When we are grieving, prayer can be difficult. Here are some ways to develop healing honesty with God as you journey through grief.
How to do this prayer practice.
I don’t know the level of grief you are experiencing. I don’t know the depths to which you have fallen. I do know what the “dark night of the soul” is like. So does the Savior, and He cares.
You may be the family from my hometown in 1978 burying your 12 year old son who lost his battle with cancer.
You may be the high school classmate of mine who buried her 21 year old daughter five days after that 21st birthday.
You may be my dad who buried his 94 year old mother after her battle with congestive heart failure.
You may be me several years ago, going through the grief that accompanies divorce.
1. Know that you are not alone.
Everyone experiences grief. Grief touches every life on every part of the globe. Please understand that if you are currently experiencing grief that you are not alone, you are not forgotten, and you are welcomed by God to grieve.
2. Cling to the truth that God understands your grief.
God understands this emotion. He has experienced it through His own Son, Jesus. When the prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus one thousand years before Jesus’ birth this is how Isaiah described Him: “He (Jesus) was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces…He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV, emphasis mine)
Think about this: The Savior of the world, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”…acquainted with grief.
A high school classmate of mine lost her 21 year old daughter in 2010. My former classmate is still grieving the loss of her only daughter. Many nights I have thought of what I would say to her. Many times I have wondered if the words I would say would be the right ones. The words of comfort I am reminded of are those spoken by Dr. Al Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church, after the tragic shooting on September 15, 1999, that left seven dead and seven wounded. When asked by a member of the media the question “Where was God in all of this”, Dr. Meredith gave the following reply:
“God was in the same place that He was when His own Son died; On His throne.”
3. Acknowledge to God that you are grief stricken.
The best thing you can do in prayer is to go to God and acknowledge that you are grieving.
Why? The Lord of Hosts, Creator of all, Lord of all, King of Kings, Savior and Redeemer is also a Friend:
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, ESV)
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3, ESV)
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of prison to those who are bound.” (Isaiah 60:1, ESV, emphasis mine)
Acknowledge to God that you are grieving. Tell Him you are filled with grief. Tell Him of the sorrow, pain, suffering, loneliness, and loss you are feeling. Shout it, yell it, cry through it, write it down, type it out…do something to get it out. Tell God how you are feeling and why. Tell God what you are going through. Express your feelings to God. He is a big God and can handle you coming to Him through your pain and tears. Any of these avenues can be a way for you to pray to God.
I once told a grieving friend that I would take him to the roof of the hospital so that he could scream, yell, shout, bellow, screech, or whatever it was he wanted to do to tell God exactly how he was feeling. My promise to him was to guard the door and tell those who came to stop my friend that it was okay. To the passers-by or those who came to stop him I would have said that this was a conversation between a man and God. A man who felt God should answer his prayer to let his days-old child live, and a God who would listen with love to a son He loved. Two weeks later I stood at the graveside where no parent should ever have to stand, and watched my friend weep uncontrollably as family and friends bid good bye to a beautiful little girl who will know nothing of this world.
4. Take a prayerful journey toward the reality of death as a transition into the presence of Jesus.
In 1978 a family in my hometown buried their son. He was a year older than me. We went to church together. Our families knew each other. This young man fought brain cancer heroically. The night of his death his father heard the sound of footsteps on the roof of their home. That night a father asked a dying son, “Are you ready to meet Jesus?” A simple nod in response and the boy was gone.
Footsteps? Yes. Audible footsteps as though someone was walking on the roof.
Matt Chandler, Teaching Pastor at The Village Church, in his sermon series “Transitions”, has suggested that we as Christians will not know the sting of death. I like Matt’s take on this. Matt said that in the moment that we are to die, Jesus or an angel shows up to say “Hey, man. Let’s get out of here.” He gets the idea from Jesus in John 8:51 where Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” I believe that night the young man did not see death, but rather the face of the Savior.
Are you grieving the death of a loved one? Take heart if that loved one believed in Jesus as Savior. Take heart for your own life. If Matt is right and in that moment your loved one did not see death but transitioned from earth to God’s presence, think of what a wonderful moment that must have been! One minute you are staring your mortality full in the face, the next you meet the Savior face to face…”Oh that will be glory for me…”
To get to that point of accepting that death is not final separation but a mere transition is a tough place to find. This point of acceptance requires a journey; but we do not walk apart from the Savior. He walks with us. In the last half of Hebrews 13:5, the Apostle Paul points out Jesus words of encouragement: “…for He Himself has said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.” Jesus. Here with us. Emmanuel. God with us.
Some months after the funeral of the boy who died from cancer, his grieving mother said to my mom: “Don’t take this wrong, but I wish it was your son and not mine.” Up to that point in my life I had been sick quite a bit. My problem was only hypoglycemia; nothing that measured up to the devastation of cancer. In her grief, the boy’s mom said what was on her heart. My mom’s response was a hug. When we make our final transition to enter into the presence of God I believe that His arms will be open and the comforting, secure arms of the Creator will wrap around us in an embrace that will bring final peace and relief.
5. Ask God for His grace to be sufficient…no matter what.
In February of 2011 I went through the loss of my grandmother, my last surviving grandparent. Grief abounded. While I praised God that my grandmother made her transition from earth to the presence of God, I was grieving at her loss because she loved me. She cared for me. She was there as a rock when I went through my divorce. She was a phone call away at almost any time. Only Bingo at the nursing home could interrupt our phone call. Now that is all gone. I can’t imagine being my dad and saying good bye to the last surviving parent. In this grief my dad and I were reminded that “…My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I have grieved the loss of my marriage. I grieved the loss of the covenant that I thought was established. My grief was deep, dark and almost all-consuming. I spent many nights sitting with my friend, John Reeve, in front of his chiminea attempting to talk through my grief. I cried out to God…literally. I cried out for help. Then I cried myself to sleep. In this grief I was reminded that “…My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
6. Ask Jesus for the hope found in His name.
I don’t know what grief you are going through. I may not be able to identify with your particular kind of grief. I do know this: Grief is hard. Grief can suck the life out of you. However, grief doesn’t have to control your life.
Friend, there is no specific verse in the Bible for much of the grief we go through. There is no single verse for a parent who must bury their child. There was no class in seminary that covered what one should say to the parents of a child that has died. There was no seminar or practicum on grief and grieving. We do the only thing we know to do: turn to God.
As we remembered the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America, we are once again confronted with the grief that gripped so many that day, and the days and years to follow. Once again the Body of Christ is here to remind you that in a time of grief, God is near.
If you feel immersed to the depths of grief please read these words again and again:
“I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity; and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.
Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.” (Revelation 21:2-7, HSCB)
In your grief may you find the one thing that only Jesus Christ can provide. May you find that in Him is the path through grief that so many of us have walked. What is this that you are looking for, what we have found, and only the Savior provides? Hope.
7. Pray the Scriptures
Do you need rest from your grief? Then pray this prayer from the writer of the book of Psalms, King David:
Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God. (Psalm 62:5-7, ESV, emphasis mine)
In your grief may I remind you again that God is near? He loves you. He understands. He was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief”.
Copyright David Shelton 2011
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