Prayer After Child Loss: What’s the Point?

One of the most devastating questions I had to face after Dominic ran ahead to heaven was, “What difference does prayer make?”  

I had prayed-diligently prayed-for every one of my children since before they were born.

Even Dominic’s name, which means “belonging to God” was chosen carefully to reflect my heart’s desire that this child follow hard after Jesus.

Dominic had served Christ’s church with his time, talents and resources his whole life.  Yet he was not quite 24 when he met Jesus face to face.

So why didn’t prayer “work”?  Why did my son die in an accident when others live?

I thought I understood prayer. 

I thought that if I followed the formula I’d been taught:

  • praise God;
  • confess my sins;
  • thank Him for the blessings He gave;
  • and then submit my petitions;

He would be obligated to grant them.

But I was wrong.  

Prayer is not a vending machine-put something in and get something out.  

I wrote this just a few months after he left us:  

Did the mother whose son died pray less or with less faith than the mother whose son lives?

We must be careful to remember that God is sovereign and while we are commanded to pray, our words do not dictate His actions. He alone knows the end from the beginning. He alone is the Alpha and Omega.

I now understand that prayer is privileged communication with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. 

It is an opportunity to align my heart with His.  

It’s a way to tap into the Living Water that Jesus promised the Samaritan woman He met at the well.

LivingWatersWallpaper

It’s two-way conversation where I need to do as much listening as talking.  

So I no longer come with a basket full of petitions, hoping they are granted.  

Instead I kneel, hands outstretched. longing only for His touch, His Presence, His grace, mercy and sustaining strength.  

woman touching his hem

I still pray but it is a simple prayer: 

“Lord, I need You.”

i made you and i will carry you

 

 

 

 

When I Don’t Know What to Pray: Praying the Names of God

The Bible says that “The Name of the LORD is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are saved.”  (Proverbs 18:10)

Clearly that does NOT mean that every person who calls on the Name of the LORD will be kept physically whole.

Many, many believers have suffered and died while the name of Christ is on their lips.  

But I do believe that in a very real, very meaningful way, calling on the Name of the LORD has saved me.  

It saved me first from my sin and guarantees that I will meet my son in eternity.

And it continues to save me when I am at the end of my own resources and need to appropriate the strength of my Heavenly Father to hold onto hope.

Over twenty-five years ago I was introduced to a wonderful book by Sylvia Gunter called PRAYER PORTIONS.  My copy is battered, dog-eared, torn and treasured.

prayer portions

It is full, full, full of wonderful teaching about prayer and, more importantly, of biblical prayers to actually PRAY.  

While my prayer life post child loss is not at all what it used to be, I still rely on her list of the names and attributes of God to help my heart make it through tough days.

Here is one Alphabet of the Names and Attributes of God

Abba Father – Gal. 4:6
Balm of Gilead – Jer. 8:22
Comforter – 2 Cor. 1:3
Deliverer – Ps. 18:2
Everlasting God – Isa. 40:28
Father of Mercy – 2 Cor. 1:3
Good Shepherd – John 10:11-15
Holy One – Pro. 9:10
Intercessor – Heb. 7:25
Judge of the living and thedead – 1 Peter 4:5
King Eternal – 1 Tim. 1:17
Light of revelation – Luke 2:32
Man of sorrows – Isa. 53:5
Never-failing One – Heb. 13:5
Offering for sin – Heb 10:14
Potter – Isa. 64:8
Quieting Love – Zeph. 3:17
Righteous – 1 Cor. 1:30-31
Santification – 1 Cor. 1:30-31
Teacher – John 14:26
Upholder of all things – Isa. 41:13
Very present help – Ps. 46:1
The Way – John 14:6
Exalted – Psa. 148:13
Your glory and lifter of your head – Ps. 3:3
Zealous – John 2:17
From PRAYER PORTIONS by Sylvia Gunter
I pray that it helps your heart as much and as often as it helps mine.
strong tower1

How To Pray For Your Brokenhearted Friend

We’ve all been there-someone we love receives a terminal diagnosis, someone we care about loses a family member, her husband walks away from their marriage of twenty years, his addicted child hasn’t made contact in months.

The list is endless.

This life is hard and broken hearts abound.

What to do?

I’ve written extensively about the many practical ways a friend or family member can reach out and walk beside a wounded heart.

