Today I prayed while waiting for my laundry to finish its wash cycle. I spoke to God of my frustration in prayer; at times it seems more of a job than a joy. This should not be. The issue isn’t that I don’t have faith for answered prayer—at least, not entirely. I think it’s more of a philosophical issue than a faith issue. I wrestle with prayer’s efficacy; if God knows end from beginning, why pray for things? I know he is sovereign, and he will work things out for his children’s good and his perfect purpose. So, why ask?
It’s simple: I intercede in prayer because God told me to in his Word.
Matthew 5:43-44 ESV
(43) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”
(44) “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
This passage, and verse 39 before it, rankle more guys than many other New Testament passages. “Turn the other cheek”—Indeed! But that’s godly love in action, brothers.
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Did you think this command applied only to Christ’s apostles waiting in the garden?
(18) praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
This is part of Ephesians 6, where God instructs us to don God’s whole armor. While the idea of swords and armor has entertained many a Sunday school class with cardboard or plastic swords and armor, this passage’s full significance usually sails over even adults’ heads. But since this piece is about prayer, I’ll zero in on verse eighteen. “Supplication” is the essential part of intercessory prayer that recognizes our Father’s awesome character and attributes.
“Praying at all times in the Spirit” could be taken two ways: First, we are to pray at all times. Second, when we pray it is to be in the Spirit. I prefer a combination of the two; a bit demanding, but most satisfying.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
(16) Rejoice always,
(17) pray without ceasing,
(18) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
“B-b-but … what if I don’t feel like rejoicing, praying, or giving thanks? What if my circumstances stink?”
It’s a command, bro. Have you ever agonized over God’s will? Maybe you’d better start giving thanks in all circumstances, and then wait for God to make his will plain to you. Frankly, this is impossible without the “in Christ Jesus” part. So, if all this seems impossible, maybe you’re not in Christ Jesus in the first place.
So, back to my laundry room experience. With all these commands to pray, why do I struggle to obey them? I think mood is a big part of it, and mood is more often related to your physiological state than to other influences on emotions. Depression, well, depresses, or inhibits normal neurological responses, with a cascading effect over behavior, sensations of well-being, and even muscular action.
Following a heart-attack in ’97, my wise doctor, whose name, coincidentally, is Doctor Wise, asked me to fill out a depression questionnaire, which determined that I was clinically depressed. Asked when it began, I couldn’t remember not being depressed. Apparently that’s just the way my brain is wired.
That takes me back to 1 Thessalonians 5:18, where God commands me to give thanks in all circumstances. I have two choices: First, to obey God whether or not I feel like it. Second, to sink into despair because, well, “Po’ me.” I didn’t have the choice of how I popped out; who’d want to be depressed, anyway? But it is what it is, and recriminations won’t change anything.
As a Christ-follower, my primary job is to glorify God through him. Could I be more effective if I weren’t depressed? Maybe, but I realize God made me this way for his purposes, and I must glorify my beloved Father God with all that I am, and not sit around wishing I were different so I could do a better job of it.
There! Just working through this has made me joyful! Thank you, Father, for all things, including my moods.