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Praying Through Gritted Teeth

Do you know this kind of prayer?  You’re hurt.  You’re outraged.  You’re so scared you’re faking that you’re fine.  And you want to go to God but you’re afraid you’ll say something that crosses the line.  And you haven’t entirely given up that God will come through for you, so you want to stay on His good side. 

But it’s not just the situation that’s galling you; the collateral damage you haven’t quite identified yet is your faith.  God isn’t showing up.  And, if He did, you might just decide to push away.

Jeremiah the prophet spent much of his life in that kind of desolation.  His nation had first fallen apart spiritually, then the moral decay set in, and Jeremiah foresaw that the Babylonians were coming to tear down what was left.  But the job the Lord had given Jeremiah was to speak whatever He told him to say, and what the Lord had to say was almost always bad news and condemnation.  Moreover, God had threatened Jeremiah, saying Do not be terrified before them, or I will terrify you before them.  Nice calling, right?

At one point Jeremiah felt driven to vent his venom at God thus: Oh Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed.  I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me  (20:7).   He’s praying through gritted teeth.

I’m sorry if you’ve had to go through that too.  When I’ve gone through it, I’ve wound up wishing I’d been more faithful, more placid.  But I wasn’t.  Plain and simple:  I lacked the faith and maturity to trust God.  And I wished I’d been more loving toward Him whom I knew to be Love.  But I wasn’t.  I couldn’t see what was going on and neither could I trust God to handle it.

But one thing I did: I prayed through gritted teeth.  And I didn’t stop.  Even when I was repeating my complaint for the nth time, I kept coming to Him.  So there was at least some trust left in me.

Now, years later, the situation that was so painful to me is still sad to me.  I still haven’t seen the Grand Reason for it all.  But something happens in a person who goes through the wars with God.  It’s like having your fingers pried off a weapon through a long, slow relinquishment.  The anger subsides.  The peace returns.  And, somehow, I love my Father more now.  I’m not sure how that comes about.  Just… somehow. 

We’re now in a 4-part series at Wednesday Community Group called “Praying the Psalms.”  The insight people brought to our first session, entitled “Praying Your Anger,” was rich.  They’ve been through the wars with God too.  If you want to accelerate your growth in faith, join in with people like that.

Next week is “Praying Your Joy.”  That involves a more pleasant kind of spiritual work, and perhaps the main difficulty is enduring the awkwardness that comes with trying to find a voice for your joy.  What’s that you say?  You don’t have much joy?  Hmmm.   You should come.  There’s a cure for that too.   

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