pointless prayer: when all hope seems lost

a good friend of mine came face to face with death recently. the cold, hard reality of death in the face of two very good friends of his. and i can’t help but wish there’s more i could do to help. to offer some sort of comfort. some sort of relief from the pain.

and he prays. i don’t know what he prays for exactly, but i pray too. for comfort. for Him. for their families and friends.

in a way this is for him. but in a way it’s for me. i guess it’s for anyone who has ever found themselves wondering if it does any good. to pray, i mean. in the face of overwhelming pain. in the face of seeming pointlessness.

when it seems pointless

he’s certainly not the first person to feel this way. i’m sure most people have, in fact. and i can’t help but think it’s at these times, when we wonder if there’s really any point to prayer, that maybe that’s when it’s most important. maybe that’s when we really should be praying.

and i think it comes down to our take on it. on what we hope the end result will be.

i think sometimes we go into prayer thinking, “i am going to pray so that a, b or c will occur.” and then, if a, b or c does not occur, we think the whole act of prayer is pointless, without stopping to think how our prayer fits in with what God’s desire may be. and i think maybe that kind of prayer really is pointless. maybe that’s kind of like asking a father for his thoughts on the best spot to take his daughter on a date, without stopping to consider whether or not he actually wants you to even be around his daughter.

does it matter?

but, in these situations, i think the question everyone finds themselves asking is, “does it matter?” does it matter if i pray? is there really anything He can do about this situation? and, even if He can, what is the likelihood of Him actually doing it? my friend is dead. i cannot undo this divorce. i cannot take back the pain i’ve caused. i cannot overcome this addiction.

and, in thinking about this, i can’t help but think how i fear the day i turn my back on prayer. there’s not much i fear more than that thought, actually. because i know, then, that there will be nothing else to turn to.

for, when all else fails, when we’ve reached the very last fragment of the rope we’ve been holding onto for dear life, it’s Him we turn to. in prayer. those who go to church regularly, and those who never step foot in the door. often times it’s only when all else fails that we (finally) turn to Him. and i can’t fathom the thought of somehow getting to the point where i don’t do that out of feelings of hopelessness.

at times like these, when it seems all hope is lost, i can’t help but feel like those are the times when we really should be praying. not necessarily so that we can get what we want, but so that He can break through our pain, even our desires, and bring us to Himself. and, in bringing us to Himself, He will be bringing us to what we really need. in a way that maybe not even what we think we need or want would.

He calls us to pray

i find comfort in the fact that He calls us to pray. if He didn’t, or even if He did only when it seemed like the reasonable thing to do, i don’t think there’d be as much comfort here. but the fact that He calls us to pray unceasingly, in all circumstances, that brings me comfort.

not because i think he’s always going to bring me what i pray for, like some santa claus misconception of who God is, but because He knows better than i do. and i know, when i come to Him in completely open and candid prayer, that that’s when He really works in my life. He knows what i need. and if what i need is not what i want, then He is going to work in my heart so that my wants become my needs. even if that’s just Him. closer. so close that He fills my vision. so much so that His goodness overwhelms my questions. my hopelessness. my anger. my pain. so much so that He fills my vision, so that all i can see is Him. and that all else fades away, growing dim in the face of the greatness of His love. of His grace. of His goodness.

and it’s easy to say. i know. but that’s why i think it’s important to pray when all hope seems lost. not so that the reality of what we hope for changes, but, perhaps, so that what we hope for changes. so that our hope focuses on Him. and, in that, our reliance falls wholeheartedly on Him.

what comes of it

i think it’s important to pray. and to pray specifically. if our hope is for x, and x does not fly in the face of what we know to be His will, then i think it’s important we pray for x.

sometimes that may come to fruition. sometimes our prayers may be answered (if we can call it that). but sometimes they don’t.

we’re told Jesus once prayed, “if it is Your will, take this cup from me.”

the cup He was referring to was the path that loomed before Him. the path to the cross. the place where He would face incredibly agonizing pain, torture and, ultimately, death. the place where He would take on all the punishment for our mistakes, for our sins. the place where, for the first time, He would be separated from the Father. not because He deserved it, but because we deserved it. and the cross is the place where He would stand between us and the Father, as our mediator.

and i can’t help but think how perfect an example we have of what might seem like pointless prayer. that God would have another way, so to speak, of saving His sons and daughters from their sins. Jesus had to know this was the only way, and yet He prayed all the same. and so must we. when all hope is lost. when the pain is so strong that we don’t feel we can stand up under it, we must pray. to Him who hears us. and, i believe, it is there that He will touch us. will heal us. and it is there where He will whisper, “I hear you. I am not far from you, nor will I ever be. and I love you.”

there is hope in Him. even when things seem hopeless. even when prayer seems pointless. it is not.

the starting point

and one day you will awake to the realization that the desires of your heart have come to pass. those things you’ve longed for so long are now, in fact, a reality. and you can’t be quite sure whether it’s because you prayed to Him that the desires of your heart would come true that they actually did come true, or that because you prayed to Him concerning the desires of your heart that He changed the desires of your heart into His desires, and that you’re now well pleased with His will, as it has come to pass.

whichever the case may be, you can be sure the starting point is prayer. prayer brings us to Him. open, honest prayer brings us close to Him. and it is there, in the faint whispers and revelation of our heart to a loving Father, that we draw near to Him. and it is there where He can do His greatest work in us.

so i pray that’s where you will go. when you’re at your weakest. when all hope seems lost. when prayer seems pointless. i pray that you would go to Him, in prayer. so that He can meet with you. and so that you can meet with Him. and so that your heart may be content in Him, the only place it will ever be truly content.

One thought on “pointless prayer: when all hope seems lost

  1. I am struggling. My mother, whom I cared for for many years passed recently. I feel very guilty over not doing more for her, especially at her last illness. In addition I am fearful of my brother and his family – we have had a conflict since her death and now I am concerned about discussing anything with them,especially in regard to the Will and division of property. I know I must, but I have been avoiding it not knowing if it is the right time or what the response will be. Sometimes I don’t think I can go on…

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