We may know that God is for us, and that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:31-35), but when faced with the object(s) of our petitions, we often lose sight of our relationship with God.
We become so consumed by the thing we ask for, and when we don’t get it, we worry, doubt, and draw back. And sometimes, even when we do get what we asked for, we may celebrate it momentarily, then move on to the next item on our never-ending list of needs. And so it becomes a never-ending cycle of fretting and doubting.I will admit that there are times when reading Bible verses doesn’t make me feel better; when everything feels dry and I am weary.
And yet, I find that prayer is the very place for this struggle, this weariness. It is exactly when we can say, “I know what You’ve said in Your word, Father, but my heart struggles to understand, and I struggle to see these things happen in my life. Please. Help me.” We pray not to avoid disappointment, but we can come to God bearing our disappointments, and pray through them.
Whenever I’m at a loss as to how to pray, when disappointment and sadness take over, I always go back to the Psalms, to see how the psalmists brought everything, including their disappointment, to God.
Over the years, there have been a few psalms that have helped me anchor my hope in God and find refreshment. The first psalm that I often find myself turning to is Psalm 42.
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”(Psalm 42:4-6, ESV)
Psalm 42 shows us how we can tell God directly what we feel. It also shows us that even as we are engulfed by this sadness, it is not final, because God brings us the hope we need to rise again.
Another psalm that I often read is Psalm 130:
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption. (Psalm 130:5-7, ESV)
Praying this psalm teaches me to wait and hope relentlessly, not for something uncertain, but for God Himself, because He is steadfast and true and He loves me, and He will come as surely as the morning does.
Finally, reading Psalm 16 grounds me and reminds me that the ultimate satisfaction I seek can only be found in God Himself. In the most difficult times, when the outlook is bleak, I read this and find comfort even amid tears, because I know I have already received the beautiful inheritance:
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption. (Psalm 16:1-2, 5-6, 8-10, ESV)
When we think about praying with “no reservations”, we may picture it as a posture of confidence—chin up, chest lifted, bold strides, all smiles. But what if we can only shuffle forward, heads down, chins tucked, shoulders drooping?
I think of that parable about the persistent widow and imagine how I might look like next to that door—my knocking would probably start as a quick, light rap that eventually slows into a feeble thudding; at some point, I’ll probably stop, sit on the floor, and lean my head against the door. But after a while, I know I’ll get back to knocking again. I don’t want to leave that door, because I know who’s on the other side. I know He’s waiting for me.