When it really matters, when in life a giant black sinkhole opens up downstream, and you don’t have any paddles to escape, there are essentially two kinds of prayers:
Freak-Out’s, and Trusting.
How can you tell the difference? The clue is to hear the prayers themselves.
Listen to this one:
“Oh God oh God oh God oh God!”
Welcome to the freak-out. That’s fear praying. Those are panic prayers. They’re based on what I don’t know, and what I’m not in control of. I’ve prayed them a lot. God hears them, and he cares about them. They are not invalid. But I’ve found when I pray them, I usually don’t find any magical relief or comfort. I usually just end up crying. Which, can be a valuable end in itself, as a signal that I’m desperate. And I don’t think God minds desperation. In fact, he likes to hang out with us: the people who recognize their great need for Him. It’s a fantastic launchpad to drawing near to God.
When I think of praying in trust, I think of coming into his house from a hot dry wander. I step in from outside, jumpy as a tweaker from the constant chatter around me of fear and panic, worry and dread. I pass over the threshold of my Father’s house, feeling the cool stone floors underfoot. Turning around, I push the heavy door closed with both arms. The crazy voices muffle and extinguish outside. For a moment I stay there, leaning against the door, head bowed between stretched out arms, taking deep breaths of fresh air inside, clear as the ocean. Slowly I turn to my Father, who has watched me this whole time, His eyes tender and steady.
“In a desert land he found (Jacob), in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye…” -Deuteronomy 32:10
Trust prayers are more:
*Long pause to quiet and focus on Him.
They are fairly short on words, in my experience. But they spend time, so much more time with God. They are prayers that listen. And these are the prayers that bring relief, from being in His presence. They are founded on what I know, who I know: Jesus. He trumps the fear and panic about what I don’t know. It’s incredible. And when I leave his house, His Spirit goes with me out into the world: a giant sheriff to escort me through the bad side of town. He strings up a police line around entropy itself, the most criminally insane force of nature. The Bible says so:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.” -John 10:10
Trust prayers are only ONLY possible from knowing Jesus, personally, and stuffing your head full of the Bible, so as to crowd out the dirty squatters of fear and panic. But Jesus knows. He cares. He is not afraid. And he gives you the keys to his house, anytime, anywhere.
“You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.” -Psalm 63:1-8