I’ve always been a little envious of people who pray well. You know who they are, the ones who genuinely seem to seek the face of God when they pray. They don’t get distracted, or fall asleep, when praying. They want to pray, and often come out of praying feeling energized and alive. Usually I hear them talk about joy in praying and feel like the kid who wasn’t invited to the party. Like there is something really important I’m missing. I have always known that prayer is how I talk to God, and that God wants me to pray to him, but I haven’t always felt like it’s the spiritual discipline that gives me the greatest spiritual high. And I always wondered why.
Jesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:18).
Other translations say “all who are weary and burdened.” Either way, the point here is that desperate people come to Jesus. The well-rested, unburdened person feels no need to come and find rest in the shelter of Jesus. They don’t need to drink of his sustaining grace for their journey. They don’t need to seek him. But weary people, they are desperate, hard-pressed, and seeking help. How do they find such help?
For the last three years I have asked God to give me a desire to pray. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to my heavenly Father, or that I haven’t had requests for him. It’s just my prayer life has often been a roller coaster experience. Some days are high. Some days are low.
And then last August something happened. I had only known of my pregnancy for a few weeks, but I suddenly knew something was not right. Within a few days of those feelings I lost our baby. In those 72 hours I prayed like I have never prayed. I cried out to God asking him to spare our child. I begged him for a heartbeat. I was desperate. While he didn’t answer my prayer in the way I had hoped, he did teach me about my overwhelming need for him. No amount of my attempts at control could save our baby. It had to be a work of God and I knew that. It made me pray. And when we lost the baby it made me pray even more that he would sustain me in my grief.
In the twelve months since our loss we have faced continued struggles with infertility that have caused me to feel even more desperate at times. I can’t make my body work right any more than I could save my baby. But God can and he is where I look in my times of hopelessness. I’m weary. I’m heavy laden. By God’s grace I have a resting place and hope in my circumstance. His name is Jesus.
When I’ve asked God to give me a desire for prayer over these years I never expected it to be in such a needy way. But isn’t that evidence of his great love for me? I believe so. By taking me through this valley God has caused me to lean on him in ways I never would have had my life turned out differently. It’s the lean times that make us turn to him. It’s there where we are stripped of all the things that hinder us from coming to God. Yes, it makes us weary. Yes, it is not our first choice. But often it is here, while we are carrying a great burden, that we learn to pray.