Abraham Lincoln, the American president who faced tremendous personal struggles in his life, once said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”
And it often takes just that—the overwhelming conviction that you have nowhere else to go—before you are willing to pray. And there is a reason for that. To have to say, “God, I’m at the end of myself and I have nowhere else to turn,” is humiliating. It’s like being absolutely broke and having to go to a friend and say, “Hey, could you make me a loan? I don’t have enough money to buy bread and milk for the children.”
If you can fix something yourself, you can then sit back and say, “Hey, look what I did! I pulled strings. I made the right connections. I’m actually pretty good.” But when I pray about something, I’m asking from a position of weakness And there is something about my old nature which doesn’t like to be put in that position. That something is called pride.
You do not have, because you do not ask God. James 4:3
“I’d rather do it myself,” we think, really hesitant to ask God to do what we cannot. Stubborn, fierce independence always militates against prayer, yet the stark reality is that there are a lot of things which you cannot fix–the sorrow and pain of a broken relationship, the devastating reality that you are mortal. The doctor can’t fix the cancer that occurred just as you reached retirement age and thought you could now enjoy life. You can’t change the stock market, or the rains which devastated your crops, leaving you at the door of bankruptcy.
Only God can do some things!
“Man’s extremity, though, is God’s opportunity,” said someone, so our poverty of spirit combined with our great needs drive us to knock on the door of the King.
In his powerful little book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala charges that a lot of pastors fall into the same trap as do the people who sit in the pews—the position of not wanting to knock on heaven’s door, empty-handed, devastated, at the end of themselves with empty pews and hearts. So instead they try to fix things through program instead of the power of God. When Jim Cymbala took a broken-down church in a bad neighborhood, there were fewer than 25 people in attendance. Today, people crowd Brooklyn Tabernacle. And what was the key to the growth? Program? No, God’s power to change lives as the result of prayer.
He says, “God has chosen prayer as his channel of blessing. He has spread a table for us with every kind of wisdom, grace, and strength because he knows exactly what we need. But the only way we can get it is to pull up to the table and taste and see that the Lord is good. Pulling up to that table is called the prayer of faith”
Question: How do you overcome your position of weakness? You don’t. But it helps to understand that God is not expecting you to come as an equal, to drive a deal with Him, agreeing that if He bails you out of your problem, you’ll do something equally helpful to Him in return.
That’s what grace is about, grace which comes from the hand of a loving, compassionate Father who delights in meeting you at the point of your need. Only willful, misplaced, senseless pride and arrogance keep you from knocking at the door of grace, coming with an open hand, asking God to meet you at the point of your need. Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but yours, something you must never forget.
Resource reading: John 16:17-33