Choosing to offer compassionate companionship is the greatest gift you can give.

But there is another way you can help.  You can carry the one you love to the Throne of Grace and intercede on his or her behalf with the One Who can be there when you just can’t.

I’ve learned the hard way that many situations are not fixable.  They are only bearable.  And because we so often pray for blessings and miracles, when faced with this reality, words tend to fail us.

But there are prayers to pray for the brokenhearted.

Pray for God’s Presence. 

Father God, alone and broken is too much for anyone to bear.  I know you are right beside my friend, but give her assurance of Your Presence.  Let this wounded heart feel You very near her.  When she despairs that You are not listening, bring to mind Your Word and flood her with Your comfort.

Pray for the presence of God’s people. 

Lord, You don’t need people to do Your work, but you have ordained that the work of Your Body will be done by the hands of men.  Stir the hearts of those that follow Jesus to show up and bring practical help to this broken heart.  Give divine guidance to the people You want to be there so that they do things, bring things and say things that bless and do not harm.  May this abundant outpouring of love, grace and mercy give strength to a struggling heart.

Pray for grace.

Father, we so often think of grace as what You give us when we receive salvation.  But grace is so much more than that-it is the oil that lubricates the gears of life.  It’s what gives us the space we need to process offense, to overlook offense and to avoid offense.  My friend is wounded and oh, so vulnerable.  Overwhelm his heart with Your grace so that the unthinking and even unkind words or actions of others will not hurt him more.  Suffuse every single relationship that is being strained and stretched by this hard season with grace so that it remains supple and does not break. Fill the hearts of those who come to minister with grace to endure his silence or their rebuffed attempts to help.  Keep relationships alive and intact, even in this difficult time.

Pray for mercy.

Oh, Lord!  How well I know that one tragedy or unbearable hardship does not preclude another on its heels!  I beg mercy for this family!  Pour mercy out on them and in them and prevent any schemes of the evil one to succeed.  They are so, so weak and such easy targets!  Let Your mercy surround and protect them.

Pray for strength.

Father, “weak” can’t begin to describe the crumbling of a spirit under the crushing load of grief.  If You do not raise the head of my friend, she will not be able to raise it herself.  If you do not infuse her body with Your strength, she will not be able to make it through this valley.  You have promised that if we wait on You-expectantly and hopefully and trustingly-that You will give us strength as eagles.  We will run and not be weary, we will walk and not faint  You are the Everlasting God.  You are the Source of Strength.  Fill my friend with Your strength as You have promised.

Pray for faith. 

Lord, there is a space where faith and experience conflict.  Losing a child creates a gulf between what a heart wants to believe and has believed and the unbearable pain that fills it right now  Help my friend’s heart hold onto the hem of Your garment.  Give him the will and conviction to say, “I believe, help Thou my unbelief!”  Bring those who love You alongside to bear witness to this crisis of faith without correcting or shaming.  Send Your Holy Spirit in power to flood this hurting heart with an assurance of Your Presence and power.

Pray for courage. 

Father God, one of Your great champions, C.S. Lewis wrote, “No one ever told me grief felt so like fear.”  He was right.  Grief feels like the most profound fear a heart can experience.  The entire world has shifted.  The bottom has fallen out.  It seems there is no end to the pain and suffering that a person may have to endure.  And it is scary-so, so scary.  Let my friend join the Psalmist in declaring, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46: 1,2 NIV) You are the unchanging constant Truth in a world where everything else seems untrustworthy.  

Pray for perseverance.

Lord, it’s easy to start well but something else again to finish well.  When a heart realizes that this missing, this sorrow and this pain is going to be with it for all the days of life on earth, that’s a whole other burden to bear.  Defeat seems imminent.  How can someone possibly carry this for years-perhaps decades?  Give my friend the commitment and strength to persevere.  Help her wake each day and decide to keep on keeping on.  Infuse her tired body, mind and spirit with the power You have promised to give to all who love you:  the power that raised Jesus from the grave (Ephesians 1:19,20).

Pray for love.

Father God, a broken heart is open and ready for filling.  And it will be filled with something.  It will be filled with love or it will be filled with bitterness.  Overwhelm my friend with Your grace, mercy and love so that all the spaces are filled to overflowing with You and there is no room for bitterness.  Bind the work of the enemy so that no scheme formed against him can stand.  Give him a heart of flesh-that even hurting, even broken-he can give and receive love.  Because love lives forever.

