How Do You Pray When Overwhelmed?

How does one pray when overwhelmed by guilt or fear? John Donne, English poet and preacher, expressed the dilemma (and hoped-for solution) in this way:
“Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sins their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun,
A year or two, but wallow’d in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done;
For I have more.
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sins their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun,
A year or two, but wallow’d in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done;
For I have more.
I have a sin of fear, that when I’ve spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as He shines now and heretofore;
And having done that, Thou has done;
I fear no more. ”
Donne fears that God cannot provide enough forgiveness to match his ability to sin. Only his faith in Christ gives him hope. Psalm 130, one of the Songs of Ascent, prays from the perspective of one overwhelmed by guilt: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” The writer craves blessing from God, but guilt-induced fear creates doubt. However, his confidence that God will forgive, based on his concept of God’s character, allows him to wait on the Lord to deliver him: “For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption”(Ps. 130: 7b ESV). Both the English poet/preacher and Hebrew recognize that sin produces consequences. They believe that only God can love, protect, and forgive them fully; he “keeps no record of wrongs.” Psalm 130, expressed as an individual prayer, communicates a faith lived in a community of worship; the Psalms were sung in formal worship. Remarkably, the prayer of Psalm 130 echoes the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26. The Psalmist prays for blessing, security, love and peace. He anchors his confidence in God’s word (Scripture) and his faith – (“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning”).When we pray, discouraged by our failures (individual or shared), fear may paralyze us; we may hesitate to pray because we question whether we deserve God’s love. The encouragement of association with other worshipers, the history of God’s interaction with humanity and Scripture’s revelation of his character assure us and give us the confidence to “call for fire.”.

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About Michael Summers

Michael Waymon Summers has preached in twenty-seven of the United States as well as seven other countries. He currently preaches for a Church of Christ in Leavenworth, Kansas. Michael earned a Master of Theology degree. He also has done graduate work in international studies. Michael runs more than twenty miles most weeks, loves to sing, and reads voraciously.
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4 Responses to How Do You Pray When Overwhelmed?

  1. Pingback: Go For It | This Day With God

  2. Pingback: The People Closest to Us in the Community of Faith 052513 | Mennonite Preacher

  3. Pingback: Will God Forgive You for Sin? - Your Christian Personal Development Blog | Improve Your Life | Become a Leader | Get Spiritual Inspiration | Get Empowered for Change

  4. Pingback: Will God Forgive You for Sin? | The Official Website of David G. Newby | Your Christian Personal Development Blog | Improve Your Life | Become a Leader | Get Spiritual Inspiration | Get Empowered for Change

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