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When Prayer Doesn’t Seem Sufficient: A Personal Testimony

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:13-16

We often hear all of the testimonies where God answered a huge prayer, performed a miracle, and tied up all the loose ends in a nice bow. This is not that kind of testimony. Most of us don’t live in that constant state of spiritual high. We encounter both mountaintops, and valleys of death; and if we’re honest it seems like more valleys than mountains. But maybe that’s just me. I want to share with you today a struggle that is still raw, and honestly still hurts to talk about, in hopes to show that God is good, even when nothing else is.

The Struggle

My older brother has struggled with addictions since he was 13. I remember the first time the police dropped him off at home, the first time his stomach was pumped because of alcohol poisoning, the first time he asked me if I wanted to smoke with him, the first time I found him passed out on the front steps of our house. I remember when the alcohol and pot turned into cocaine and heroin, and my parent’s marriage crumbled under the weight of addiction and financial stress. I remember my brother's 18th birthday, when my mom kicked him out, and he finally made the choice to get clean on his own. He found something stronger than addiction – he found Jesus. And for the first time, I too believed that God was real. He got sober, got his GED, went on to Bible College, went on mission trips, got married, and was living happily ever after.
Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

The thing about sin is, it doesn’t give up. I found out this last June that my brother relapsed back into drugs and alcohol. He told me that he had been sober for 10 years, and that that was long enough. I remember calling my mom, and sobbing together, grieving over the phone. We thought that this chapter in our lives was over. It felt like an impossible burden to have to carry. The last round with addiction fractured our family, destroyed relationships, and nearly killed us. And him. Literally. The thought of trudging through that battle field again, digging up old skeletons, and rummaging through all that baggage and unresolved family issues I thought I left back home – well, it made the valley of the shadow of death seem like a comforting place to be.

The Problem of Sin, And our Unwavering Hope

Sin never affects just one person. It is an insidious disease with the sole purpose of enticing you into death, and it wants to take as many people down as it can. The good news is, the more devastating the disease, the more powerful the cure. And we know that the only hope for a world broken by sin is in Christ Jesus, through his death and resurrection.

We have confidence when it says in Romans that He works all things for the good of those who love Him – but what about in the mean time, when it hurts, and the pain of sin and death is overwhelming? How do we pray when the devastation of sin is so wide spread, nothing we can say or even dare to hope for seems sufficient?


Lessons From Scripture

I am reminded of a few passages in Mark, when desperate people cried out to Jesus. In Mark chapter 10, we meet Bartimaeus, a blind beggar. He heard that Jesus was walking by, and a crowd of people surrounded him. Bartimaeus’ plea was simple, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus called Bartimaeus to him, and restored his sight. Another passage that stands out is Mark 9. A father of a demon possessed boy calls out to Jesus, asking him to heal his son, if he can. Jesus says that all things are possible for the one who believes. The father immediately cries out, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus then drives out the evil spirits, and heals the son. In each of these passages, we see Jesus perform an outward sign of healing, but in truth, the healing runs so much deeper. Bartimaeus asks for mercy, and the father asks for faith.

Prayer With A Purpose

When we come before the throne of God to ask Him to heal the sick or addicted, or to provide financially, or for direction or purpose in our lives, what we are really asking is that God would reveal himself in such a powerful way in our lives, or in the lives of those we are praying for, that every decision made would align with his character and his will. I want to encourage you today, wherever you’re at, to keep the faith. Ephesians 3 gives us a beautiful prayer for strength:

the-power-of-prayerFor this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
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