How to pray when life hurts?

This year seems to have been one upset, catastrophe, tragedy after another. I won’t dwell on the particulars.

But this verse came up in my daily readings and I felt an immediate identification with it:

“If the LORD be with us, why hath all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” – 1 Kings 1:13

If you know the passage, this is right at the beginning of the period of the Judges and the cycle of rebellion, punishment and repentance – old Israel was so hard of learning!

So does the cycle of suffering work the same way in the lives of believers under the new covenant? Perhaps, but not always. Illness, injury and disaster sometimes come upon people and there is no rhyme or reason or discernible explanation. (Did you ever read the book of Job?) And sometimes, as in the story of Jesus with the blind man, it isn’t the result of the sin of the man or his parents but so the glory of the Lord may be made manifest.

It is difficult to keep on trusting and obeying and praying when life is at its hardest. It is not easy to hold on to the truth that “All things work together for good to those which love God, to them which are called according to his purpose.” But it is still true even when it feels impossible.

In my daily reading from Charles Spurgeon’s ‘Chequebook of the Bank of Faith’ today, I read these words – painful but with a hint of hope:

Pruning for Fruit-Bearing

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:2)

“This is a precious promise to one who lives for fruitfulness. At first it seems to wear a sharp aspect. Must the fruitful bough be pruned? Must the knife cut even the best and most useful? No doubt it is so, for very much of our Lord’s purging work is done by means of afflictions of one kind or another. It is not the evil but the good who have the promise of tribulation in this life. But, then, the end makes more than full amends for the painful nature of the means. If we may bring forth more fruit for our Lord, we will not mind the pruning and the loss of leafage.

Still, purging is sometimes wrought by the Word apart from trial, and this takes away whatever appeared rough in the flavor of the promise. We shall by the Word be made more gracious and more useful. The Lord who has made us, in a measure, fruit-bearing, will operate upon us till we reach a far higher degree of fertility. Is not this a great joy? Truly there is more comfort in a promise of fruitfulness than if we had been warranted riches, or health, or honor.

Lord Jesus, speedily fulfill Thy gracious word to me and cause me to abound in fruit to Thy praise!”

When I do not have the strength to pray my own words, I pray Scripture (and if you dig into the psalms, it isn’t all sweetness and light – some of them are gritty and mournful) and remind myself that, no matter how bleak things look, Good is good, and it will all come right in the end.

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