The desperation began almost three years ago. Life was nothing more than an angry struggle in many of the situations I found myself and tears were constantly flowing (some good, lots bad). The worst was the dross coming to the surface in my own heart. In the middle of the night I would wake up with so much anger and hurt. My mind would hurl one thousand responses towards it. The cycle perpetuated and my inward reflections revealed once again how far I actually was from being like the one whom my soul adored, Jesus. As a lifelong Christian I was drowning in sorrow at the recognition of my own lack of spiritual fruit. It felt like I hit an insurmountable wall.
The wall, the stone – I recognized it – and I certainly had fallen on Him and was broken to pieces…
But Jesus looked directly at them and said, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ Everyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” Luke 20:17-18
I found myself leaving the pharisee’s side and retreating to a distance as a tax collector. Standing before the wall I could barely lift my eyes heavenward…”Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It was all I could pray for far longer than a year (and still pray). It was all I could say when I woke up in the middle of the night tortured by the turmoil. I repeated it over and over and over until the words, like a dove cooing in the nest, began to settle in my soul. “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.”
My prayer life was taking flight, I began reciting the Lord’s prayer from my heart too. My own words seemed so futile and empty. In the middle of the Lord’s prayer I could barely choke through forgiving the trespasses of others. My prayer life had now grown to a cycle of three prayers: The Jesus Prayer, the Lord’s prayer and the prayer of overcoming unbelief. (Jesus, I believe! Help my unbelief.) These formed a perfect circle in my soul. I could go to Him now at any time and pour out my own heart through these prayers and come away refreshed by His grace.
These prayers, in these years, have been my life support, they have been echoed through the ages by other Christians. The Lord has heard my cry to teach me how to pray by giving me the prayers of the church. I’m living them and breathing them over and over again like the persistent widow. They are healing, strengthening, teaching, and directing me through Christ our Lord who has given us every good gift…even the gift of repetitious prayer.