Written by Morgan Clark
Stories are faith builders—they are a source of encouragement which help us recognize what God has done in our lives and in the lives of those in our community. For this reason, I want to tell you one of my stories about how I have experienced the truth of God’s Word in my life.
Most people would agree that the Lord’s Prayer is one of the most well known and frequently cited passages of Scripture. Found in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, it offers us an excellent model of prayer. However, before Jesus teaches His disciples the words of this prayer, He instructs them on how they should pray. He says to them, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8, ESV).
Often, I think that we identify with the Gentiles more than we would care to admit. We hesitate to pray because we have this misconception that we have to use the right terminology and express our prayers using eloquent speech; we fear that we will say something wrong.
However, we know that God desires for us to draw near to Him (Matthew 11:28), that He invites us to make our requests known (Philippians 4:6), and that He tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
As Jesus highlights beautifully, an abundance of well-crafted words is not going to increase the effectiveness of our prayers. This does not give us an excuse not to pray, but rather offers us assurance that God fully knows our needs in both the said and the unsaid.
A few years ago, I was in what I might call a season of loneliness. Sometimes when we think of loneliness, we think of it as the result of an absence of meaningful relationships. But during this time I was not lacking good friends or a supportive family, in fact by the world’s standards it appeared that I should be thriving. I connected with my family on a regular basis, I was living in an awesome community, and I had a handful of close friends; yet I still felt this deep sadness in my heart.
One day during this time, I was reflecting on my year and the present and this is what I wrote, “I’m hurting. I feel this constant heaviness weighing down on me; an unshakable loneliness.” I could identify what I was feeling and the cause, but due to the circumstances I could not see how these feelings might change, except that overtime the loneliness would become less painful.
For the next week, I would continue to wake up each morning, go to class, the gym, the library, and continue to drag this weight along with me hoping that it would get easier. One day, around two weeks after this journal entry, I was sitting in class when my professor walked in and said that while she was driving to the school God had put someone in our class on her heart. She did not know who the student was, but God had told her there was someone in her class that was dealing with an unbearable loneliness.
As you can imagine my ears perked up as she was speaking, and tears started to well up in my eyes because I knew that person was me.
As she stood before us and offered a prayer for this individual, I could feel the heaviness starting to dissipate; though if I am honest I doubted that this sense of release could actually be real and wondered if it was just the result of a placebo effect. However, in the week that followed, the loneliness did not return.
Here is the thing, God did not change my circumstances, but that day He did do something in my heart. When I concluded that it would just take a couple of weeks, God said, “No, today.” Though I did not have the words to pray, God gave them to somebody else. He knew what I needed before I asked and He revealed Himself in a powerful way.