. You need the Holy Spirit to minister to you in a way no person can right now, and he will use the Word to do that.” I knew she was right, but I needed more than human help.
The next day I opened my Bible
Force-feeding would be an apt description. My eyes fell on this verse in Psalm 62, “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: That you, O God are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.”
I closed my Bible. That was all I could take in God is strong and God is loving.
The Holy Spirit took these words and began to reawaken something inside and I prayed for the first time in a while: “God, I cannot square this with what I see happening in my life, but I will put that aside for the moment. I will count on your strength and your love.” I was immediately steadied.
About 20 years later my marriage ended. I felt as if I had landed in a vast wilderness, shaken, frightened and disoriented. I prayed, “Lord, I need to know you are here. Please open my eyes to see the ways you will be guiding me in the countless decisions that are facing me.”
I read about God instructing the Israelites to keep a place of worship central at every point of their wilderness journey. I would pray, “Lord, please keep the truth about who you are centered in my life.” Whenever I prayed, I intentionally began with worship rather than diving into what I wanted God to do about my problems.
I read about God supernaturally sustaining the Israelites as they went out of their tents every morning to find fresh manna waiting for them. I would pray, “Lord, meet me when I come to your Word and feed me so that I can be sustained for the day ahead.” I began to come to the Word with the same expectancy that the Israelites must have felt when they opened their tent doors every morning. Like them, I was never disappointed.
With our eventual divorce came a string of losses.
One night, the crush of it all became unbearable. I dropped to my knees by the side of my bed. My praying was more like wailing. When I could find words, I said, “You promise you will not give me more than I can handle, but I think you just did. I will believe you are strong and loving because you say you are and I know you won’t lie. But this feels mean. I have to know you really are who you say you are, or I can’t go on.”
I engaged in a wrestling with God that I would have thought to be irreverent or improper. But really, it was a desperate cry for him to come close and show me that He was real.
The next day I had to practice “force feeding” once again and through the Word God began to answer that desperate cry. I read in Psalm 73, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you.”
Even when I was thrashing around, unable to put words together, feeling alone and abandoned by God, I was always with Him. The Spirit took these words and forged His way through the fear and anguish that had engulfed me. My heart was immediately lifted as this assurance took hold.
The following Sunday, Timothy Keller preached on Jacob wrestling with God. I will never forget these words. “Sometimes it feels like God is trying to kill you, but He’s really after a transformed life.”
Here in the Word was a completely new way to interpret my life. I hadn’t asked for that, but it was what I needed to move forward.
I am a feeble pray-er who has come to treasure the Scriptures. For in them, God, by His Holy Spirit, enables me to pray when my heart is cold and dull. He directs my prayers when I am floundering, and answers my prayers in ways far richer than mere problem-solving.
I have seen it again and again. Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit brings us in touch with the very heart of God, full of love, committed to our good in every circumstance, and always eager for us to come to Him.
Andi Brindley is on staff at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and lives by the ocean on the Jersey Shore where she finds great joy in ministry she is able to do in her home. Being part of a small group of in tercessors for over 20 years has been formative in her understanding and experience of prayer.
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