MY SPIRITUAL BROKENNESS STOPS ME FROM PRAYING
All of us know what it’s like to feel the weight of our own brokenness. We have days, weeks, months and even years where we struggle to live the kind of lives God wants us to live. As a result, our guilt and shame often drive us to hide from God. The same thing happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Some of us never come out of hiding. We believe in Jesus. We’ve placed our life and eternity into His hands. We might even be happy to go to church or talk to others about our faith in God. But the thought of talking to God is not an option. Not because we don’t want to. But because we feel too guilty.
The good news is that we don’t need to stay in hiding. God makes a way for spiritually broken people to pray…
#1 JESUS MAKES A WAY FOR SPIRITUALLY BROKEN PEOPLE TO PRAY
The Apostle Paul wrote: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21).
For those of us who are Christians, all our past sin, present sin, future sin, accidental sin, and deliberate sin was cast upon Jesus while He was on the cross. God poured out His wrath upon Jesus. Jesus was condemned so that we could become uncondemnable.
At the same time, all of Jesus’ righteousness was cast upon us. So that every good thing that Jesus ever did is credited into our account. So although we are still sinful, God now treats us as if we live perfect, holy, and pure lives.
For this reason, if we’ve placed our life and eternity into Jesus’ hands, God promises that…
> He is “not counting people’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
> He has “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
> We “have been declared righteous” (Romans 5:1).
> We “have peace with God” (Romans 5:1).
> We “will not be judged” (John 5:24).
> We have already “crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
Therefore we have absolutely no reason to hide from God. He is not counting our sins against us. Rather, we can now “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Tim Keller explains…
In the Psalms it says: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps 66: 18). Sinners deserve to have their prayers go unanswered. Jesus was the only human being in history who deserved to have all his prayers answered because of his perfect life. Yet he was turned down as if he cherished iniquity in his heart. Why? …Jesus’ prayers were given the rejection that we sinners merit so that our prayers could have the reception that he merits. That is why, when Christians pray, they have the confidence that they will be heard… Jesus got the scorpion and the snake so that we could have food at the Father’s table. He received the sting and venom of death in our place (cf. 1 Cor 15: 55; Heb 2: 14– 15; Gen 3: 15). We know that God will answer us when we call “my God” because God did not answer Jesus when he made the same petition on the cross. For Jesus, the “heavens were as brass”; he got the Great Silence so we could know that God hears and answers.
Charles Spurgeon agrees: “The prayer that moves the arm of God is still a bruised and battered prayer, and only moves that arm because the sinless One, the great Mediator, Jesus, has stepped in to take away the sin of our supplication”.
#2 OUR HEAVENLY FATHER MAKES A WAY FOR SPIRITUALLY BROKEN PEOPLE TO PRAY
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells the story of a rebellious son who has reached a point of brokenness. After completely rejecting his father, he heads off to experience what the world has to offer, only to discover that it wasn’t as good as he had hoped. Eventually he realizes his father has more than enough to meet his needs, so he heads back home. But because of his brokenness, he doesn’t feel like he has the right to be called his father’s son, so he approaches him as a hired servant…
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’
Many of us approach God the same way. We long to come before God in prayer. We fully acknowledge that He has more than enough to meet our needs. But we don’t feel worthy to be called His child. As a result, we often approach God as a hired servant.
Francis Chan explains: “Sometimes I waited a few days or even weeks before talking to Him because I wanted to have a period of proving myself. In doing this I acted like a slave and obeyed as well as I could. I figured I could still serve Him even though I felt uncomfortable having a real conversation with Him… This was the regular pattern for me. I wanted to prove that I was sorry for what I did by being faithful for a period of time, I wanted to develop a good track record before pursuing my relationship with Him again. I wanted God to see that I could be a good servant. Then I felt good enough to talk to God again.”
The good news is that our Heavenly Father is not a harsh boss. Nor is he a kind boss. And we are not His hired servants. Rather He is a loving father who can’t wait to give good gifts to His children…
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves… rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Jesus continues his parable by making this ridiculously clear. The father won’t let his son make up for the period of rebellion. He isn’t interested in listening to his son’s speech. And there is absolutely no way whatsoever that he’s going to allow his son to return as a hired servant…
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Francis Chan said: “God didn’t want a good slave who tried really hard. He wanted me to see that he was a good father.” We don’t need to make up for our sin. Our spiritual brokenness doesn’t need to stop us from praying. God is just longing for his child to come home.
#3 THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKES A WAY FOR SPIRITUALLY BROKEN PEOPLE TO PRAY
Many of us believe that the Christian life is about ‘WHAT WE DO FOR GOD’.
We believe that God loves us as we are, but if we want God to bless us, answer our prayers, speak to us or come through for us, then we’re going to have to be committed. We’re going to have to set aside a significant amount of time to pray every day. We’re going to have to make sure we always approach God with reverence. It would seem that the more faithful we are, the more likely it is that God will say ‘yes’ to our prayer requests. In other words, God answers the prayers of the strong and ignores the prayers of the weak.
But what if we don’t have what it takes? What if we’ve tried being disciplined but we’ve failed too many times to remember? What if we’ve tried being faithful, but we continue to struggle with sin? What if we’ve tried making sure we’re approaching God with reverence, but we’re not even sure that we trust God, let alone revere Him? Bill Bright said: “The Christian life is not difficult – it is impossible. Only one person has ever lived the Christian life, and that was Jesus Christ. Today He desires to go on living His life through Christians whom He indwells”.
The Bible teaches that rather than being about ‘WHAT WE DO FOR GOD’, the Christian life is about ‘WHAT GOD DOES FOR US, IN US, AND THROUGH US’.
The moment a person becomes a Christian, they receive the Holy Spirit. His job is to come into our heart and empower us to live the kind of lives God wants us to live. He is also the One who empowers us to pray. The Apostle Paul wrote: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
Jerry Sittser said:
There is a time and place in the Christian faith to master the techniques of prayer, to develop the discipline of prayer, and to become comfortable and confident when we pray. But what is most fundamental is the spirit of our prayers, the cry of the heart to get help from the only one who can meet our deepest need…
The Bible reminds us that desperate people pray because they have no other choice. They pray because they are starving; they pray because they face persecution; they pray because an army is about to overrun their village; they pray because they want their family to stay together. It is pray or go under, pray or despair, pray or die. The New Testament is full of those kinds of prayers. Jairus, a man of reputation and influence, prayed because his daughter was sick and could not be cured, and no amount of wealth or power could save her. A woman with an uncontrollable menstrual cycle prayed because every medical solution then in existence had failed her. The thief on the cross prayed because he knew he was about to die, and no judicial pardon or stay of execution or miracle would allow him to put off having to face where he would spend eternity. None of these people knew how to pray with sophistication; none of them felt worthy or capable. They prayed out of desperation. We don’t need to be in a “good place” to pray. Where we are is the right place, no matter how bad the place might be.
Martin Luther put it this way: “The time when you feel your sins the most is exactly the time when you most need to pray to God.”
The key to an effective prayer life is not strength, it’s weakness. It’s in our weakness that the Holy Spirit cries out on our behalf. It’s in our weakness that we stop trying to prove that we’re worthy enough to have our prayers answered. And it’s in our weakness that we simply come as we are, expressing our needs to a God who loves us no mater what. Our spiritual brokenness is not the problem. It’s the solution.
Tim Keller said: “If you want God’s grace, all you need is need, all you need is nothing.”