The phrase “Dark Night of the Soul” has come to be associated with spiritual crisis. In Gethsemane, hours before his arrest, Jesus experienced a “Dark Night.” He modeled for us a way to work through our crisis moments in prayer.
Look at Mark 14:36. “Dark Night” prayers should be marked by:
- Intimacy. Jesus addresses God as “Abba”… an intensely personal term. Some have compared it to saying “Daddy” in our language. I am a daddy. I love being called “Daddy.” When my kids were little, one of my favorite memories is coming home from work and walking in the door. My children would come running, yelling “Daddy” all the way to the front door. Loved it. Today my children are grown. My son doesn’t call me daddy anymore (I think he addresses me most often as “Old Man.”). But my daughters still call me daddy. When I see their name on my caller ID, I know when I answer I am going to here a “Daddy.” It still melts me. I love it. The thing to remember about intimacy is that it cannot be faked. It must be developed…over time. You should pray now so that when you need to pray during a crisis…you will not be talking to a stranger.
- Honesty. Jesus was honest. He told the Father what he really wanted. And he wanted God to find a Plan B. Plan A…the cross…wasn’t looking so good. It took a lot of courage for Jesus to pray that. Did he risk the Father’s disapproval? Because they had a plan? Honesty! Our prayers often fail at this point. We pray what we think we should pray. Or, we pray without thinking. I am amazed at how often we engage our mouths before we engage our mind. We actually talk to God with our mind wandering. Have you ever really thought about some of the silly things you hear people say in prayer? Take our prayers before meals. You hear a lot of cliche’s and mindless prattle. I have a philosophy when it comes to meal time prayers. I do not want the food to get cold while I am praying. I talk to God a lot so when it comes time to eat, I thank God for the food and say “Amen!” Ten seconds tops. It freaks people out the first time they hear me do that. They barely get their eyes closed before we are done. I have a theory. People who pray long prayers before they eat are not praying any other time. “Blessings” are time to play catch up. And think about what we hear. “Bless this food to the nourishment of our body.” Do we need to pray that? God has already engineered our bodies so that if we put the right food in, our bodies will do their jobs. Why don’t we pray, “God, may my lungs do a good job with this oxygen they are breathing.” Tim Hawkins has a great take on those who pray for others a “hedge of protection.” Next time we pray, let’s take a moment to focus before we start to speak.
- Surrender. Crisis prayers must be marked by surrender. Jesus’s was. He said, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He asked God for a Plan B. But he never said he wouldn’t do Plan A. Jesus was less than 24 hours from his death…from finishing the task set before him. But if he had quit in the garden that night, nothing else he did would have mattered. He had to finish what he started. And he did. He was a finisher…a closer. He left the garden that night, marched right up to those coming to arrest him, and forced the issue. He did not hide. He did not run. I do not know where I first heard this…but someone has said that 90% of what God asks us to do is easy. We do not have a problem with most of what is asked of us. It is that last 10% where we struggle. It is that last little bit that costs us. But if we do not finish, does the rest of what we do really matter? We need to be closers…finishers. I am friends with our local high school coach. My children either played football or were cheerleaders. We did the Friday Night Lights thing for years. We were going to stop when our children were no longer involved. Then I met the new coach. I love the guy. We still go to all the games — in and out of town. He has this great thing with the team and the fourth quarter of football games. They start in off-season workouts getting ready for the fourth quarter. Their goal is to be the best conditioned team. And I have seen it. At the end of games, the Hippos are wearing out the other team. They are closers…finishers. Just like we need to be. Just like Jesus was.