Every night, as I laid down to sleep, I would remember my friend in prayer – He’d been missing for over a year. Some nights I would literally cry out to God. The burden to pray for my friend was sometimes so strong I would get out of bed and find a quiet place to pray; a place where I could prostrate myself before God in petition.
Many Catholic churches have a small chapel that is filled with prayer for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They call the prayer Eucharistic Adoration. People sign up for one hour a week to go to the Chapel and pray before a consecrated Host of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), which according to their theology is the transubstantiated body and blood of Jesus Christ. A Catholic friend who knew of my burden told me about these chapels and said if I really wanted a sacred place to pray I was welcome anytime, day or night.
One lonely, cold, winter night, as I was particularly burdened in prayer for my friend, I was losing hope and beginning to fear the worst had happened. So, I got up about 3 O’clock in the morning and drove to one those chapels. There in the chapel, was an elderly man spending his hour in prayer. I knelt down and prayed for a while. My custom is to turn to Psalms for guidance in prayer – they are the ancient prayer book of God’s people. That night I turned to a few different Psalms, but when I got to Psalm 22, I heard my voice echoing in the words of Psalm.
David wrote the Psalm but it is historically understood to be the prophetic voice of the crucified Christ, calling out to the Father as He hung on the cross. We hear Jesus crying out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (v. 1), the very words which St. Matthew quotes of Jesus in his gospel, chapter 27, verse 46.
As I read and prayed the words of Psalm 22 that night, I realized that while much of them are words of angst and agony, many of them are of faith and hope. The Psalmist changes his voice in verse 23 to one of hope and assurance that God will hear his prayer and rescue him. In fact, the first line of the Psalm in the Septuagint version is, “concerning help in the morning”. Though Jesus prayed in agony, He knew His Father would send help in the morning. God would not abandon Him in death, and neither will He abandon us in our hour of great need.
It was another four months or so, and my friend was found – alive. He was hurting, but he was alive. God heard my prayers; He always has and He always will, and He hears yours too. What’s your burden in prayer today? Know that He hears, and that His desire is to deliver you as you surrender all to Him. And, just like the Psalmist in the midst of his outcry, let your cries turn to praise:
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! all you sons of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you sons of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From thee comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live for ever! (Ps. 22:23-26)
In your prayers, don’t stop when you run out of words of petition. Don’t be afraid to lay out your deepest fears before God. Then, let your cries turn from fear to praise.