Praying the un-prayable

As Christians we cherish the Old and New Testaments for many reasons. They teach us about God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. The prophecies and promises of His coming in the OT, and the revelation of Him through the Gospels, and then expanded teachings in the NT letters. 

There are many texts in the OT that you can read that point ahead to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Here are just a few (look up their fulfillment in the NT):

Gen. 3:15; 12:1-3; 15:1-6; Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7; 53; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9-10; 13:7-9

As part of our new relationship with God (saved, not condemned), God invites us to approach Him in prayer.

Praying

Jesus invites the hearers/readers/listeners to believe on Him and be saved. This includes forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, etc., and to approach God in prayer and to do so with confidence. In fact, we see in both testaments the encouragement to pray, the models for praying. Reading the Psalms can be great sources of praying, and learning about prayer.

For centuries Christians have grown in their prayer lives as they are influenced, guided, and directed by the Bible.

Praying can be hard

As we live in this world that is scarred by sin, it doesn’t take us long to hit the brick wall of difficult prayers. I don’t mean simple prayers, but those prayers that are so agonizing that we can’t even express ourselves. Words seem to fail us.

Having lived through decades of agony, fear, inability to change circumstances, I can’t even count how many times I was flat on the bed, floor, ground, crying out loud, “How long!?!” One Psalm captures that extreme sense of loss, abandonment, despair.

God does not leave us in that condition. And it is a good thing. Perhaps the pain of what is happening is monumental,  and we stutter, frozen in a failure to even pray. God promises that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us in that exact spot:

At the same time the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray for what we need. But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words. The one who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind. The Spirit intercedes for God’s people the way God wants him to.  (Romans 8:26-27 GW)

What a comfort that God helps form our prayers even in those difficult, trying times.

Praying the Un-prayable

But now we come to the most difficult part. Trying to pray the un-prayable. This is the extreme condition when praying even seems unspeakable. When the pain is beyond description. To even say words at that point would mean that even God would be offended!

Psalm 137 comes to mind. It begins with a lament.

So far, this seems like a normal lament. But notice how this ends:

That is startling!! A few years ago I read one commentator who wrote strongly that this is “sub-Christian” and should never be uttered by anyone! Or in the words of this subheading: Praying the un-prayable.

I would offer that this prayer is precisely a Christian prayer, a faithful prayer. For the Jew writing this, the agony of seeing Jerusalem and the temple destroyed was overwhelming. The agony of deportation to other lands (not just Babylon, but also Egypt). The death of many family members and friends boils in the backdrop of the mind. The Psalm is not written with a “peaceful, pretty, gentle” background. The raw emotions of the Jewish people comes through very clearly.

But God… and this is key… But the Psalmist who utters this prayer brings the full brunt of the desperation before God. Notice, however, that the Psalmist does not act on this violence, namely “smashing babies against the rocks.” Rather the Psalmist is praying in faith before God. And that faith is such that God can handle the anger, the frustration, the hopelessness. The worst of all imaginable words, yet the Psalmist brings those emotions, hurts, losses, and now even words before God.

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A word about justice:

The Psalmist does not take matters into his own hands. His heart is open about what he wanted to do—before God. But justice was not in his hands. God raised up others (namely, the Persians) who conquered Babylon. Was it instantaneous justice? No, but it was far better than one person trying to take on personal vengeance.

In the case of the sexual abuse scandal at MSU, USAG, and OSOC, God raised up people to address not one abuse incident—remember that many were not aware how extensive it was—but the larger scheme. Therefore, God raised up Rachael, Morgan, Makayla, and many others to become the voice that shouted “no more!”

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina in the courtroom allowed those many voices to be heard. The voice was no longer one lonely, fearful voice, but a combination of hundreds of voices, angry voices of women who were finally being heard. The Psalmist of 137 gave way to God’s greater justice. And now that same process is being played out. Justice is being served.

And the voices of others who have been abused are now catching worldwide attention: Abby Honold and the law named after her in Minnesota. Sammy Woodhouse who survived the Rotherham abuse ring is telling the story through her book and personal appearances. 

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Hope in Praying the Un-prayable

In praying this way, we are not offending God by our words. Rather we are actually trusting Him to hear, and respond in His perfect way. Not our way, not the expedient way, not the way we planned, not in the time we demand, but in His perfect way and perfect timing. We do so, knowing His promises to hear and to act.

Over the years when the ongoing turmoil was moving beyond 30 years, and part of it was our one son was missing for 18 years, life was beyond messy—it felt like the Babylonian captivity. It was what I described privately as “hell on earth.” That was the strongest way to describe it. Was God offended? No, he welcomes the prayers that are un-prayable. My heart was broken into a million pieces, my words inadequate. But, God listened.

