“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’”(Jesus in Matthew 11:28)
2020 was a doozy, and 2021 has started off on much the same foot. I’m hopeful for the new Administration, but what we face is much bigger than politics. Everything that’s happened in the last calendar year is a lot to take in. And add to it that my family is currently struggling with non-COVID health issues, and 2021 is bringing with it its own stresses.
But I write today from a place of hope, even though it’s hope amidst struggle. The Christian faith knows well these types of hard seasons. Jesus called to Himself all those who were weary and burdened because He knew He could give us rest (Matthew 11:28). He called us to Himself because He knew His yoke was easy and His burden was light (Matthew 11:30). He knew the human condition: that “even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall” (Isaiah 40:30). But He also knew what He offered amidst that: “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
The Christian practice of supplication is asking God for specific prayer requests, especially amidst difficult circumstances. It’s a chance to pray to God for a myriad reasons: family, friends, health, finances, work, our government, our church, for really anything we’re dealing with in our lives.
Supplication is the act of laying down our ability to handle things on our own, and acknowledging that we need Someone bigger than us to help us through the present moment. It is surrendering our ability to do it ourselves, and, instead, accepting the good gifts of a good God who knows what we need before we even ask. Supplication is allowing an all-powerful, creative, loving, heavenly Father to do in our lives what we are unable to do on our own.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “We must lay before Him what is in us; not what ought to be in us.” That means that when we are bankrupt, when we are burdened, when we are exhausted, tired, weary, and broken down, we practice coming to God and pouring out our hearts out to Him. God’s not interested in any attempt at perfection – the “ought to be” that Lewis is referring to. It is our honest, vulnerable, imperfect selves that God is after – “what is in us.”
And the craziest part? Not only does God hear our prayers and meet us in those moments, but He answers those prayers in infinitely creative ways. A family member sends you a text right at your deepest moment of sadness, giving you the fight you need to make it through the rest of the day. A friend sends you a DoorDash gift card out of the blue to take away the stress of meal planning for a couple days – bringing tears of joy and thankfulness, and the knowledge that you are not alone in this moment. Or an author you follow posts some words about suffering that shake you to your core, helping to remind you that joy can be found amidst heartache and that no one’s life is pain-free.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summarizes how God feels about our practice of supplication:
“‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’” (Matthew 7:7-8)
This is the God I know, a God who, amidst our hardest moments, is at His most intimate with us. Who, amidst our moments of greatest need, is so, so present. Who “whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain). While I know that supplication doesn’t always bring the exact outcome I pray for, the practice offers me the chance to connect deeply with this good God who is present with me amidst it all. And then I get to watch His eternal, unlimited creativity go to work in answering those prayers.
The practice of supplication teaches us that
We. are. not. alone. in. this.
And that’s a gift for these days.