Wrestling with God in Prayer

“Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

1 Kings 18:37

 There are many examples in Scripture of God’s people wrestling with God in prayer.  Elijah wrestled with God on Mt. Carmel in front of the people of Israel when he prayed in 1 Kings 18:37, “O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  Elijah wrestles with God in a personal way saying, “Lord answer my prayer to send fire from heaven so that the people may indeed know that you are God.”

We also find this personal element in Moses’ prayer after Israel rebelled against God at Mt. Sinai.  God was angry and was going to destroy the people of Israel, but Moses pleads with the Lord.  He argues with God in a very personal way when he says in Exodus 32:12 and following,  “But Lord what will the nations say about you if you destroy Israel in the wilderness.”  And he pleads with the Lord, “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel to whom you swore that you would make their descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.”  Moses appeals personally to God to remember his promises and to keep his reputation.

When the Lord Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane just before he was arrested, he prayed to the Father.  His prayer also reveals the very personal nature of prayer, for he too wrestles with his Father as he is about to go through great suffering.  Then he says to his Father, “Remove this cup of suffering from me, not my will but your will be done.”  What is clear from all this is that we are not dealing with a cold, calculating God who just wants us to repeat a number of petitions, but he wants us to speak to him in a very personal way about our needs, desires and struggles as well as our joy and hopes in life.

Because of God’s personal character, the Lord is able to understand the struggles in our life.  It means that the Lord expects us to wrestle with him about the struggles in our life.  We often do not understand what we are going through, but the Lord understands and therefore you can open your heart to the Lord in prayer and lay before him all the fears and dread that you feel, the anxiety and worry you are going through and the uncertainty that makes your life difficult.

I wonder when it comes to fighting against sin in our life, whether we fully understand the power of prayer to help us in this struggle.  We easily pray, “Lord forgive my sins,” but our prayer needs to go much further than that.  When we feel shame because of our sin, the result is that we usually turn away from God for we are afraid to lay our sin before the Lord.  We would rather ignore our sin then to lay them before God in prayer because we can’t deal with the shame or guilt.  That is what David warns against in Psalm 32.  No one can overcome sin, unless they lay it before the Lord in prayer.  Every time we fall into sin we must simply fall on our knees and confess, “Lord I have done it again; I confess that what I have done is against your will; I have grieved you and hurt you by my actions and with my sinful thoughts and desires.  O Lord, do not only forgive, but also give me the desire and strength to fight against this temptation.”  Earnest prayer will lead to real tears as you wrestle with your sins before the Lord.

When we sin we have not just done something wrong, but we have grieved the Lord to the heart and therefore we must plead with the Lord, “Forgive me my sins and give me the strength and desire to do your will.  Do so not only so that I may have life with you, but that I may never again dishonour your name by my actions or my sinful thoughts.”  It is only through such earnest prayer that you will experience growth in your personal relationship with God.

Matthew VanLuik

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