All too often when we come to church, we have the tendency to put masks on. You walk in the building and when people ask you how you are doing, the answer is usually something along the lines of “doing great.” If you are in some church traditions, you might say “I’m blessed and highly favored.”
While there is nothing wrong with saying this when its true; what about when it’s not? I think so often we feel the pressure to believe we have to put the mask on, because after all you are a person of faith and since God is good you must feel good all the time. What do you do when you don’t feel this way? How do you approach God and people when your faith is small, when you can’t believe and when you wonder if God is even listening?
That’s why I want to encourage you today to pray broken prayers. Consider this passage in Luke:
“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him” (Luke 5:12-13).
There was something about this man that I think you can relate to. He was broken by life because he was a leper. We are not sure how he caught leprosy, but nevertheless he had it and it was a terrible disease. To be a leper in those days was to be an outcast. I will spare you the details of the horror of this disease, but beyond the physical pain and suffering there was the mental pain and suffering because no one wanted to be around you. Lepers were shunned and people thought they were cursed by God and their leprosy was a result of their sin. Some scholars say a leper couldn’t come within six feet of any other Israelite and within 150 feet if there was an east wind blowing (I guess this was the original form of social distancing).
In our story, this leper comes to Jesus. He was sick, probably in pain, and shunned by the outside world. In one word he was broken. In his place of brokenness he cried out to Jesus for help and Jesus responded.
How Does This Apply to You?
There are usually two ways we end up in positions of brokenness or helplessness. In one instance you are doing everything right. You are living right. You are giving right. You are serving. You are following God, obeying his word and doing everything you are supposed to do – and all of a sudden you get hit with life, leading you to a broken place.
On the flip side, maybe you are doing everything wrong. You’ve made a series of bad decisions and choices and your life feels like it’s falling apart. Everything is breaking down around you and you don’t know what to do. You too are in a broken place.
You see, it does not matter how you got there, you end up just like the leper. Whether it’s by your own fault or no fault of your own, you are in this place of desperation and brokenness. What do you do?
Photo credit: Unsplash/Warren Wong
The Power of the Broken Prayer
What I love about this story is the way the man came to Jesus. He came and threw himself at his feet. He came humble. He came honest and he came broken. He didn’t even pray what would be considered a faith-filled prayer. He said Lord, if you are willing. In essence he was saying I know you can, I just don’t know if you will.
His prayer was not coming from a place of expectation, it was coming from a place of desperation. In other words, he came to Jesus just as he was. Unclean, rejected, desperate, broken and out of this place he cried out to Jesus. He was offering what I would consider a broken prayer, yet this prayer had much power in it.
Lessons from This Broken Prayer
1. Come to Jesus Just the Way You Are
Too often we make the mistake of thinking we have to come to Jesus with everything right. The same mask we wear into church on Sunday morning we take into prayer and into the presence of God. If I could encourage you with one thing let it be this. Stop thinking you have to always have it all right. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to have your faith right, your worship right, you have to pray the right words and when you do then God will hear you. That is not what God responds to.
You can come to Jesus just as you are, broken and all, with the mask off and pour your heart out to him. Broken prayers aren’t perfect prayers, but they come from a place of humility and honesty and that is exactly what God wants.
Psalm 51:17 – “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”
2. God Doesn’t Only Respond to Our Faith, He Also Responds to Our Brokenness
There is something amazing in this story of Luke that if you read too fast you will miss. Before Jesus healed him, he touched him. Remember this was a man who was shunned by society. Who knows how long it had been since someone had touched this man?
Before Jesus addressed his obvious physical need for healing, he addressed the less obvious emotional need to be touched. We already mentioned earlier that this man did not pray a prayer of great faith, yet Jesus responded. This tells me that God not only responds to your faith, he responds to your brokenness as well. Jesus could have healed the man first and then touched him, but he didn’t – he touched him first.
That is why it’s ok to come just as you are. Don’t worry about having everything all neat and buttoned up, God will respond to your broken condition.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Yori Hirokawa
3. When You Touch the Heart of God, It Will Move the Hand of God
Luke 5:13b – “’I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.”
I believe the reason why Jesus moved in this man’s situation is because this man touched his heart. When you touch the heart of God, it will move the hand of God. You must also be mindful of something. When you pray broken prayers, sometimes God will change the situation instantly which is what happened here. However sometimes the situation may remain the same, but he will change you instantly. At the place of brokenness, you are laying it all down and asking God to move on your behalf as he sees fit. The beauty of the broken prayer is that you may come to God broken, but you will walk away whole.
If you are sick you may walk away healed, but even if God doesn’t heal you, walk away whole.
If you are discouraged you will walk away encouraged.
If you come with no faith you walk away believing God to do great things in your life.
If you come with no joy you walk away with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
If you come with no peace you walk away with peace that passes all understanding, even in the midst of brokenness.
The beauty of the broken prayer is that God takes it, strengthens you and gives you the confidence to know that God is going to bring you through.
I don’t know what feels hopeless, broken, or desperate in your life today. I do know that if you will pour it out humbly and honestly, God is waiting to touch you, heal you and restore you. You are reminded from Scripture to cast all your cares upon him because he cares for you. The situation you are in today matters, and Jesus is waiting with open arms to touch all the broken places in your life. However, it begins when you take the mask off and begin offering up those broken prayers.
Related: Listen to our podcast, Teach Us to Pray with Christina Patterson. Below is our episode “Desperate Times Call for Desperate Prayers”:
Photo credit: Unsplash/Ben White
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.