The worst prayer I ever prayed was on an operating room table. I was about to have the surgery that would save my life after an ectopic pregnancy left me with no baby, a quart of blood loose in my abdomen, and the worst pain I’ve ever felt.
The medical staff went from ultrasounding me to sprinting with my gurney in a single second. Papers that said things like “DNR” and “living will” were being shuffled near me, and nurses kept covering me with heated blankets because my teeth were chattering. I was going into shock.
When they transferred me from the gurney to the operating table, a stranger said, “Okay, I want you to count backward from ten,” and I knew I had less than ten seconds to tell God what might be my last words.
Silently, I prayed, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take . . .¹
What a tragedy. I’d been trying to walk with the Lord for a decade at that point, and my rhyme-y childhood prayer revealed that I was still anxious about my eternal security. Back then I’d had ten years of studying the Bible, praying, trying to pursue the things of the Lord, and, still, I wanted to just MAKE SURE if I’d “done it wrong” all those other times, I’d still make it into heaven.
God used that near-death tragedy in my life to give me assurance of my faith. And that prayer itself is an example of how that works.
Here’s the beautiful thing. My worst prayer ever didn’t change God’s love for me. I could have sung my doubting nursery rhyme, died on the table, and woke up in His arms. It is not our skill that makes prayer powerful. It’s the God we pray to. The weakest prayers have worth when we are children of God. And, amazingly, our Father not only makes prayer powerful, He helps us know how to do it.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let’s read Matthew 6:9-13.
Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
The Lord’s Prayer here might sound very formal, but the point of Matthew 6 is that God doesn’t want you to pray or talk or act to perform. Because of Jesus, God is our Dad. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to feel guilty when we talk to Him.
I look at this prayer to help me when I’m not sure how I should pray. It reminds me to thank God for who He is and what He’s done, rather than grow desensitized and forgetful. It teaches me I am fully dependent on Him to meet my every need.
Here’s a thing. I don’t think God considered my “worst prayer” to be the worst. I don’t think that’s true, based on what I know of Jesus.
Jesus loves us.
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Isn’t that crazy? Jesus is humble. Jesus is the only being who doesn’t NEED to be humble!
He and the Father are one. But He lowers Himself. He associates with us, sinners. He has compassion for our weaknesses. We can pray weak prayers. We can pray silent prayers. We can pray frustrated or sad or joyful prayers.
Jesus loves us. It’s that simple. And He knows it’s hard to talk to someone we can’t see. So He gives us this beautiful example. This beautiful reminder.
Thank Him today for showing us the way and for loving us when we do it wrong or when we feel too weak or anxious to do it at all. Ask Him to transform your prayer life and help you learn to pray in a way that glorifies Him and helps your heart toward peace.
- John Cotton, The New-England Primer (Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press, 1991, reprint, originally pub. 1777).
This post is an excerpt from Scarlet’s new Bible study, Anxious: Fighting Anxiety with the Word of God.