Open the Flood Gates

March 18, 2024

On the front of my prayer book are these words, “We pray because prayer opens up the floodgates of God’s infinite grace and power to flow toward the person in need. God can act without prayer, but God chooses to operate within the boundaries of human will and invitation. God allows us to participate in His work on earth with each prayer.”

Prayer is truly a mysterious and powerful part of our Christian faith. Though no explanation of prayer can be fully complete, I have always found the above words to be very helpful for me. When I am having trouble keeping up with my prayer life, they remind me that God wants to include me intimately in His great work around me, and that my actions and prayers matter.

Have you ever been through a time when it was hard to pray? Have you ever been sick and not known what prayer to offer? Have you ever had financial turmoil and wondered if prayer could somehow help you pay the bills? Have you ever been so lonely you couldn’t imagine anyone, including God, caring about you?

In Hostage Bound, Hostage Free Carol Weir reflects on her prayer life when her husband, Presbyterian minister Ben Weir, was held hostage in the Middle East in the 1980’s. She found it difficult to pray during this incredible ordeal. The routine phrases, smooth clichés and many prayer requests didn’t seem to go heavenward like they once did. “How do I pray for Ben?” she asked herself. She tried to visualize his situation, even pray for his captors, but she found she couldn’t even pray for herself. She searched the scriptures for guidance and found Paul’s words in Romans 8:26, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”

The Holy Spirit guided her in a powerful way through the crisis of her husband’s captivity. She writes, “That summer I got over the sense that I had to make myself holy and presentable to God in order to pray. Rather, I presented myself to God as I was, completely dependent, uncertain, weak, full of doubts and fear, hope against hope, faith in search of faith. When I found it hard to hold on to God, God held on to me.”

My wife and I experienced the truth of these wise words when we sent three of our children off to war as members of the U.S. Army. When the first went, we talked about all of our options. First, we agreed that we would heed Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34, and we would not worry. Worry would only make things worse for our son and for us. Nothing would get better, and the last thing our son needed was his parents to worry about him. This allowed us to have great communication with one another and lift each other up.

Second, we would pray for his safety and trust God with his life. Whether he came home alive or dead, we would trust him to God. We agreed to hold each other accountable whenever we were weak, and pray for each other’s strength to come from God. It worked. We were truly blessed that all three children came home alive and well. I think we were ready to rebuild our lives if one had not.

When our lives seem to be in order it is easiest to pray, but then again, it is also easiest not to pray. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we have it together, whatever “it” is for us. But, we need those good times in prayer where we count our blessings and say prayers of thanksgiving. We need to glorify God when we feel good about life, so we can glorify Him when life is hard and unfair. We need regular prayer, so we can work through those times when prayer is hard or even impossible, like Carol Weir found.

There will be a day in all our lives where the fallenness of the world will take its toll. If we have prayed during the best times in our lives, we will have the courage and strength to pray when life gets hard. When life gets hard we have a choice: we can run into the arms of Jesus and find strength, courage and answers, or we can run away. No one would blame us for running away, but we gain nothing. I don’t recommend it.

Would you say your life is easy or hard right now? What place does prayer play in your life? People ask, “Why pray?” These are just a few of my answers. How would you answer this question? (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see,