Honestly, I’m nearly sick to death of hearing it.
From politicians to news anchors; from preachers to movie stars, it has become the in-thing to say when confronted by people whose lives have been shattered.
Not that having someone think prayerfully about me when I’m hurting isn’t significant. On the contrary, in the soul’s darker nights nothing is more important.
But too often this is just something to say to end the uncomfortable engagement with someone pouring out the depths of pain, loss, sadness or depression—and we simply don’t know what else to say.
I’ve decided for me that duplicity has come to an end. When I promise thoughts and prayers from this moment on, I plan on both thinking and praying.
Because when these words come from a person who fully intends to think meaningfully and pray passionately for you about those difficult circumstances, there is a shared suffering and partnered pain that makes it a bit easier to get through the stuff of life that so often hits the fan.
Sitting recently with several people I care deeply about who are struggling to find hope in lives gone off the tracks, I have been gripped by this truth:
…they do not need patronizing promises or pat answers.
They need someone willing to walk into the mess, sit among the ashes and listen long enough to know what to say to the God who is their only hope.
But there is more to this for me personally.
Prayers like this–real thoughts and prayers from real people who really care and understand–have been the difference between life and death for me.
These words meant the world when I was struggling to grasp whether Papa God was hearing my prayers at all.
I’m talking about times when I’ve asked until I’m blue in the face, sought like a neurotic treasure hunter and knocked until my emotional knuckles were raw yet have not even a grunt of divine reply. (Matthew 7:7)
Those were moments when like Yentl, I could only sing…
Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you see me?
Papa, can you find me in the night?
Papa, are you near me?
Papa, can you hear me?
Papa, can you help me, not be frightened?*
It was profoundly healing and sustaining to know that someone else was picking up my banner and waving it in God’s face. Ganging up on God with me!
You see, nothing silences the words of God like the white noise of rejection, failure or loss.
The gnawing suspicions voiced as “Why?” and “What if?” scream like the wind, shake like the earthquake and sear like the fire outside Elijah’s cave of despair. They efficiently drown out the breathy whispers of a God who is closer than your skin but seems quieter than the grave. (1 Kings 19:12)
To have a real person enter your agony, share your sorrow and pick up your pieces with an honestly empathetic heart, then carry the whole Humpty Dumpty mess before Papa in your behalf is an oasis that makes surviving the spiritual desert possible.
No judgment of how the thing got fragmented in the first place, simply an honest willingness to take you as you are before God as He is and ask for Him to do what He has always done–help.
That quality of thoughtful prayer not only sustains your heart but moves your Father’s.
Like the friends who grabbed four bedposts, raised a roof and dropped a suffering buddy at the feet of Jesus, those who truly think of and pray for you in your pain make the difference between lameness and leaping. (Mark 2:1-5)
“When Jesus saw their faith…” Not the poor guy who was down for the count, paralyzed by both legs that wouldn’t walk and a heart that couldn’t hope. But the faith of the four friends whose thoughts and prayers were truly “with him”.
- Grace says it is OK to feel that Papa isn’t hearing when the broken heart just can’t punctuate its prayers with the “let it be so” confidence of “Amen”.
- Love says it is OK to grab the bedding, remove the obstacles and drag that weary seeker before Jesus with the “it has to be so” compassion of “In Jesus Name”.
So now when I share a friend’s struggle, my mind will engage their reality (thoughts) and my heart will pour out their desires (prayers) to the God who always says “Yes” when we ask…
Papa can you hear me?
*Lyrics by Michel Legrand; Marilyn and Alan Bergman.