The Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us...
- Romans 8:26 NLT
Since I began studying the Bible in-depth more than ten years ago, I've discovered the importance of praying very specific prayers, and I've encouraged others to do so. As we cultivate an intimate relationship with God, and as we renew our minds through the study of His Word, we find it increasingly natural to pray the prayers of God's own heart. But I do believe that there are times when the Lord leads us to pray more "general" prayers. I was reminded of this fact recently when my youngest son, John, got married and moved out of our home. Our oldest son, Joseph, had married a few years earlier, so with John's departure, my husband and I suddenly found ourselves alone. After having raised children for almost 26 years, Joe and I began to sense a distinct void in our lives--an "empty nest" kind of feeling. As happy as I was for my children, I couldn't deny the fact that part of me was feeling very sad, and there were times when I wasn't sure how or what I should pray. That's when the Lord reminded me that at times like this, I didn't have to concern myself with praying very specific prayers, but I could trust the Lord to give me some simple, general prayers to pray. As I began to declare--"Thank You, Lord, for making me a happy and joyful mother of children!"--based on a promise from His Word that He spoke to me years earlier (Psalm 113:9), my spirit was lifted, and I was filled with a fresh sense of hope. Suddenly, I wasn't so concerned with the negative aspects of my situation, but I was focused on my faith in God to work out the details, so that His promise to me would somehow be fulfilled.
Scripture says: "The Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us..." (Romans 8:26 NLT) The Lord knew that there would be times when we would be so overwhelmed with emotion that we wouldn't know how or what to pray, so He gave us His Spirit to help us during those times. One of the most important lessons that God has taught me over the years is that we don't really know what our true needs or desires are. That's one of the reasons why, when we feel like we want something, and then we actually get it, we can quickly adopt a "ho-hum" attitude about it. The truth is that God is the only One who knows what we really want, and what will give us lasting joy. He's also the only One who knows what's really best for us. That's why, when I think there's something I want, and something that I think will be good for me, but I'm not absolutely sure, I claim God's promise in Psalm 37:4 and declare--"Thank You, Lord, for giving me the desires of my heart because I delight myself in You!" By doing this, I am leaving the specifics in God's hands, trusting Him to give me His very best. The Amplified Version of this verse gives us insight into the Lord's unique ability to search out our true desires: "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart." (Psalm 37:4 AMP)
In the Scriptures, the psalmist declares, "I am too distressed even to pray!" (Psalm 77:4 NLT) When we experience this kind of distress because of daunting circumstances, we can lay hold of God's promise in Romans 8:28 and declare--"Thank You, Lord, for working these and ALL things out for my good!" Taking this step of faith shows God that we are trusting Him to work out the details of our circumstances so that they will actually benefit us, no matter how impossible that may seem at the time. If you are facing some disheartening circumstances of your own today which have you too distressed to pray, ask the Holy Spirit to give you a simple prayer or promise of your very own. Then be prepared to be uplifted and refreshed as you stand in faith for your victory!
Prayer: Lord, when I'm feeling overcome with emotion, or overwhelmed by my circumstances, help me to turn to You first. Teach me how to pray simple, Spirit-led prayers when praying is the hardest thing for me to do. Show me how Your Word and Your promises can fill me with a fresh sense of hope when I'm tempted to lose heart. Thank You, Lord, that as I leave the details of my trying situations to You, You will lead me in the paths of Your greatest blessings!
- J. M. Farro