Praying Without Losing Heart


One of the lessons Mike read this morning had to do with prayer. And the passage that he read from in Genesis where Abraham is really haggling with God to try and save Sodom was not something he was doing in a spirit of flippancy, but it was tremendous intercession.


Each of us here, that follow Jesus, have been called into a ministry, and the root of that ministry is prayer, but the problem is, that so much of the time, we feel like we just can't do it.


"I can't pray. I just can't pray!” people will often say who are serious about following Jesus – they have committed their lives to him, they are trying to walk in his will.


But now something has gone wrong, something is happening...


It's like the spirit inside has become dry and heaven above has turned to brass,

and the soul itself is paralyzed, and "I just can't pray!”


Sometimes that complaint means that all conscious prayer has come to an end – the mind can't even think of words to utter in God's direction.


It's like the experience people have had after a bad accident and they don't even want to get back into a car.


They continue to go around doing the things that need to be done in life – their appetites are still there, they still sleep at night, but they can't pray.


For others who say they can't pray means that while they continue to say their prayers, their prayers seem to have a hollow, empty, barren, unreal quality – like they are talking to thin air.


And for still others, they won't admit they can't pray – not even to themselves in secret.


But at the rock bottom of everything in life is this unspoken, un-admitted barrier to any genuine relationship with God, and that barrier is the lack of any expectancy that God would ever, or could ever, listen to me – to what I have to say.


Why is it that we find it so difficult, even to find time alone with God every single day when we know that any life of faith that is worthy of the Name includes that – has to have that?


Or why is that some of us find no trouble at all with praying in a group?

Somebody asks you pray for their sickness, or their cousin, or anything like that, they can do it?

 .... but then, when we get alone in our room with the door shut, that precious time, which should be really the most delicious hour of the day, the spirit becomes blank?


Whenever we say, "I can't pray”, what we are really saying is, "I have lost heart. I'm discouraged”.



And he taught them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.' And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes will he find faith on earth?”                                                                        Luke 18: 1-8


The widow didn't lose heart – she got right on past through this man – she knew that this judge was going to come through for her.


And the elect of God, who cried to him day and night, also know that they are going to be vindicated.


But there is nothing in this world to support such faith. "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”


The faith which continuously cries out to God and never loses heart, does so in a world and surrounded by an atmosphere in this sphere that considers such a faith absolutely absurd.

It gets no support, but it goes right on doing it.

And God hears and answers.


Now the word of God to each of us, regardless of where we are at this moment, whatever our circumstances may be, is ... pray, and don't lose heart!


Never mind how things are going, whether they are going great or really falling apart. Never mind how you feel. Forget about what people are saying. And get on with doing the one thing which is still within your power to do: Pray.


For instance, when we feel guilty before God, and we want to repent, and we want to get things right, but we just can't seem to do it, the one effective thing we can do is to pray and not lose heart even if the only prayer we can pray is: "God be merciful to me a sinner”.



When I kept silence [that is, when I didn't pray], my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long [still not praying].  For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. [Then I finally decided to pray...] I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found.                                         Psalm 32: 3-6


When our spirits are really heavy with guilt, the worst thing we can do is run and hide in the bushes like Adam and Eve.


The best thing we can do is follow the example of David and go straight toward God, crying out for his help:


Have mercy on me, O God according to Thy loving kindness, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight; that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.      Psalm 51: 1-4


We often say, "Yeah, but I've committed the same stupid sin a million times. God must be getting tired.”


And it's true, he is getting tired ... in the sense that we just can't keep on and on and on, and think that he'll put up with us forever. There is a limit.


But this doesn't change the fact that the one helpful, effective way to begin to change, to start making things right, is to come with the whole mess, and dump it before God, and pray and don't lose heart.


This also follows – the same thing – when we find ourselves up against an obstacle that just won't move out of the way ...


            - maybe it's an impossible work situation, or

            - a problem in a marriage, or

            - a flaw in our own character that just won't change ,

                        ... and we just can't see a way out of it.


The one helpful thing we can do with this is pray and not lose heart.


There's this widow, she has an unrighteous judge standing between her and justice – nobody is taking her part, there's nobody around that's going to stand up for her – and she knows what he has to do for her.


And this is precisely what Jesus is telling us: Keep praying, and keep praying, and keep praying until God himself moves the mountain. He absolutely will. He will move it.


What if we feel totally dry inside? "How could God ever listen to my prayers? I don't even know if I have any faith.”


Strange as it may seem, even when we are feeling like that, the most effective way to have our vision of God restored, is to pray through that ... to keep right on praying even if you think you're talking to thin air. Pray and don't lose heart.



I will say unto God, my Rock, "Why has Thou forgotten me? Why do I mourn because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a sword in my bones mine enemies reproach me while they say unto me continually, "Where is thy God?”


Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, for the help of his countenance.                                   Psalm 42: 9-11



What does it mean to hope in God .... but to pray and not lose heart.


Don't sit around and mope. Begin to pray. With your mouth  ... your tongue. Let it come out of the heart and actually cross the lips.


We have made the mistake of thinking, "Well, I'm praying in my mind.” Of course you can pray with your mind.  But especially when we're really down, it's very helpful to say the words out loud.


This ridiculous idea that we often have, is that I can't pray until I feel the presence of God. We can pray when we feel nothing.  And we can pray when we are surrounded by hostility.


And we are going to pray and we're not going to lose heart.

And we are going to transform that hope into substance by praying no matter how we feel.


Finally, when our ministry is in shambles ... and each of us who is following Jesus has a ministry ... sometimes it's like this airplane we've just built and it's ready to take off and it gets about three inches off the ground and crashes.

            And sometimes it's going right up and


One way or another, sooner or later our little airplane ministry is going to take a dive. And we aren't alone.


Look at poor Elijah:


Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had slain all her prophets with a sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying, "So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I don't make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and went for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked if he might die saying; "It is enough;  now, O Lord, take away my life;  for I am no better than my fathers.” And he laid down and slept under the broom tree; and behold an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time, and touched him, and said, "Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.”  And he arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, "What are you doing here Elijah?” He said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, "Go forth, and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind and earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still gentle voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle ...”                                                                                                     1 Kings 19: 1-13


Because God was in it.


Now here was a man who was depressed to the point of wanting to die. And he had reason.

After this tremendous victory on Mount Carmel over the prophets of Baal, the whole thing fell apart. It seemed nothing was accomplished.


And he was a hunted man. And nobody stood up for him. Nobody said, "Hey, you can hide in my basement.” He was on his own. And he was fed up! His ministry was in shambles.


But the one thing Elijah continues to do ... he continues to talk to God. He goes right on praying. He has lost heart about many things, but he has not lost heart about prayer.


How often this is the way it is with us.

We come to a place where everything seems to fall apart for us.

            Everything we try to do.

            Everything we think we've built for the kingdom of God is now in ruins.

                        And there is only one thing left – and that is God himself – as if that isn't enough.

                        Now all we have is God.


Now we call on God.

And when we call on God with nothing else but God, we are suddenly lifted up into union with him, which we never dreamed could be possible on this earth.


And he taught them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.


Every victory Jesus won for us...

Every lesson he taught us ... remains for each of us nothing but dead theory until we take that victory or that lesson and transform it into substance and life by drawing near to God in prayer.


And the prayer that makes the kingdom of God reality in our lives is the prayer which continues through all seasons, and which refuses to lose heart.


May the Spirit teach us and help us to live such prayer!