By Pam Jenness
The orphan. Vulnerable. Defenseless. Helpless.
Me. Desperate. Needy. Dependent.
Do my feelings of desperation and helplessness help me identify with children rescued from abandonment? How do I respond to my own emotional and spiritual struggles, let alone those of others?
Though sometimes I feel helpless, believing I am is a lie from the enemy. As children of God, we are anything but helpless. God gives us His Spirit. That alone is an incredible gift! But God, in His exceeding abundance, gives us two additional tools: prayer and the word of God. Praying God’s word declares our utter dependence on Him and calls His power into our helplessness.
In my helplessness, I prayed for our family through six military moves and a deployment. I prayed through an educational journey for our children that includes Christian schools, home-school, and public school. In utter desperation, I prayed through my husband’s heart attack, recovery, and subsequent fourteen-month unemployment. Various personal and parenting struggles have driven me to my knees.
Often, I’m not able to pray more than, “Lord, how do I pray?” In asking, I begin to hear His word in response. Bible verses come to my attention through friends, songs, my devotional time, and during prayer. In those times, God’s word becomes a lifeline; and I cling to it for the duration of the trial. I pray God’s word. This is not to say I have arrived at a great prayer pinnacle. No, I still struggle to pray. I go through seasons of prayerlessness. But I am learning – praying God’s word carries me from helplessness to dependence on God.
When my husband was unemployed after his heart attack, I prayed Psalm 90:17, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” I prayed that verse for fourteen months! Praying that verse for so long helped me focus on God and His promises, rather than on our family and situation.
I wonder sometimes… is coming to a place of helplessness part of God’s design in calling us to depend on Him? Would I pray if I didn’t feel helpless? Is that why I seem always to have some aspect of life that feels desperate?
The Bible’s Wisdom
As I pray God’s word for my own struggles, I’m growing in praying His word for others. There are verses I cling to in my daily dependence when life is ‘normal.’ And there are verses I cling to when life blindsides me in desperate dependence.
Daily Dependence: Jesus highlights daily dependence in Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Daily bread can be food or other material needs, or emotional, spiritual, and mental needs. When we pray for strength and health for the demands of the day, character issues like patience and humility, wisdom and discernment for various situations, we are praying ‘daily bread’ dependence kinds of prayers.
I remember when Hope’s Promise Kenya program desperately needed a new van. The prayer team felt helpless to meet this ‘daily bread’ need aside from the intervention and provision of God. We rallied in prayer, depending on God to provide; and He did. As the children in our orphan care programs around the world grow and their physical need are met, we pray for healing of deep emotional wounds. We pray for the kids as they journey to new schools and study for tests for secondary schooling – ‘daily bread’ type prayers we all understand, no matter our home address!
When I pray for myself in my parenting and ministry roles, I also pray for Pastor, Mama, and the staff. I pray we will open our mouths with wisdom and have the teaching of kindness on our tongues (Proverbs 31:26). When our work weighs us down, I pray we will not grow weary in doing good but know that we’ll reap a harvest if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9). When our children try our patience, testing the limits we’ve established, and enter new and challenging phases on the road to independence, I pray we will not exasperate our children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
I pray the same Scriptures for Hope’s Promise children and my teens. I pray for their future: that they will know the plans God has for them, to give them a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). I pray for attitude: that those who struggle with a temper will be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19). I pray for spiritual growth: that the Lord will incline their heart to His testimonies (Psalm 119:36) and that they will grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Praying God’s word for our ‘daily bread’ needs binds us together in Him, even across the world.
Desperate Dependence: Psalm 50:15 instructs us, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
The day of trouble: Mama Karau in Kenya had cancer. Alvin’s life-threatening injury, one of our children in Kenya. The calls to prayer were urgent. Desperate. We begged God to do the miraculous! In these types of situations, we truly come to know the power of prayer, the preciousness of His word, and the tangible presence of God. Comfort comes in knowing ‘family’ all over the world unites in prayer. I was a recipient of this comfort after my husband’s heart attack, one month before our entire family planned to travel to Kenya with Hope’s Promise. The prayers of my international family surrounded us with peace. So, on my knees interceding for Alvin, I knew with certainty I joined a cloud of witnesses across the globe, calling on God in the day of trouble. How beautifully God carried Mama and Alvin. Could anything be more glorifying to God than Alvin sharing Jesus with the surgeon so soon after his ‘day of trouble?!’
Recently I spent time reflecting on Jesus’ prayer in his most desperate hour. The scene: the shadowy darkness of Gethsemane. Mark 14:33-34 tells us “… he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.’” Whoa. Can I even fathom the desperation Jesus felt?! And His response was to pray. Jesus himself utterly depended on God.
Initially, I glossed over how Jesus addressed God; but then it hit me right between the eyes. He called Him Daddy, Papa. “Abba, Father.” (Mark 14:36). In His desperate hour, Jesus called out to His parent like a child longing for soothing and comfort. What a tremendous image that is. Jesus prayed with passion. “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44). Jesus prayed with persistence. Three times Jesus found the disciples sleeping. Three times Jesus persevered in prayer without them. (Mark 14:41). Jesus prayed in submission. His words astound me, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36).
No matter our location, our background, or our situation, Jesus knows and understands desperation. Jesus modeled for us how to respond: cry out to Papa with desperate prayer. Pray with passion and persistence. Humbly submit to His will, even in the dark hour.
Abba Father, help us to remember, as brothers and sisters in Christ we are united through Your Spirit, Your word unites us. Help us embrace the gift of prayer that unites us as we lift our daily and desperate needs up to You. Thank you for giving us Jesus, who understands what helplessness feels like and who showed us how to respond. Thank you for not leaving us helpless. Thank you for uniting us in utter dependence! In His precious name, we pray, Amen.
Pam Jenness is a story in progress. One of the best chapters has been nearly 26 years of marriage to her college sweetheart. Two main characters are their children, who have blessed and amazed her as they’ve grown and matured. God has written some trials into her tale that she never saw coming, but He surrounded her through them. Many beautiful moments are told in the pages of her life, one being traveling to Kenya in 2010. God has inserted into her story line a part-time job at church, where she serves as the Children’s Ministry Coordinator. Pam’s story is about trusting Jesus, following Him in obedience, and struggling in perseverance. It is a story of transformation, as all good stories are.