The willing-but-weak story: we all have a few to tell. The disciples walked out of Gethsemane with one. Jesus had left his prayer spot to visit the disciples in theirs, and found them asleep. They had no idea how significant that garden prayer session was (the one they slept through). Jesus was praying on the threshold of a terrible, yet magnificent breakthrough that would rescue humanity, define history and reverberate forever. And he wanted them – his prayer support group – to join him in the pre-breakthrough praying. But their will to pray lost out to tiredness. Jesus’ words to them: The spirit is willing but the body is weak (Matt 26:41).
Most of us can relate to that story. The will to grow as a pray-er is there – to do it better and enjoy it more – but so is human weakness. Simply trying harder isn’t enough. God didn’t intend us to live by self-strength, but beyond it. He designed us for Spirit-strength.
The heart managed by the Holy Spirit is the prayer life guardian. The Spirit empowers us for an otherwise impossible journey of keeping in step with him. That includes steps that grow us as pray-ers. Paul calls it ‘sowing to please the Spirit’ (Gal 5:16-17, 25, 6:8).
Training the heart to agree with the Spirit becomes ultra-urgent when calm turns to storm. Trouble stirs up our emotions. If those feelings shape our praying, we find ourselves praying in reaction to our circumstances, rather than in response to the nature of God. And prayer from unrest loses the Spirit’s signature of peace (Phil 4:7).
The previous blog post, What to pray when trouble happens looked at the prayer-setting of David’s heart when serious trouble hit (Ps 57). Rather than go into something different today, we’ll re-visit his prayer-song.
David’s asking was brief. Not because he thought his need was unimportant, or that God isn’t interested in detail, but he believed the best way to handle any important asking point is to place it into a huge God-above-all frame.
Even his LAMENT was about enlarging that frame. Yes, it was therapeutic to pour out his feelings to the Lord, but more than that, lament engaged him with God’s feelings about the trouble from Saul’s hand. Then, his God-above-all frame grew even bigger through his prayer of DEVOTION (elevating God’s worthiness, declaring he would be the Lord’s worshipper even in storm times). His prayer crescendoed with ADMIRATION of the Lord’s great love and faithfulness.
David’s trouble wasn’t over, but its power to shake him was. His heart was ruled by his view of the Lord, not of the crisis.
As long as the Spirit has the controlling right over our hearts, he strengthens us to build bigger God-above-all frames…. even when trouble makes us feel like it least. Willing-but-weak is not the title of our life story; by the Spirit of Christ, we are willing, weak but wonderfully empowered!
- What is it you are asking the Lord to do (in one sentence)?
- Create your own prayer-song. Start with lament (use the way you feel about the trouble to connect with the Lord’s heart concerning it).
- Sing of your devotion to worship him more, not less in the storm.
- Climax with admiration of the Lord. Focus on the glimpses of himself that he been giving you in the trouble.