A Way to Pray in Times of Frustration
Speaker: Bonnie Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5).
When I was a teen my parents tried to encourage me to learn to be independent and to develop the handy skill of sewing. They told me that they would buy fabric for any piece of clothing I was willing to sew for myself. Other clothing would have to come out of what I made from my part-time job at a shop in the mall.
I eagerly accepted this offer and learned to sew simple clothing. Yes, this was the 1970s, when peasant blouses and maxi skirts were easy projects. This arrangement worked out great until the day I tried to sew myself a bathing suit. The stretchy fabric slipped in the machine, my stitches went awry and when I tried to undo the mess with a seam ripper, the fabric shredded. Tears of frustration fell and I angrily wadded up the fabric, threw the whole thing in the sewing closet and slammed the door on the sewing machine.
The next morning, I found a note taped to the sewing machine by my little brother. Instead of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” the handwritten note read: “If at first you don’t succeed, cry, rip it up and throw it away!”
So. Frustrating! Yes, you know the irritation you feel when what you want to see happen just doesn’t come together; but do you realize that even spiritual giants also face frustration?
As you study the life of Paul, you will see that Paul also knew frustration. He even struggled with it in his personal life. Study Romans 7 where Paul says, “It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned, but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin” (Romans 7:21-24, LB). That is frustrating. Paul was also frustrated by wanting to do things that he felt were in the will of God, but was thwarted, stopped cold in his tracks. Remember what he wrote to the Thessalonians, “For we wanted to come to you–certainly I, Paul, did, again and again–but Satan stopped us (I Thessalonians 2:18).
Two practices are my go to in times of sheer frustration: Breathing and praying. I consciously slow and deepen my breathing because it causes me to stop the frustration cycle. And then I ask God: “Please, help me to think through my options here! Am I trying to do something You haven’t planned for me? Am I trying to rush something that is outside of Your timing? Am I going in the wrong direction? Do I need to revisit this problem tomorrow?”
We tend to think that we are on our own in this life, that God is either disinterested or too busy to care about our frustrations. Nothing is further from the truth. He does care. “Call to me and I will answer you,” He says in Jeremiah 33:3. He answers, and the book of James tells us that when He is asked for wisdom, “He gives to all men generously and without reproach.” Remember that Jesus was fully God and fully human. Like you and me, He experienced frustration in those relationships closest to Him. So, we know that He answers us in our frustration, He understands what we are experiencing and He knows what we need.
What are you frustrated with today? Stop, take a breath and ask the God who calls Himself an ever-present help in time of trouble, for the help He’s promised to give. Next time…breathe and pray!
Resource reading: I Peter 1:3-9