This afternoon I experienced another episode in the struggle. We were asked to spend two hours in the afternoon praying for several specific requests, from 1:30 to 3:30. I was alone in my room and I started out sitting on the floor, praying aloud to keep my mind focused. My recent track record of failure in prayer loomed large in my mind, but I said to myself, "There is victory in Christ, and I must find it."
I assumed as good an attitude as I could muster and forged on ahead, determined to be undaunted. But sure enough, an overwhelming lethargy and sleepiness came over me, and I laid down on the floor.
"Sit back up," the Lord commanded me.
And wonder of wonders, I obeyed. This, in itself, was huge for me, because ordinarily I would have persisted in indulging the whims of my flesh. But I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I fell asleep if I didn't get up. Even though all I wanted to do was go to sleep, I trusted God to give me the power to obey and continue to pray.
I began to pray again. It felt like a Herculean effort, very contrived, very forced, and definitely not prayer with power. How I wanted to enter in to the presence of God and be enabled to pray!
The overwhelming sleepiness didn't go away, and in a few minutes, I lay back down on the floor.
"Sit back up," the Lord commanded me again.
Shockingly enough, I obeyed again. That felt like a massive victory. I had gone against my own will twice in a row! Whoa.
But as I tried to pray, it was still empty, dull, and dead. I felt too exhausted to do anything. I lay back down on the floor.
This time I said to the Lord, "I give up. I'm going to sleep now." I did. I was asleep in an instant and slept soundly and deeply for two hours.
Then I got up, miserable with myself.
We had family groups later that night, and one of the girls was sharing how she had been discovering that when we pray, it's not her that prays, but Jesus in her who enables her to pray. She was saying how it was so easy to do it this way, because all you have to do is to surrender to Him and trust Him to do it.
When she was finished sharing, I started to cry as I said, "I just wish I could say that I knew how to live that out. I have been so frustrated with prayer." I described some of my recent struggles. Everyone was very kind and supportive and offered helpful suggestions, but it was Rachel (one of our group leaders) who got me back on track. She exhorted me to not fix my gaze on my inability, but on His ability. She said I ought to thank Him for the two spiritual victories I had experienced. And she said many other things that I can't remember now, but I knew it was all the truth. I listened to her, feeling like I was drowning struggling to grasp at the rope, not quite sure that I had grasped it, but quite sure that what she was offering was the rope.
To Be Continued.