How to Pray in a Time of Crisis
Prayer is one of the most basic human responses to trouble. When the doctor’s diagnosis is really grim, it is only natural to seek divine help. When our children are in danger, who doesn’t utter a quick prayer for safety? Prayer is an act of worship that glorifies God and reinforces our need for Him. Through living a life of prayer, we respond to Christ’s work of salvation and communicate with the very source of and purpose for our existence. During the COVID-19 crisis, may we draw near to the One who is our shelter in the storm through prayer.
Something To Talk About:
We can learn much from Daniel and his prayer life. As an old man, when the time came closer for the Israelites to return to their homeland, Daniel knew his people were not ready — the Israelites still did not have the right relationship with God. This grieved Daniel, so he prayed. His prayer in Daniel 9 provides six important pieces about how to pray in a way that God answers during a crisis:
- Let God speak to me before I speak to Him: We need to hear the voice of God. God initiates; we respond. So how do you listen to God? You read the Bible. You will never pray effectively until you study the Scriptures and listen to the Lord. The more you know the Bible, the more effective your prayers will be. And then be still. Be still. When you have poured your heart out to God, be still, wait, listen for a response. Whether a response comes in a clear idea or a sense of calm, wait for it. Work on cultivating a discipline of patience. Do not skip this important element. Don’t let this be a one-way conversation; make it a two-way dialogue by listening to what God is saying to you.
- Focus our attention on God: The reason it’s hard to pay attention is because our attention span has grown shorter and shorter over the years. As with everything in life, we only have to look to Jesus. Jesus was present in all that He did. Can you imagine Jesus sitting down with you at a meal and constantly looking out the window or asking you to repeat what you said, distracted and distant as if wishing He was somewhere else? No. When He bent down to heal someone He looked into their eyes and spoke comfort to their heart. When He went away to be alone with God, He listened fully to his Father’s guiding voice. And on the eve of His Passion, knowing full well that He would be tortured and killed the next day, He remained perfectly present to His disciples, to His friends. He ate with them. He prayed with them. He washed their feet in a spirit of humility and love. Jesus lived presently and gave all of His attention to the work of love before Him. May we always give God our full attention in a crisis, trusting that we are safely in His hands.
- Express our desires with emotion: Too many of our prayers are simply cut-and-dried. We speak without really thinking about what we’re saying. We have the words memorized. There’s no passion or authenticity. The truth is, God cares more about the passionate sincerity of your prayers than the words you use. Daniel described his passionate prayer in Daniel 9:3a: “I prayed earnestly to the Lord God, pleading with him” (GNT). That’s a prayer God will listen to and answer. The Message translation of Daniel 9:3a says, “I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God” Perhaps you need to pray like that for your family. You need to pour your heart out and bare your soul to God on their behalf. Maybe you need to do that about your marriage or your finances. All of us need to do that about the world around us. We shouldn’t just talk about it, we need to pour our hearts out to God about it.
- Demonstrate our seriousness with prayer: The kind of prayer God answers during a crisis is one where we demonstrate our seriousness. You need to signal to God that you mean business about your need. It isn’t just a whim or a casual thought. You need to let God see how important it is to you. Daniel 9:3 says, “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.” Daniel described three different ways he signaled his seriousness to God. He fasted, put on rough burlap, and sprinkled ashes on himself. Fasting tells God you’re serious about your prayer. Moses fasted before he received the Ten Commandments. The Israelites fasted before they went into many of their major battles. Daniel fasted in order to receive guidance from God. Nehemiah fasted before he began a major building project. Jesus fasted in victory over temptation. When you have a crisis, you need to show God you mean business. Fasting is an effective way to do this.
- Thank God for His love and promises: Daniel describes this in Daniel 9:4: “O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands.”(NLT). This may be the last thing you want to do during a crisis. You may be angry with God and frustrated at Him. But that’s why you need to do this. You need a perspective change. A few verses later, we read this: “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:9) We should be grateful that God is faithful even when we’re not. God keeps His promises every time. And God will continue keeping them in your crisis. He won’t abandon you. Show God you realize that. Let him know you trust Him. It’s an important part of a prayer that God will always answer during a crisis.
- Humbly confess our sins: Finally, we need to humbly confess our sins. God responds to humility. God already knows every foolish thing you’ve ever done in your life, but He still wants you to confess your sin. How does God respond when you humbly admit you blew it? He responds with forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Confessing simply means agreeing with God about your sin. You tell God He is right. What you did was a sin. You don’t make excuses. You don’t call it a mistake. You admit that you were wrong. Get specific with your confession like Daniel did in Daniel 9:5-6: “We have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land.” Daniel’s prayer helps us understand how our unconfessed sin creates distance between God and us — and it’s a powerful reminder of how God answers our prayers as we agree with Him about our sin. Always remember, God is for us, not against us. Practice this most essential form of prayer as often as you can.
- Billy Graham says that “prayer is the Christian’s greatest weapon.” Agree or disagree and why?
- Do you pray in times of trouble?
- The time to learn how to pray during a crisis is before the crisis begins. Why do you think that is important?
- Has there ever been a time when you stopped to praise and thank God first in a moment of crisis? If so, how did that act of faith impact your perspective on the crisis? What changes did you experience – were you less anxious or worried, etc.?
- When you have done something you know is “wrong,” are you willing to approach the Lord?
- How focused would you say you are when it comes to seeking God in every area of your life? Take some time to reflect and decide. What are the things you can do to be more consistent and faithful?
- Where do you find yourself frequently distracted when you pray? Where are you most able to focus fully on God when you pray?
- Have you felt a sense of a prayer being answered? Have you felt a prayer was not answered?
- When you pray do you leave time for God’s response? Do you begin by listening or talking?
- When you pray, what stirs your deepest passion? Why do we resort to rote, rehearsed prayers so often? How can you bring more passion to your prayers?
- How does fasting show God you’re serious about your prayers? How can you make fasting a consistent (or more consistent) part of your spiritual life?
- How can we apply this message to our lives this week?
Take one thing home with you:
As believers, we seek out God through prayer. Scripture tells us prayer is one of our most powerful resources. But how can you pray more deeply? We need to pray with humility, certainty, authority, and clarity. When you don’t have any words, or when you feel like you’re beating down God’s door with the same prayer day after day, ask God’s Holy Spirit to help you. The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit is an intercessor for us and cries out to God on our behalf.
James 5:16 (TPT) says “…tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!” Tremendous power is exactly what we want our prayers to have, especially in a crisis. We also want our prayers to be heartfelt and passionate about something or someone we care about. Our goal is to be a godly believer. When we trust in the Son of God, we’re declared righteous because of our position in Him. Take a moment to reflect on areas in your life that might show patterns of unrighteousness, and earnestly present them to God. Your concerns matter to your heavenly Father, and He will listen.