Overcoming a Powerful Blockade to Prayer
Psalm 131 1O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
One of the most powerful blockades to prayer is disappointment with God. It kills prayer. Disappointment must be handled with great care.
When life becomes tenuous; when our hopes are taken away or unfulfilled; when prayer after prayer goes unanswered - these are powerful occasions to become disappointed with God. Disappointment can then turn into silence with God. We go through the motions, and no one else notices. But inside, we turn in on ourselves, and shrivel. We become smaller; our world becomes smaller. Then our love for God and others - the Great Commandment - shrivels. And because love shrivels, evangelism shrivels, as does generosity. We become harder to befriend, more demanding of others . . . The soil of our heart turns rocky, and weeds love rocky soil. Idolatry grows; sin grows - but under the surface, like a tidal wave, before it reaches the coast.
And all of this starts with disappointment with God. It is deceptively powerful. What to do?
Openly talk to God, risking impertinence. There is something so obvious in the Psalms as to be commonly overlooked: David talks openly with God. It is as if the worst thing, on any occasion, is silence with God. The second worst thing is talking to God but not being honest, using platitudes, going through the motions. But this God is a personal being, and He can handle us as we are, thank you. He’s a big Father. Walk through the Psalms - you’ll see this.
Humility of thought is freeing and necessary. Psalm 131 is about humility, but not self-abasement - humility of the mind. Often disappointment with God contains a judgment about God, or at least about the things God has brought to pass. But the Psalmist refuses to think at such a level - above his paygrade (v. 1). This humble refusal to think too highly results in rest (v. 2), which frees him to continue to hope in God (v. 3). Disappointment squelches hope. Humility of mind frees that logjam.
Let in a friend. As I write this, a brother in Christ (whose first language is not English) writes me: “Love you so much.” Lest you think there’s anything homo-romantic in that, he then writes, “It is a really grate joy to have this brothers love.” I’ve let him in on my disappointments, and I know his. That rare expression of affection came at the perfect time: God is still present; His love has not changed. My friend pictures for me my other Brother, whose cross-driven love will not let us go.