Aug 012013 1 Response

How to Pray in the Dark

One of the great privileges of pastoring is being able to pray with people before a medical procedure or test is performed.

It’s one of my favorite times to pray for two reasons:

1. Everyone is paying attention. Pray to close a sermon and people are hungry. Pray to open a service and people are still laughing about the last thing said or the person who still doesn’t know we are praying. Pray for someone else and people are concerned but they aren’t THAT concerned. Pray before a medical procedure of yourself or a loved one and people are fully present. They pray in those moments in a way unlike any other.

2. It’s a prayer in the dark. We don’t know the outcome. Any test can bring a surprise. Any procedure has a percentage of bad outcomes. A prayer after an event is one of reflection, but a prayer before an event is one not only of asking for what we want, but also of promising what we will do no matter the outcome. It’s a time to submit to the sovereign will of God before we know what God’s sovereign will is.

I feel like I pray a lot in the dark. I pray into situations which are unknown and outcomes which are uncertain.

Is the tumor malignant or benign?

Will the marriage make it or end?

Will the child repent or rebel?

Will the test be negative or positive?

In the midst of all of this praying in the dark, four truths stay at the forefront of my thinking.

Four Truths for Praying in the Dark:

1. God is in control. This truth is at the foundation of what it means to be a Christian. We trust God’s sovereign control of this world. While many situations do not fit our plan and are not what we would hope for, we can take great comfort in knowing that nothing can happen which exists outside of God’s sovereign control. At minimum, God has given divine permission for an event to take place. At maximum, he himself is orchestrating the event. Either way, everything submits to God’s control.

2. God is not surprised. While routine tests which return positive, shock us, they do not surprise God. I’m always struck by the timing of a diagnosis or event. There almost always seems to be a small detail which seems magical. Why now? Why at this point? While there is never a good time for bad news, God always has a way of working in a unique time and if we are paying attention, we can often see his goodness in the midst of his timing. Even if we are surprised, we should take heart that God is not.

3. God will use all things for our good. While not everything which happens is good, God promises to use all things for the good of those who love him. Whatever comes our way, can and will be used by God to make himself known and to accomplish his purpose. This not only gives us hope, but meaning as well. Whatever we might endure, our only job is to obey. As we obey, we are relieved of the pressure of making good things happen and we can rest in the knowledge that God will cause good.

4. For the believer, suffering is limited to the earth. While many prayers are not answered the way I wish, I take great hope in knowing that suffering is only a tool used by God on earth and is not an element of heaven. The promise of heaven is that our suffering will be no more. Even if a test goes a way we do not wish or a procedure results in an outcome we do not want, there is always an end to suffering for a believer. We are called to endure, but we will not have to endure for long.

These four truths guide me through every prayer.

As for the content of what I pray in times where the outcome is certain, it’s pretty simple:

I pray for what I want.

I pray to commit to obey no matter what I get.

By God allowing me to have a say before an event occurs, I feel my voice has been heard and considered in whatever outcome he allows. By being heard, it feels easier to submit to his plan.

What do you pray, when you pray in the dark?


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