Summary: When frustration abounds, in prayer we can discover deepened relationships, new possibilities, and ultimately grace.
For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him; therefore your servant has found it possible to pray before you.
Isn’t that an intriguing phrase? “Your servant has found it possible to pray.” My theme for today is “when nothing seems possible, pray.” “When nothing seems possible, pray.” It is the counterpart to last week’s message, which was “When everything seems possible, pray.” Last week we were directed to the good times, the times when God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world, and it just seems as though anything can happen. As I preached last week, I was thinking about students going off to school, and that wonderful surge of optimism that says, “I’m going to do well at this.” I was thinking about the fall of the year, and all that frenzied activity we get into, telling ourselves that we are going to meet whatever challenge comes our way. Everything is possible!
I was even thinking about the church picnic, and how we look forward to good food, good weather, and good fellowship. I don’t know about you, but I felt so good at last Sunday’s picnic that I decided to rename the devilled eggs angelled eggs! By the way, many thanks to those to remembered that those are among the pastor’s favorite fruits; I hope I’ll have time to work them off before that cholesterol fair comes around!
Last Sunday we thought about how we need to pray when everything looks possible, when the options are infinite, the sun is shining, and we feel young and ready. Last week’s message was for the optimists, for those of us whose vocabulary does not include the word, “No”, who just believe that whatever needs doing can be done.
However, we found out last week, watching our Biblical friend Nehemiah build the wall of Jerusalem, that no matter how optimistic we are, somebody is going to oppose us. So prayer needs to be an immediate, bullet-like response that stops hostility before it even gets started. Prayer centers us on the heart of God, so that we will know that we are His and that we need not fear the naysayers and the critics. Most of all, last week, we found out that in prayer, we discover the rubbish in our souls and the garbage in our hearts. The problem with the eternal optimist is that he never stops long enough to look inside, he is so busy getting on with life. But in prayer we are forced to discover that it is just as important to do our interior spiritual work as it is to be out there doing busy work. When everything seems possible, then pray. That was the word for last week and for the optimists’ club.
This week I want to speak to the pessimists. This week I want to address those who feel that whatever they start to do will go wrong. This week I want to speak to those of you who believe Murphy’s Law – the one which says, “If anything can go wrong, it will”. Nothing is possible. Life is full of frustrations. Everything you put your hand to goes wrong. You have littered the landscape of your heart with failed dreams. What do you do? What do you do when nothing seems possible? That too is the time to pray. That, above all else, is a time to pray. When nothing seems possible, pray.
And what an object lesson we received this week! The weather reports sounded out “retreat” all week long. Dire predictions of floods and winds. Schools closing, office workers encouraged to stay home, businesses asked to close. Shortly after noon on Thursday, there was a loud noise and a bright flash right out here on Aspen Street, and a large tree came down, taking power lines with it. For the next fifty-plus hours, this church building was like a great beached whale. It just sat here, and there was nothing we could do with it. No power meant no lights, no air conditioning, no telephones, and, worst of all, no computers and no e-mail! I had withdrawal symptoms! And the same thing at my home! Why, my wife and I actually had to talk to each other! Terrifying! For a while it seemed as though nothing was possible. Couldn’t do anything. Some folks even suggested that we not have services today.
You don’t know me very well, do you? I am in the optimists’ club, not the pessimists’, and I don’t give up that easily. Nonetheless, with all that was happening, I can see why some of us throw up our hands in frustration. I can understand that. But I must say, when nothing seems possible, there is one and only one response: to pray. When all is frustration, you are blocked at every turn, your expectations are not coming true, when nothing seems possible, then pray.