Summary: The first in a series corresponding to a 40 Days of Prayer campaign. This message focuses on the power found in prayers of utter desperation.
(Video Clip – “It’s a Wonderful Life”, George’s Prayer of Desperation)
Poor George. It’s a Wonderful Life, but George is at the end of his rope. Desperate, he admits he is not a praying man. Still he asks, that if God is there, to show him the way.
Not that unusual of a circumstance. Whether it is an individual’s life, a national terror tragedy such as September 11, or a local disaster like ComAir 5191. When people reach a point of desperation, they often turn to prayer.
Daniel W. Phillips from Russell Springs recently wrote into the Lexington Herald-Leader, “My heart goes out to the family members of all the people who died Sunday on Comair Flight 5191 from Lexington to Atlanta. From all news reports, people turned to prayer to comfort themselves and others. A Lexington police chaplain led a prayer at 10:20 a.m. I am glad that he was there to comfort others. Why is it that we turn to prayer in disasters but turn away at other times? Why are so many people hostile to prayer by public officials in school and at high school graduations but want public prayer during tragedies? If our society were more tolerant of prayer in public settings, more of us would experience peace during our lives, including the tragic moments.”
The church often responds to tragedy based movements of prayer with a sentiment that I think Daniel Phillips is hinting at in his letter to the editor. A sentiment that can turn a bit sarcastic or judgmental at times when crisis strikes and people turn to prayer. The church can almost respond with a, “Oh sure, now you pray. When you are desperate, then you turn to God.” In fact, we can almost make it sound like that is a bad thing.
But this morning I want us to be aware of the fact that there is great power in desperation. When we reach the end of our rope. When we feel like there is nowhere else to turn. When things have gotten so bad that it appears there is no way out. Rather than simply viewing that as a time when people use prayer as a crutch. . .we ought to view that as a time when great, mighty, prevailing prayers of desperation can be offered up to God.
A Newsweek poll several years ago titled "Is God Listening?" indicated that 54% of those the magazine surveyed prayed on a daily basis. 87% believed that God answers their prayers at least some of the time, and 85% insisted that they could accept God’s failure to grant their prayers.
The things people pray for include health, safety, jobs, and even success. 82% said they ask for health or success for a child or family member when they pray. 75% asked for strength to overcome personal weakness, and 51% agreed that God doesn’t answer prayers to win sporting events. I’m guessing those were offered up by UK football fans.
Despite what you may read or see in the media, we are a nation of praying people. And while some people will only revert to prayer when they are desperate, God’s word might even suggest, that is just the time when prayer can become a powerful conduit of God’s mercy and grace.