My prayer of lament, the un-prayable prayer, was answered in a dramatic fashion two years ago. What I struggled to utter during those decades was answered in a way I didn’t think possible. But God…

Abused, broken—
prayers for them and with them

As I think about those who have been (and are being) abused, I think of Psalm 137. We can pray their un-prayable prayers for them and with them. We can open our mouths before God to say the difficult words, express the hurt, anger, rage, frustration. And we know that God can handle it.

That is one reason I began the daily prayer on Facebook and Twitter for #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors who suffered (and still do) under the abuse by Larry Nassar, MSU, and USAG, USOC, etc.

But now, we can expand that to pray for the many who have suffered abuse in so many ways. I think of Madeleine Black, Abby Honold, Lori Ann Thompson, Sandy Beach, Mary DeMuth, and so many others. And prayers for those who care for and minister to those who have been abused.

When we pray for them, we do not in any way minimize or diminish what has happened, what they are experiencing, the anguish, despair, sense of being forgotten. Rather, we pray in light of all that, we pray that God brings what we cannot.

Let’s storm God’s throne of mercy with un-prayable prayers, for the sake of our sisters and brothers.

Our prayers continue
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Additional Thoughts on #Prayer-Survivors-Conquerors

This last week as I was struggling with some sickness, I let slip a day or two of prayers for the women who were abused by Larry Nassar. I had gone 87 days following that pattern. Yet I missed two days last week. 

The sickness wasn’t life threatening for me by any stretch. But with my age and the challenges this past year with adjusting to a new normal after my accident, it caught me by surprise. This thing wore me out, not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

I reflected on that last night. I began thinking about the more than 200 women who had been sexually abused by Nassar, some more than 20 years ago. How many days have they faced their burdens? The weight of no one listening to them for years. And when some reported the people who could have helped never did anything. No one responded with help for them. 

I wonder how tired, overwhelmed they felt all that time? And then they faced their abuser, and yet still they are attacked, sidelined, and ignored by #MSU and #USAG and others. This was not a episode from which they would recover with a couple weeks of rest. 

This is daily, weekly, monthly, yearly —drains on the life, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That is the tiring and wearying reality of so many. My little episode pales by comparison. 

This reminds me when we pray for each of them, it is not just an instant in their lives, it is their lives. Yes, they are growing, maturing, but also hurting, angry, standing strong in public, and setting a course for many others who are beginning to address the horror, injustice, and pain.

And new names beyond the sports scandal are added to the list of abused, seemingly each day. Our prayer life is extended, not as a burden, but a necessity, a promise, a joy. They are Survivors and Conquerors. And, yes, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, these women are strong. And we stand with them as Prayer Warriors.

I am no longer sick or tired; my illness has passed. But my prayer focus for each of them continues. They all need our prayers, every day. 

If I fail to do that, Lord, forgive me, strengthen me, and even give me the appropriate words in prayer. Here is God’s promise for us as we pray:

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 NAS)

Our prayers continue

Prayers for Survivors/Conquerors—Part 5

Again a summary of prayers for those abused in the MSU and USA Gymnastics scandals. We have to remind ourselves that abuse and its consequences can affect the survivor for a long time, even a life time. These prayers are a tribute to each survivor, and a petition for mercy for each one of them and their families.

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Day 53 Lyndsy Garnet #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Jesus, Your name is above all other names. You have come for the hurting, the broken, the forgotten. May Your love surround Lyndsy each day, giving her strength and hope. Heal her. IJN Amen

Day 54 Taylor Cole #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Gracious Lord, look w/favor on Taylor each day. Whatever her concerns, hurts, anxiety, may You heal, comfort, & strengthen her. Bring people in her life to care for her & her family. IJN Amen

Day 55 Jessica Smith #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we pray for Jessica; her needs are daily, may You more than meet them. Grant her comfort, peace, & hope. Bless her & her family to heal & grow stronger, may she know love. IJN Amen

Day 56 Arianna Guerrero #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors O God of hope & healing, bring all comfort, strength, & love to Arianna. Grant her days of hope, gaining an inward strength & beauty. Protect her heart & bless her & family. IJN. Amen

Day 57 Melody Posthuma Can der Veen #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors LORD, look with favor upon Melody. Heal the abuse, give her a vision of life free from the past. Encourage, comfort, strengthen her and her family. Grant her peace. IJN Amen

