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.
Today I’m continuing with the focus of Chapter 5, Praying When You’re Dry. In it, Steve Harper looks at the prayer of Asaph in Psalm 77, a psalm that speaks to dealing with times in the spiritual life during which we feel as if “God has moved away and left no forwarding address” (p. 67). In the last post, I shared the first two insights from Asaph’s prayer; now we’ll look at the last three.
Seeks the Cause of His Dryness
Check verses 7-9 of the psalm. Asaph’s questions are tough and direct. And genuinely interested in the answer, it seems. Steve shares his personal experience, the other poignant example I mentioned yesterday. He was teaching spiritual formation and prayer in seminary and writing a devotional commentary on the book of Acts, and was also enduring his longest and toughest experience of spiritual dryness, the feeling of God’s absence. Though he never stopped believing what he was teaching and writing was true, “the frustration was that I was offering a view of God to others that was not being confirmed in my day-to-day life” (p. 73).
Not harboring unconfessed sin, Steve wanted to know the reason for his dryness. One day God’s presence returned to him simply and unceremoniously, and returned with a question: “Do you know what your problem has been?” Of course he did!
“And I heard deep in my being: ‘Steve, your problem is that you have been working for me, but you haven’t been walking with me. You need to realize that I do not have employees in my kingdom. I have only beloved sons and daughters.’” (p. 74)
Do you need to hear that word from God?
Used Memory to Hold Him Secure
In Psalm 77, Asaph leans into his memory (and the collective memory of the Hebrew people) of what God has done for him in the past while his present experience is not strong. Remembering significant points in our journey with Christ is important for us too. Feelings ebb and flow, so while they are a gift in their own right they are not designed to uphold the whole of our Christian walk. We need to pause and remember God’s faithfulness and love and grace as we have experienced it, as we have seen him at work in others, and certainly the witness of Jesus’ loving sacrifice in the Bible. This is where the Sacrament of Communion plays a significant role in our walk. In it we remember—reenact in fact—Jesus’ last supper with the twelve disciples, and all that it symbolizes and foreshadowed.
Dryness Does Not Last Forever
“It is not a terminal disease,” Steve writes (p. 76). Grounded in his remembering of God’s grace and power for him, Asaph seems to regain some vitality in the rehearsing of God’s faithfulness. We need not give up on God. We need to trust his use of our season of spiritual dryness and trust that it will come to a close in his time.