Amen.

hope holds a breaking heart together

The Prayer of the Average and Broken

I am so thankful for my children.

While I was the teacher for their early years, they are now teaching me.

fiona and cash at home (2)

From my daughter, Fiona:

It’s tempting to look at someone doing a hard thing (like foster care) or living out a hard truth (like child loss) and label them as “special”, “brave”, “extraordinary”, or “chosen by God for a big purpose”.

I get it.

Those things ARE hard and downright terrifying… and a lot of days the sacrifice weighs heavier than the reward (in this life).

But as long as we relegate Christ-like love and endurance to the “chosen few”, we excuse ourselves from walking the hard (and often lonely) sacrificial path God has called each of His children to.

“On earth as it is in Heaven” is not the prayer of the brave, it’s the prayer of the average & broken who know that they are not extraordinary but dependent; who know that there is no formula for this life that will keep you & your loved ones safe this side of Heaven; who have decided that they are not content to simply get their own selves or families safely to shore.

Only you know in your heart what your kingdom work is on this earth and only you can decide if you will do it.

Every single one of us is weak and tired and ordinary and lacking “ideal” circumstances and timing and resources.

God doesn’t ask us to be “special”, He asks us to be obedient with no guarantee of earthly rewards or success.

You are one of the ordinary people loved by an extraordinary God.

“Brave, special, extraordinary, sacrificial, & compassionate” are not the calling.

They are characteristics of regular folks forged in the fire of immense challenges who start by saying a scared “yes” to our broken world’s screams for help. 

used everything up

Liquid Prayers

Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail? Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers, and of weeping as a constant dropping of importunate intercession which will wear its way right surly into the very heart of mercy, despite the stony difficulties which obstruct the way. My God, I will “weep” when I cannot plead, for Thou hearest the voice of my weeping.

Spurgeon

I was not yet through the first 24 hours of Dominic’s absence when I decided I’d never hide my tears. 

I love fiercely and I understood-even in the confusion of that awful day-that my tears were as much a testimony to love as my hugs ever were. 

So I cried when I wanted to, needed to, couldn’t help it.  

courage and tears

At first I think my tears were mainly an expression of loss and sorrow. 

But as the days rolled into weeks rolled into months and now years, my tears are as often an expression of longing as of pain.  

The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations. For example, we do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God, but his Spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonising longings which never find words. And God who knows the heart’s secrets understands, of course, the Spirit’s intention as he prays for those who love God.

Romans 8:26 PHILLIPS

my grace is sufficientWhen my mind cannot find words for the deep things of my heart, I cry. 

I think of each tear as a liquid prayer and trust that God captures it in His bottle, takes note of it in His scroll. 

 

You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.

Psalm 56:8 TLB

And I hold on with both hands to the promise that there will be a Day-a wonderful, never-ending, light filled Day-when tears will be a thing of the past. 

blessed is the one who believed his promises to her

Every sad thing will be untrue. 

Every stolen thing will be redeemed and every heart restored to perfect peace in the Presence of the Most High God and Christ Jesus Himself!  

But here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will throw a feast for all the people of the world,
A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines,
    a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.
And here on this mountain, God will banish
    the pall of doom hanging over all peoples,
The shadow of doom darkening all nations.
    Yes, he’ll banish death forever.
And God will wipe the tears from every face.
    He’ll remove every sign of disgrace
From his people, wherever they are.
    Yes! God says so!

       Also at that time, people will say,
    “Look at what’s happened! This is our God!
We waited for him and he showed up and saved us!
    This God, the one we waited for!
Let’s celebrate, sing the joys of his salvation.
    God’s hand rests on this mountain!”

Isaiah 25:6-10 MSG

 

Commanded to be Hospitable

the answer is still and again love

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Lord, when one of us hungers, make it our instinct to feed.

When one of us is displaced, make it our instinct to share our home.

– Common Prayer

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longer table

Practice the Pause

Oh, how I need to learn to practice the pause!

I’m getting better, but still react when I should reflect.

I need to do this EVERY time.

practice the pause toby mack

 

Lord, help my stubborn heart slow down and give me grace to yield and allow You to melt it, mold it and make it more like Your own! ~ ❤

 

heart stone