Some of us are tortured that we don’t have the right words. Some of us are terrified that our actions don’t live up to our beliefs. Some of us even second-guess what we know is true and real. Some of us are drowning in the midst of the sea of life. Some of us are holding up an eggshell of a smile as our heart melts inside. Some of us want to whisper the sadness that overwhelms, but some of us are too exhausted to find any more breath.
Some of us want to cry out to God. Some of us wonder if we can ever escape this landscape of pain. Some of us dream of the sunshine on our face. Some of us long for our ever-bound up sigh to exhale. Some of us stare at that door, unable to move any closer to the story of freedom. Because some of us realize exactly where we are.
We live in a world where God is good. Where God is great and mighty. Where God loves. And I’ve been taught these words to pray. God is good. God is love. God is great and mighty. But we live in a world where I don’t experience that God is good. Where I don’t see that God is great and mighty. Where I don’t feel God’s love.
What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with God? And what words, then, do I pray?
Some of us are trapped in a prison of prayer. If God is truly Almighty, good and loving—and I can’t see it—maybe there is a problem with my faith. Maybe I can’t find the right words and feelings to praise His name. Maybe it’s my downcast attitude that leads me away from the favor of God. Maybe my problems are not important enough, and I shouldn’t let them get me down. Maybe my prescription for prayer is wrong, and He is not listening.
The prison inside ourselves where we are trapped is dark. Nothing we seem to do moves us any closer to loving our God. We have guilt heaped upon guilt locked away in our own hearts as we try and pull ourselves out of the depressing cave. Nothing we can say will change our situation, or our God. What is the purpose of prayer if not to make it all better? Our words are bleak. Our attempts are fruitless.
Some of us are trapped in a prison of prayer. If this world is so very evil and wicked—and God doesn’t act—maybe there is a problem with Him. Maybe He is not the good God that our ancestors praised. He listened to their cry and led them away from death and wickedness. Maybe He is not the powerful God that I remember from the stories. He once assured His people with amazing miracles of salvation, but is just not answering anymore. Maybe He does not love like I thought. He acted with mercy for others, but here I’m left to wonder.
The prison of prayer closes in on us. Wanting to explain away His modern-day absence. Wanting to give account for His timely failures. Worried that He is protecting His promises by abandoning His holiness, we will exchange the Hidden Almighty for a god we can understand. Our unsure prayers summon a god we’ve been taught how to control. Our bound-up prayers talk to a fake god who can only handle our fake praise. And our sentence of death edges closer every time we pray.
Some of us are trapped in a prison of prayer. But a little stream of light fights its way from the outside through a dirty crack in the door. Slicing the black room with a fiery blade this tiny sunbeam shines in the darkness. We can’t stop the light, we can’t control the heat or intensity or direction of this small and mighty light. But it finds its way into this prison of prayer, and we are finally shown what the Light has already done.
Smashing open the door, the true Light floods in. He gathers up our arms and drags us toward the threshold. Clawing at the dusty ground, clutching every deadly rock as we pass by, we struggle violently against this unwelcomed savior. Terrified of freedom from our prison, we scream, “Its ok! I’m just fine! Send me back to the familiar darkness, where I have learned to survive!”
But, He will just not let us go. He gathers and enlightens against every faithless desire of our heart. He breathes because we have no breath. He speaks because we have no words. He prays for us because the Almighty God is well pleased with Him, alone. He pulls us outside of our prison of prayer into His bright promise that was there the whole time.
We are free from the prison of prayer because Christ prays for us. His word of worthiness is the only one God the Father can stand to hear. Christ loves with His sacrifice on a cross. Christ works good by handing over His life. Christ is powerful and mighty, because He is the One who defeated death forever. All for you. Even though our sufferings and trials continue for a while, we are right now free from our prison of prayer. We assuredly pray in the middle of anger. We boldly pray in the depth of sin. We confidently pray in the height of joy. Because the Word of Light has already begun and finished this prayer—for you.