Bible Reading: 1 Kings 19:1-18
In the light of a verse like “pray continually” [1 Thessalonians 5:17] it is difficult to argue for a time not to pray. However, Isobel Kuhn, a much beloved missionary to China, wrote, “After my first operation, finding I would have long hours just in bed, I said to myself, ‘Good. Now I will employ this time in intercession and prayer.’ But to my surprise and alarm I found I could not.”
There may be times when we are emotionally low, have low energy levels, and are unable to concentrate. In such times it may be right just to be silent and trust God. Nowhere is this more evident than the way in which God dealt with Elijah when he was in depression.
Elijah experienced victory on Mount Carmel, followed by a prolonged period of intercession and fasting. An angry Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah within twenty-four hours, and he ran for his life. He was afraid, isolated himself, lost all his enthusiasm, prayed to die, and was filled with self-pity.
There was a mental reason for Elijah’s state – he had lived a long time with the pressure of being a fugitive and had been in an intense emotional and spiritual battle. Whilst in the run he had stayed at Cherith [“a place of cutting”] and at Zarepath [“a place of refining”]. He was no longer thinking clearly or objectively! This was a spiritual cutting and polishing experience!
There was a physical cause – he was tired, exhausted and hungry.
There was also a spiritual cause – an attack from the enemy! A fiery dart had pierced his spiritual armour.
We can learn much from seeing how God dealt with Elijah. It wasn’t the spiritual that came first! God dealt with him first at a physical level – food and sleep. Then God dealt with him at a mental level – He gave him space. God gave him forty days to think about his situation, before challenging him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Finally God dealt with him at a spiritual level. He showed Elijah something of His awesome power. He didn’t condemn him or write him off, but on the contrary God re-commissioned him.
It may be that someone cannot pray because they are depressed or going through an emotionally low time. Not all depression has a spiritual root and must be treated accordingly. It might be caused by bereavement, deep hurt, or perhaps illness. What that person needs is probably a friend who will listen with compassion and quietly pray until God does His work of comforting, healing and restoration. Sometimes we need to trust others to pray for us.
Do you have a friend who for some reason is not able right now to pray? Would you be the friendly listening ear who quietly stands in prayer for them?
How have you reacted when you have gone through times when you have been unable to pray? What should the best reaction be? What are the negative reactions that the enemy would like to enforce in you in those times?