In my little corner of the world, there has been much talk recently about calling on God for help in times of trouble. While many want God to come to their rescue at a moment’s notice, few seem willing to struggle and wrestle in prayer…instead praying haphazardly or ‘as if you’re shouting into the wind.’ “In this case,” Luther says, “it would be better not to pray at all.” Instead, teaching on Psalm 118, Luther says:
You must learn to call on the Lord. Don’t sit all alone or lie on the couch, shaking your head and letting your thoughts torture you. Don’t worry about how to get out of your situation or brood about your terrible life, how miserable you feel, and what a bad person you are. Instead, say, “Get a grip on yourself, you lazy bum! Fall on your knees, and raise your hands and eyes toward heaven. Read a psalm. Say the Lord’s Prayer, and tearfully tell God what you need.” This passage [Ps 118.5] teaches us to call on him. Similarly, David said, “I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble” (Ps 142.2). God wants you to tell him your troubles. He doesn’t want you to keep them to yourself. He doesn’t want you to struggle with them all alone and torture yourself. Doing this will only multiply your troubles.
God knows you will be too weak to overcome your troubles by yourself. He wants you to grow strong in him. Then he will be the one who receives the glory. Out of difficult experiences emerge true Christians. Without troubles, people talk a lot about faith and the Spirit but don’t really know what these things are or what they’re saying.
(from Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional / LW 14:60)
The point is quite simply this: In his great mercy, through Christ Jesus, God has provided us:
- An ear for our complaints
- Companionship in times of loneliness
- Strength in times of weakness
- Perseverance in times of impatience
- Help when we are overwhelmed
- Growth in times of struggle
- Relief in times of inundation
That said, as earthly fathers often restrain themselves from helping their children until asked in order to teach their children trust, reliance, and hope, so our Heavenly Father teaches us to cry out to him in our time of need. And he will answer us through reassurance from his Word, a gentle word from others, physical aid from others, the peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4.7), or another means. Even if he delays, we may continue to hope, knowing that “out of difficult experiences emerge true Christians.”