Our church journeyed through January with a focus on prayer. Our preaching series was “Questions of Prayer,” which aimed to be honest about questions we share about prayer and give us orientation points for our praying. An optional step past Sunday morning is working through Steve Harper’s book, Talking in the Dark: Praying When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.
Having looked at problems we face in our praying, we now begin looking at expressions of prayer. Chapter 5 deals with “praying when you’re dry.”
Steve shares two poignant personal stories on the subject of experiencing spiritual dryness. I’ll share one in this post, and one in the next. The first is from a church leader while Steve was a young pastor who confides in him about wrestling with feelings of spiritual dryness and the absence of God. Though this man was faithful in worship, administrative meetings, fellowship events and most everything else, he wouldn’t be attending the prayer study that had recently launched. Steve writes, “He just didn’t have it in him to try to pray to a God who was becoming more and more distant to him” (p. 66).
Spiritual dryness feels as if “God has moved away and left no forwarding address” (p. 67). Psalm 77 is a prayer/song written by Asaph. It gives voice to the experience of spiritual dryness. I’ll share a couple of insights from this psalm here, and share the rest in the next post.
Realize Spiritual Dryness is Normal
Steve recounts, speaking from his own experiences of spiritual dryness, “I wish I had met him (Asaph), or someone like him, sooner. I mistakenly believed dryness was a sign of drifting or defection” (p. 68). He viewed dryness as “the warning light on the dashboard of my car,” telling him to check the engine for some problem. Noting that, yes, dryness can be a result of sin, Steve is just as quick to point out that it isn’t the only cause. In fact, there is ample evidence from the lives of saints that spiritual dryness also happens for other reasons and purposes.
But, again, we must keep praying, even though spiritual dryness makes a person feel like abandoning prayer altogether. But this would be a mistake. “It is a mistake because it makes sensibility the measure rather than faith” (p. 70). And being able to sense prayer’s effects and powers cannot be the foundation. Only faith in Jesus, the crucified and risen Son of God, is the proper foundation for our praying.
Pray Honestly When We are Spiritually Dry
Asaph may not have prayed nice and neat, but he did pray honestly and authentically. When it comes right down to it, we’re best off naming our dryness and offering it back to God in prayer. Steve offers this guidance: “Honesty gives God room to work. When we are superficial and artificial in our praying, it’s more difficult for God to respond to us as we really are” (p. 71).