There have been times in most of our lives where we felt that we were at the end of our rope. All hope was gone. We didn’t have the money to pay our rent or mortgage, plus buy food, or gas to get to work, even if we had a job. The future was bleak. There was nobody we could call on. This was it...the end. The only thing that we could do was to fall on our face and cry out to God in desperation. “God if you don’t help I can’t go on. If you don’t help I won’t survive. Please help me.”
That’s not the prayer that we like to pray. We like the prayers when we are thanking God for all that He’s done for us. The prayer where we are asking God to bless our friends and families. The prayer that we pray everyday following the pattern of the Lord’s prayer; “Give us this day our daily bread, etc. etc. No, this time it’s a prayer of desperation because we’re in trouble and and have nowhere to turn. We’ve reached the point where we are sick and tired of the situation we’re in. Tired of being in need, or sick, or confused, or anxious, or afraid We’ve reached the bottom of the barrell.
We know that we’re not alone because we hear of the trials and tribulations of other believers but those are their trials and tribulations these are ours. We go to the Psalms and read of the times that David pleaded for deliverance from his enemies sometimes even fearing death, but those were David’s times these are ours.
Then there’s the story of Hannah who was miserable because she had been unable to conceive. She had reached the point of desperation. On one trip to Jerusalem for one of the festivals Hannah in desperation prayed for a son. She was so desperate she said that if God blessed her with a son she would give him to God. After praying that desperate prayer Hannah became pregnant and the Prophet and last Judge of Israel was born to a woman who prior to that time was barren. Not only did Hannah conceive Samuel, who she did give to God, she had five more children, three more sons and two daughters.
1 Samuel 2:21 (NKJV) And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the LORD.
Hannah is an example to us that we should not let our current situation cause us to stop seeking God’s best for us. When we in our desperation cry out to God our desperation can become the first step in deliverance. Don’t let desperation become discouragement which is a trap of the enemy.
When you fall into the trap of discouragement, there is no joy or contentment, no matter what you do. It’s Satan’s, objective for you to question or to blame God for every discouraging thing that’s happening to you. He puts it in your mind that after all if God is all powerful He would keep those discouraging things from happening to you.
The circumstances that trigger disappointment may be unavoidable, but the way we respond is a choice. We can either let the disappointment overwhelm us or we can face the situation with courage and take it to the One who can help us through them. Remember He promised to never leave or forsake us. (Don’t Become Trapped By Discouragement)
Don’t be proud...cry out in desperation!
Jim Cymbaila, author and Pastor the Brooklyn Tabernacle tell the story of that prayer of desperation in his book Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In
The Power of Desperate Prayer
Editor’s Note: The complete text of the referenced scriptures were added for emphasis by me
After the dark period described in the Old Testament book of Judges, Israel’s desperate situation began to turn around with the prayer of a woman named Hannah. She had had enough and decided she could not take it any longer.
Hannah was one of two wives married to a man named Elkanah. The other wife had children, but Hannah was barren. According to the Bible, Peninnah, the rival wife, would mock Hannah and make fun of her, “provoking her in order to irritate her” because “the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb”.
1 Samuel 1:2 (NKJV) And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
Day after day, year after year, Hannah was teased and taunted, mocked and ridiculed.
Every year Elkanah’s family went to the tabernacle of the Lord in Shiloh, which was the center of worship in Israel. There the family would offer sacrifices to the Lord. But that’s also when Peninnah’s taunting of Hannah increased, to the point where Hannah wept so hard she could no longer eat.
1 Samuel 1:3-8 (NKJV)3 This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.4 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb.6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb.7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
Each year this pattern repeated. Her husband, Elkanah, loved Hannah and gave her extra portions of the sacrifice, but that didn’t heal his wife’s pain. Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted?” he would ask Hannah. “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
1 Samuel 1:8 (NKJV) Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
Then one year, something snapped inside of Hannah, and she suddenly refused to endure the taunts of Peninnah and accept her childless status. Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up.
1 Samuel 1:9 (NKJV) So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD.
Hannah left the table and went to pray near the doorpost of the tabernacle. It was a moment with historic ramifications.
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly”
1 Samuel 1:10 (NKJV) And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.
She didn’t recite mental prayers as we often do; her heart went out to the Lord. Amid the backslidden and even corrupt religious establishment of that day, we see a desperate, simple woman stirred to pray a prayer that will usher in a new day in Israel’s history. In her prayer she promised God that if he gave her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord for as long as he lived. When she finished praying, she got something to eat, and her face was no longer downcast .
1 Samuel 1:18 (NKJV) And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
It was as if she knew something was about to change.
The next morning Elkanah’s family arose and worshiped God before they headed back home to Ramah. Once there, Elkanah made love to his wife as he had so often done before, but this time “the Lord remembered her”
1 Samuel 1:19 (NKJV) Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her.
Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
Now, what was it that stirred Hannah to pray a prayer that changed the future of Israel?
Hannah could have chosen to live in denial. When Peninnah mocked her, she could have said, “Who cares? I’m not into kids. I don’t want to change diapers anyway!” But she didn’t. She faced the truth (as painful as it was), saying, “I want a baby, I want a son, I want to be fruitful.”
Hannah could have forgotten her heartache and just rejoiced in the fact that she was a child of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and a part of the covenant people of Israel. Or she could have looked at her situation and said, “I don’t have a child, so it must be God’s sovereign will that I don’t.”
But she didn’t do either of those things. Hannah’s story shows us that she did not deny her barrenness, but neither did she accept it. Her unique prayer became the channel that God both prompted and then used to turn the tide in Israel and bring much-needed blessing upon them. The lesson is clear for us today.
We must not silently accept our lack of fruitfulness and somehow justify it as God’s will for us.
Imagine if Hannah had said, “Well, I guess I’m not supposed to have a baby.”
No, as hard as it was, she honestly faced her circumstances and then desperately prayed for God to change them. What was in her mighty prayer that God could not ignore? None of us totally understands the power of prayer, but we know that Hannah’s prayer was powerful and effective, the kind James describes in his epistle.
James 5:16 (NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Yet if I had to guess, I would say it was both the heightened element of desperation coupled with deep faith in God. Hannah had no other place to turn. It was as if, in her great anguish and grief, she cried, “Make me fruitful, or I don’t want to go on.” She was at her end. “Give me a child or I will die!”
God heard Hannah’s weeping, and her prayer became the pathway to divine intervention. Furthermore, God wanted her story told in detail in the Bible, so future generations would recognize that Israel’s turnaround started with a lonely, heartbroken woman who just wanted to bear fruit.
Desperate and soul-stirring prayers like hers result in answers.
When God is sought in desperation, he responds.
Even in hopeless situations.
Excerpted from Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In by Jim Cymbala, copyright Zondervan.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.