Praying When It Hurts
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray…
James 5:13a NKJV
If pain and prayer were people journeying over the terrain of your heart, you might make the following observations: Pain and Prayer are friends who often travel together. Pain at times is very friendly to Prayer, but at other times Pain wants to have nothing to do with him. When Pain is not around, Prayer becomes very complacent and apathetic. But when Pain returns, Prayer seems to have a renewed passion. Pain and Prayer take turns driving and navigating.
Pain is a reckless driver and when he navigates they tend to get lost. Prayer’s driving is much safer, but he sometimes becomes distracted and needs Pain to help him to refocus. Pain will reluctantly admit that Prayer is the best navigator because he has a good sense of direction.
On their journey, Pain and Prayer travel through the Desert of Depression; they cross the Valley of Suffering; they ride the Rapids of Opposition; they hike to the Cliff of Impossibility; they travel the winding roads of Frustration and Desperation; they are delayed at the Dead End of Disobedience; and they take what seems to be a detour, but find themselves journeying on the Providential Pathway toward divine destiny. The highlight of their journey is the renewal of their friendships with Forgiveness, Submission, and Brokenness.
The Divine Intersection of Pain and Prayer
Pain is a prominent theme in the Bible and prayer is a common response. This seems to be a universal, spiritual reflex all humans share. When life is painful, we become prayerful. The prayers range from cries of complaint to confessions of confusion. But, universally it seems that pain in the heart puts prayer on the lips.
Pain transcends culture and social status, but prayer supernaturally transcends pain. Throughout the Bible, personal pain gave birth to powerful prayer. The majority of the prayers recorded in the Bible were prayed from places like: the pit of pain, the furnace of frustration, the desert of desperation, or the sinkhole of sin.
The Bible presents prayer, not as a pain reliever, but rather a pain redeemer: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray…” (James 5:13a nkjv). Pain is inevitable, and prayer is indispensable in drawing lessons from our pain. Some of our greatest encounters with God occur at the intersection of pain and prayer.
Valleys or Mountaintops?
Have you ever drawn a graph of your spiritual journey? This is done to recognize and highlight places where you have experienced the powerful presence of God. If you carefully review your spiritual graph, you will be amazed that those times in your life that you now identify as mountaintops, were viewed as valleys when you went through them. However, in retrospect, you now view them as mountaintops because it was in the depths of your pain that God met you with His power and grace. It is as if God has turned your spiritual graph upside down, or rather, right side up. We can echo the testimony of the psalmist: “In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me“ (Psalm 120:1 NKJV).
My wife cross-stitches. I am always amazed at the end product. As she is sewing with a variety of colors, all I can see is the back, where strings are tangled and objects are unclear. But when I view the front, it all makes sense and is beautiful. Life is like that. When we see only a jumbled mess, God sees purpose and providence.
Painful Prayer Turns Burdens into Blessings
It is a paradox that pain is part of His purpose! Painful prayer has the potential to become the parade route for God’s purpose and power! The Apostle Paul describes this reality:
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:7-10 NKJV).
It is not all about the hurt; it is all about your heart.
A young British girl named Gertrude had a dream of growing up and becoming the secretary for the Prime Minister of England. However, annual bouts with bronchitis during the winter prevented her from attending school, and ultimately she had to quit altogether. She spent the long hours of illness learning to write in shorthand, and increased her skill to 250 words per minute!
After becoming an adult, Gertrude’s dream of becoming the Prime Minister’s secretary had been laid aside, and she married a preacher. Instead of living in political prominence, she dwelt with her husband in obscurity as he served as a military chaplain, and as a teacher. When her husband would preach and teach, she would sit on a bench in the back of the hut taking dictation of every word he spoke.
She humbly and quietly transcribed and typed her husband’s messages and began to distribute them. They were later published in a little red cloth-bound book entitled My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. His wife, Gertrude “Biddy” Chambers, captured timeless truths that would have otherwise been lost! Painful prayer has the potential of “detouring” us toward divine destiny! May the Father redeem our pain through our prayers. May He display His strength in our weakness.