Day 58 Christine Harrison #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, look w/favor upon Christine in all her needs. Whatever she experiences may there be joy even in heartache. Sustain her in challenging times & fill them w/hope. IJN Amen

Day 59 Victim 153 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, we pray she who is in shadows but is known to You. We pray for Victim 153 & her family. Whatever her needs, raise up people to meet them. Strengthen, encourage, & comfort her. IJN Amen

Day 60 Victim 11 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, altho nameless to us, Victim 11 is certainly known to You. Continue to strengthen her each day as she grows beyond & above what has happened. May her past not define her, but who she is now. IJN Amen

Day 61 Victim 136 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, our hearts ache for each victim, but today especially #136. Grant her healing of physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual wounds. Raise up people to encourage, comfort, & support her. IJN Amen

Day 62 Kristen Thelen #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may this day bring new hope, added strength for Kristin. May the scars of abuse become reminders of healing, no longer chained to her abuser. May Your love surround her each day. IJN Amen

Day 63 Katie Rasmussen #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, today we pray for Katie and all her needs. Whatever they are may You abundantly provide for her. Grant her times of peace, nights of rest, and strength for each challenge. IJN Amen

Day 64 Jessica Tarrant #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors O Lord, our God, how majestic is Your name. In Your love guide, protect, & heal Jessica each day. Give her wisdom, strength, & comfort to meet every challenge. Surround her w/people of love. IJN Amen

Day 65 Mary Fisher-Follmer #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Heavenly Father, we pray for Mary today that You would meet & surpass all her needs. Where wounds exist bring healing. Where discouragement bring hope. Where loneliness bring love & friendship. IJN Amen

Day 66 Jordyn Wieber #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, bless Jordyn today as she continues to heal & grow. Wwhat happened to her does not define her, but how she is responding. Strengthen her on difficult days, encourage her when challenged. Bless her family as well. IJN Amen

Day 67 Chelsea Zerfas #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Heavenly Father, You know victories & fears, losses & challenges of abuse. Even more, You know the path of healing & the gifts You provide for her. May these all be for Chelsea especially today. IJN Amen

Day 68 Samantha Ursch #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, bless Samantha in her walk in freedom from abuse. Give her wisdom & strength. May You guide her, love her, & encourage her with friends who can daily support her & her family. IJN Amen

Day 69 Kara Johnson #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, extend mercy in a special way today for Kara. In fears, doubts, concerns, may You be sufficient. Grant Your peace to her & her family. Bring relief & joy at the right time for her & her family. IJN Amen

Day 70 Maddie Johnson #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, be present w/Maddie in special. Continue to strengthen her, & guide her. Remind her of Your love in Jesus. Bless her family as well as they journey together. Through the process may You bring newness & hope. IJN Amen

Day 71 Marie Anderson #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord God, You know the needs, hurts, & challenges Marie faces. But You also have gifted her in ways to grow thru the turmoil. Strengthen her each day. Bless her family as they provide support. IJN Amen

Day 72 Amy Labadie #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors We ask, O God, Your mercies to be new every morning for Amy. Grant healing of her heart, strengthen her in living beyond the abuse. Bless her & her family as they receive love & care. Give her hope beyond each day. IJN Amen

Day 73 Ashley Yost #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, may Your blessings flow to Ashley. Grant her healing, peace, comfort, & wisdom as she moves forward. May she experience times of joy. Bless her family as they walk w/her. You mercies are new every morning. IJN Amen

Day 74 Aly Raisman #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, thank You for strengthening Aly as she continues to speak out against abuse. Surround her w/people of love to encourage her. May You continue to heal her wounds. Use her voice to speak for many who are abused. IJN Amen

Day 75 Kassie Powell #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Heavenly Father, today our prayers are for Kassie. Whatever her needs, may You more than meet them. Strengthen her each day to meet all challenges. Grant her grace to speak truth & help others. Bless her family. IJN Amen

Day 76 Megan Ginter #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Our Father, we bring Megan before Your throne of mercy. You know her needs, hurts, desires. Grant her healing, strength, & comfort for the days ahead. Open paths for her to follow enriching others and using her gifts. IJN Amen

Day 77 Katherine Gordon #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Lord, look with favor upon Katherine. You know her needs for healing, strengthening, comforting. Raise up people to provide for her and a safe friendship in her life. Bless her family as well. IJN Amen

Day 77 #PrayerSurvivorsConquerors Supplement I am including a prayer for Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. Lord, we give thanks for this conscientious judge who provided the avenue for many women to speak about abuse. May You continue to bless her & in her service. IJN Amen