I have been in a prolonged season of difficulty in prayer. It’s hard to admit that, confusing to live it, and I have not given up on daily pursuing communion and relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit. In fact, it seems to me, increasingly, that I’m not supposed to be anxious or frustrated about this (which I have been). It seems to me I should not look at it as a failure (which I have been), but to see it as part of being human—part of a normal, lived, following of Jesus. That there are things to learn on this part of the path I cannot learn elsewhere.
But it’s still been hard.
So I’m spending some time with Harold Best right now, hoping he will walk me into a new season of communion with the Father. I’m praying with him, and he with me. He calls it dumbfounded praying.
dumbfound (verb, usu. be dumbfounded). greatly astonish or amaze, stun, stupefy, stop someone in their tracks, leave open-mouthed.
Huh. I like that. I want that in my conversation with God. Dumbfounded praying.
“Father, I thank you that you have heard me,
and I know that you always hear me…” (Jesus, John 11:41B—42A)
How did you pray, sovereign Christ? I mean when you were alone, having preached through another desert day, left friendless and fruitless after teaching your heart out to the un-choosing chosen? Did you kneel? Did you stand? Did you lie down on cooling green and fight sleep, or were you kept alert in a way that escapes me? Did your mind wander? And if it did, was it from one sweet truth to another, your whole heart, your tired heart, locked on to the laid-aside wonder of heaven’s thunders? What was it like to pray to the One with whom you are one, to ask him to see you through the very things to which the Three-In-One of you had agreed from the eternities? How did your Man-faith and your God-sight get along? Did the Accuser, the counter pray-er, try to out-pray you? Did you ever wonder if heaven was a brazen echo chamber, with no windows, no door? If you were tempted beyond all tempting for forty days, did this mean it was all over on the forty-first, or did you live thirty-three years with a giggling cackle in your ears and you prayed through—clear through—and then beyond it?
Dear praying Christ, are these questions worthwhile, or am I just telling you what it’s like when I pray, and you never went through anything like my dumbfounded utterances? But weren’t you tempted in all things just as we are?…..
Dear Intercessor, am I on the right track? Can I find a peace that passes all understanding, and can I learn to pray in the very freedom of God who, in the words of old Isaiah, tells us to take no rest and give you no rest, until a world-wide Jerusalem comes to praise? Can I do this without going through a world atlas? Yes, I can, because you started with page one, when you went looking for two lost souls on a graying and distorted evening in Eden; and you will go through to the last page, because it is your will that no one should perish, and your Son’s blood says 'Amen!' to this, person by person.
So, dear all-wise Father, dear saving Christ, dear blessed Spirit, dear thrice-lauded Trinity: receive this questing, confused prayer. Run it through the mills that grind exceeding fine; purge it with fire; turn its stubble to precious ointment. Cause my imperfect praying to find its rest in your perfectly gracious sovereignty. Do this, please, not just because you are praying to the Father for me, perfecting it whisper by whisper; but because we have been thrown about together, you and I—you by my sin, and I in my sin. And, even though I deserve far worse than simply being thrown about, you comfort me by hearing me. I am like a weaned child taking rest, more and more rest: always near your breast, slowly stepping from its milk, to your hearty porridges and savory meat. All the while, Bread of Heaven, I taste and see that you are good: you, the eternal Staff of Life, the one who makes breakfast for wavering doubters and cursing fishermen. (from Dumbfounded Praying, by Harold Best)