“Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears!” (Psalms 39:12)
Praying with tears during trials and suffering often times may feel like ‘faking it till you make it’. However, taking the ‘kingdom by force’ (Matthew 11:12) while willingly laying down our plans, hopes, and dreams at the feet of Jesus is the very thing we desperately need in order to live.
Matthew 11:12 may seem a bit strange, but for the first time I am able to understand how this verse applies to me.
After my stroke, I had to take hold of the kingdom of God by the force of will. The force that is necessary to overcome despair, depression, anger, disappointment is huge Matthew Henry’s commentary sums it up well:
“The kingdom of heaven was never intended to indulge the ease of triflers, but to be the rest of them that labor. Oh that we could see a greater number with a holy contention thrusting themselves into it.”
During the darkest moments right after my stroke, the LORD revealed to me not only the importance of continuing to move forward through the trial, but also a way to continue to hold fast to Him. That included praying with tears.
Move Keep Walking: Are Tears Prayers Too?
One of my first days home alone, I sat in my wheel chair looking at the book shelf containing my prayer journals. Anger, grief, tears bubbled up from deep within.
What was the point of all these prayers? What good were they? I knocked them off the shelf and onto the floor. I was tempted to throw them all away or even burn them. I had suffered a right-brain stroke that left me with physical deficits on my left side, impacted my speech, smile, and memory.
Fortunately, I was unable to get the journals picked up off the floor so I just left them there.
I had lost hope and was in the middle of a dark night. During this time my brother sent me the link to the Toby Mac song Move (Keep Walkin’).
He said, “This is what I’m praying over you, that you keep moving even when it is hard and you don’t feel like it.” My rehab therapists had a favorite saying, “you have to walk to walk.” Likewise, there are times that we have to pray to pray.
Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 that He has taught and spoke the Good News to us to fill us with peace as we live in a world full of tribulation.
The tough truth: there is Psalm 126:6 sowing or work to be done even when there are things in life that bring us to tears. The tension between what we thought our situation, would look like and the reality of the circumstances before us is the place of suffering.
It is the work of this broken world in which we live in that causes us to rank our pain against our perception of the pain of others. This pain comparison serves only to isolate us, weigh us down, and hinder us. The thing today that is bringing you to praying with tears, is valid and worth it; it is worth the tears.
The issue is not the pain itself or whether or not it is valid to be called suffering and the issue is not the tears. Pain brings death when we become frozen and we stop moving forward. Psalm 84:5-7 calls the man, whose heart is set on the journey and passes through the Valley of Bacca (tears or weeping), blessed.
Moving forward is not the easy choice. It would have been much easier for me to stay in bed and decide to just accept my condition and my disabilities.
I know and understand the desire to set up camp in the valley of tears and push everyone else away.
Knowing that we are supposed to set our hearts on the journey, the real question becomes, “how do I continue to pray and move forward while in this all-encompassing darkness?” Deuteronomy 30 provided me an answer to this question.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)
You Can Be Praying With Tears, But Decide to Choose Life
Decide to want to choose Life. Decide to take the next step if not for our self then for those who love us. Decide to lift our eyes from the valley to think on the whatever is beautiful, lovely, worthy…(Philippians 4:8)
Before we can think on the things listed in this verse we must first see and recognize them. This is the first prayer of the pilgrimage through Bacca.
LORD, I want to choose life, I want to want to pass through this valley. Today, LORD, open my eyes to see whatever is beautiful, lovely, worthy, of good repute. Amen.
Praying With Tears, But Love God
Love God. The transition from being angry with God to loving God can be long and rough.
Sometimes we even bounce in and out of this transition. Loving God requires us to first be honest with Him. He knows where we are, He knows our heart cry.
Loving God also requires us to be in His Word. Read or play the Psalms, John, or 1st, 2nd, 3rd John. Play scripture-based hymns and worship music. This transformation comes within us when we feed the Spirit of God within us the Word of Truth.
This becomes not a place of doing but of being. And while it may seem as if we are doing nothing, in truth we are doing everything. Feasting on the Word of God is how we place ourselves in the Romans 12:2 position of not being conformed to this world.
Listen to His Voice
During one of my MRI scans, I started to say to myself the words of Isaiah 55. When I was young, my family had memorized this chapter together and the words brought me comfort. However, during this MRI of my brain, I could not get past these words of verse 6, “Incline your ear and come to Me and listen that you may live.”
I would restart the passage from the beginning and then stop again on these words “listen that you may live.” In the valley of tears, we must examine the question: What are we listening to?
There are so many voices that clamor for our attention including the media, social media, Google, other people, our own negative thoughts and fears, entertainment, etc.
In this noise storm of voices, we must really lean in and incline our ears in order to hear God’s voice. Jesus said that “my sheep know my voice.” That means God must want us to hear Him and know what He is saying. We need to stop, be still, and listen for His voice.
Editor’s Note: Stop and Listen to Elaine’s Pursuit of God’s Presence below, it is worth it!!
Hold Fast to Him
In the middle of the valley of tears, the only way we can hold on is to go from strength to strength (Psalm 84). These means that we must recall what the LORD has done before.
Ask God to bring to the forefront of our memories all the times that He has been there for us, showed up for us, and showed up for others.
The human condition, has a forgetful memory. That is why the scripture is full of God telling people to set up a remembrance stone.
I have often read the Old Testament and wondered, “How could they have forgotten what God just did for them?” And yet in the darkness of the valley, I do exactly the same thing. It is like I need a continual recording of voice of James Earl Jones playing Mufasa saying, “REMEMBER.”
Those prayer journals I wanted to throw away, were exactly the strength I needed. They were full of accounts of what the LORD had done. Remembering these times brought me strength and restored my hope.
Praying With Tears: Pilgrimage Prayer through the Valley of Tears
Grant me renewed strength to continue to choose Life even when I don’t feel like it. LORD, guide me with Your tender mercies to the accomplish the work ahead. When life brings me to tears, LORD Jesus, restore my hope in Your promised joy. While I take these next steps broken with tears streaming down my face, LORD, I trust in You to heal my heart. Today, LORD, I ask that You grant me the courage to say, “Tears, I feel you, but today I choose Life. Come along tears and water the work before me, for I am confident there will be joy.”
In Jesus Name, Amen
Are You Currently Praying With Tears? Here are some helpful guides to help you during this time:
- How to Pray Scripture: From Beginner To Pro In No Time!
- Learning how to pray scripture would be amazing for someone who is praying with tears. It is amazing how you can lead on scripture during hard times!
- How To Pray For Someone Who Hurt You: 5 Ways
- Sometimes our pain comes from others. Use this guide for 5 ways to pray for someone who has hurt you.
- Faith In Times of Crisis: How to Create a Battle Plan
- Are you in a time of crisis? This article dives in how to create a battle plan. Whether you are praying through whispers or praying with tears, this will be an excellent article to lean into.
As a Christian Life Coach, Elaine Goddard provides one-on-one personal prayer training and discipleship. She teaches her self-published prayer study Time to Pray, at several local churches and community groups.
Additionally, Elaine speaks locally about prayer at dinners, gatherings, and retreats. Elaine serves as a lay prayer leader at her local church and an online prayer devotional and prayer training at http://www.highway2Him.com. Elaine has recently had to draw deep on the One true resource during her recovery and rehab from a stroke.