Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

The Hardest Prayer to Pray

Recently, I found myself deep in prayer about someone I love more than words could ever express. As I talked with God, I heard the words fall off my lips before I realized what I was saying:

“Lord, whatever it takes, bring him back to you.”

Immediately, I paused. My heart skipped a beat. The tears began to stream down my face. I felt a lump in my throat. I knew it was the right prayer, but I felt the pain of what I was asking of God.

Whatever it takes…

Those are some pretty powerful, pretty scary words.

Whatever it takes…

As I contemplated those words, I knew I was asking God to take this person to the lowest depths of despair, to strip everything of importance away from him.

Whatever it takes…

For me, whatever it takes encompassed financial ruin, relationship loss, emotional turmoil, and so much more. It took me to a place where Jesus was all I had…and I wasn’t even sure I wanted Him.

But when I truly reached that place where Jesus was all I had, I found He was more than enough.

And that’s what I want for this precious person I love. I want him to experience the healing of our Heavenly Father. I want him to know the depth of love our Father has for him. I want him to know the perfect peace that surpasses all understanding. I want him to know the joy of intimacy with the Father.

I want him to again experience the abundant life our Father came to give us.

I don’t want the whatever it takes, but my desire for him to know my Father outweighs my fears of whatever it takes.

It seems whatever it takes is a common situation taking so many of us to our knees when we realize we can’t do it on our own any longer. When life gives us more than we can handle, we find our God standing near, whispering in our ear, urging us to let Him carry it because He never meant for us to carry the burdens of this life (1 Peter 5:7). He wants us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us so much more than we could ever understand this side of heaven.

Have you thought about the Biblical characters who reached the end of themselves before falling to their knees and seeing God’s mighty hand reach down and rescue? Have you contemplated the number of heroes of our faith who lost everything before they found true intimacy with the Father?

Joseph. Joseph, despite his tendency toward arrogance, was a man of character and integrity. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, ripped from his father who loved him so. He was wrongfully accused and cast into prison for a crime he did not commit. But, in God’s time, he was elevated to a place of honor and saw all things restored. His integrity and commitment to God sustained him through the lowest of lows.

Job. There’s no story quite like that of Job. He lost everything—his servants, his worldly wealth, his children—all because he was a man of integrity. And his first response in the midst of the pain was to fall to his knees and worship. As he wrestled with God through the pain and the loss, he questioned God. He didn’t understand why he had to suffer so much. Yet, at the end of his trial, he uttered these words: “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5).

David. David was known as a man after God’s own heart, but he also stumbled and spiraled downward. After an adulterous relationship, he had his lover’s husband murdered. He had turned his back on the God who had chosen him and put him on the throne. And that’s when God allowed his son to die. There, as he fell to his knees begging for God’s grace, David returned to the God of his youth (Psalm 51).

I could go on with stories of Samson and Peter and Naomi and Paul and so many more. Yet, there are few statements quite as poignant as when God spoke to the Israelites after their forty years of wandering in the wilderness:

Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good. Deuteronomy 8:2-5

Yes, it was in the wilderness where God tested their hearts and proved their character. It was also in the wilderness where they experienced daily provision in ways previously unknown. And it was in the wilderness they learned to live God’s way. And it was in the wilderness that God carefully protected them from the elements. And it was in the wilderness He led them by a cloud by day and a fire by night. And it was in the wilderness the Israelites experienced the faithfulness of God.

Yes, the whatever it takes is a painful way to learn the faithfulness of God, to see His goodness and grace provide for  our every needs. But sometimes it is the only thing that takes our eyes off our circumstances and gets our focus on God.

 How do I support the one walking through the whatever it takes of life?

Pray. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Pray for your loved one to turn his eyes to Jesus. Pray for God to pursue him relentlessly, to let your loved one experience the depths of His love. Pray for healing. Pray for opportunities to share the love of God. Pray for your loved one to surrender fully and completely to the work God is trying to do in him and through him.

Love. There’s no greater power than love. Love covers a multitude of sin. Love is from God, it’s who God is. It speaks louder than words or any miracle ever seen by man. Love has the power to break the chains of sin and set the prisoner free. Love lavishly, not enabling, but by showing the love God so freely lavishes on us.

Grace. Have you ever seen the response of someone caught in sin when grace is extended? Surprise. Shock. Peace. While there is a time for consequences, there’s also the opportunity to show grace, God’s grace. Maybe the lecture isn’t needed, but just a kind word and a hug that says I’m sorry and I understand. Maybe instead of punishment there’s the opportunity to extend another chance. Maybe instead of walking away, there’s an opportunity for forgiveness. We must be so in tune with the Spirit that we know which response to give in each situation.

Model. Have you been through whatever it takes? I have. It’s not fun. It’s painfully hard and excruciating. But, if you’ve been there, you have the opportunity to comfort with the comfort you have received (2 Corinthians 1:4). It’s an opportunity for us to show how God has carried us through the whatever it takes and has put us back together and on our feet for good (1 Peter 5:10). It’s the opportunity for us to share our stories of surrender and thanksgiving and how God was faithful through it all, redeeming our pain and our loss. It’s an opportunity to show what it is to walk in peace through the storms of this life. When someone you love walks through whatever it takes, model Christ for them.

Whatever it takes…

I sometimes shudder at the thought of those words, of that prayer. I also look back with a smile at my own whatever it takes, at the intimacy I gained with my Father. Now that I’m on the other side, I relish the journey, the place where God loved me so well and taught me so much. I remember His faithfulness, how I never lacked for anything, how He always provided exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

Whatever it takes…

It’s hard, but it is also so rewarding.