First in The Lord's Prayer Series, "The best prayer for times of stress"
What is the best prayer to pray when you are discouraged and overwhelmed?
[[A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD.]] Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. (vs 1, KJV)
Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top. (vss 2-7, NIV)
Yes, at times echoing the desperate pleas of the Psalmist exactly expresses our feelings and assures us we are not hopeless; others have felt the same, even others who were greatly loved by God and whose faith must have been much stronger than ours.
Or, what about praying the words of a saint who came to Christ after many battles with the flesh, whose faith was secured four centuries after Pentecost — when the Helper was sent to us? Augustine left us this prayer:
Blessed are all thy Saints, O God and King, who have travelled over the tempestuous sea of this mortal life, and have made the harbor of peace and felicity. Watch over us who are still in our dangerous voyage; and remember such as lie exposed to the rough storms of trouble and temptations. Frail is our vessel, and the ocean is wide; but as in thy mercy thou has set our course, so steer the vessel of our life toward the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at length to the quiet haven of our heart's desire, where thou, O our God, are blessed, and livest and reignest for ever and ever.
That one is good. But he seems to have forgotten how DESPERATE one can feel.
This prayer of a man nearer to our generation is a gem. It was written down by Dietrich Bonhoeffer while awaiting execution in a Nazi prison: (from The Oxford Book of Prayer, Oxford U. Press, 1985)
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray.
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me so to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.
Sometimes, a very short prayer is helpful: "Lord, save me!" Peter cried as he sank in the waters and felt the boisterous wind. (Mat 14:30)
All heartfelt prayer helps in times of stress, but perhaps the best one is The Lord's Prayer.
Perhaps we would not at first think to pray The Lord's Prayer when anxious and despairing. Yet it points us in right directions to steady ourselves; it encourages discipline while reminding of treasures in heaven and it draws us to ponder eternal mysteries — mysteries that may frighten us away from stress to soberness of spirit!
Here begins a series of posts on that very helpful prayer.