I am at a place in my life where I can hardly pray without my heart being so burdened with the weight of the requests that it really feels like it is breaking. I have a dear friend who just passed away, another who has cancer, another who is in recovery from a broken neck, another who is recovering from back surgery. In addition, prayer for the suffering places of the world where hunger and deprivation reign and where innocents suffer from the greed of the powerful. Lastly, prayer for the victims of senseless acts of violence wrought by terrorists or those motivated by anger in the workplace or by road rage.
Who can bear the burden of prayer for these things? And yet there is God… He hears my requests and yours as well, and the cries of those who are suffering alone and forgotten– constantly and all at once! He is not limited by the boundaries of a finite nature, a changeable character, or the whims and oddities of emotions.
I have never before thought of the infinitude of God in relation to prayer. There is no waiting list or pecking order to his attentiveness. There is no favoritism to his love. His answers don’t always come immediately nor in the shape of our desires or passionate pleas, which any parent can understand, but they will come because he hears them all.
He does not hear us according to our worthiness, but according to his love for us in Christ. Nothing that comes from his hand is meant for evil nor for our punishment, though it may involve suffering and hurt like … There is no one so sinful that God will not hear his cry of repentance. There is no one so prodigal that she will not have the Father’s embrace.
The only prayer that God rejects (at least that I know of) is the prayer of the self- righteous heart. In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus compares the prayer of the Pharisee who is obsessed with his own virtue with the prayer of the despised tax collector who humbly asks God for mercy. Jesus said,”I tell you this man (the tax collector), rather than the other, went home justified before God.”
So my dear sister or brother, why do you hesitate to pray? Are you afraid that you are not worthy enough or that God has more important things to do than listen to you? Do you feel you have prayed and prayed and God has not answered? Do you feel that what you are facing is the punishment for the sins of the past? Do you no longer feel like praying? I have felt all of these deceptive hindrances to prayer and found only one solution; to just pray! After all this is what faith does; it humbly acts on what it knows to be true even though everything in and around it screams the antithesis. One Puritan preacher said that when Jesus cried out “my God, my God, what have you forsaken me” faith was evidenced not at the nadir of joy and peace but at the meridian of darkness.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread, are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense; but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.
William Cowper, 1774