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  • Going With The Gruenings

Praying When You Are Overwhelmed

One of my closest friends gifted me a book of modern prayer and liturgy when we first moved to Germany. I didn’t grow up in a traditional church setting, so books of prayer and liturgies were not part of my background, but I had read a few and knew I wanted to read more. I had no idea what a beautiful tool that was going to be in the coming months.

“I can’t sleep,” I texted a friend back in the States. It was nearly 2 in the morning, but, fortunately for me, it was only 8 pm in the States, and my friend was up and answered my text. I was worried because Lorelei was leaving on her week-long class trip to Munich the next morning. Letting my firstborn travel 8+ hours away in a new country with limited language and people I didn’t know would have seemed certifiably crazy just a few months ago, but now it is just one of the many ways the Lord is teaching me to let my control of my kids go as they grow up and become independent. But all the logic of how “she’ll be fine… she’s going with her class” and “I went on class trips and to camp at that age” wasn’t helping my worried heart. My friend knew a pep talk wasn’t what I needed. Her next text simply asked, “Did you go pray yet?” I admitted that I hadn’t given it to the Lord yet, to which she responded, “Go give it to the Lord.”

I knew my new book of prayer had a prayer in it about not being able to sleep, but I was already up in bed and didn’t want to disturb the whole house to go get it and read it. “Like that would help anyway,” I told myself. “What is some formulaic prayer going to do for my very real concerns?” I wondered. In that very moment, three pictures popped up on my phone’s screen. My friend, having the same book, went and snapped pictures of this very prayer and sent them to me. At that point, I had nothing to lose, so I read through the prayer that my friend had sent. In that moment, I learned three things about praying when I feel overwhelmed:

  1. Pray the words of other believers I saw how helpful it can be to pray the words of others. For me, it was huge in that moment. The example that first comes to mind is from Jesus Himself. Christ modeled prayer for us when He said in Matthew 6:9-13, “Pray then like this…” and then prays the Lord’s Prayer. Secondly, praying the Psalms, especially in times of lament, can give words to the grief and mourning that you can’t seem to put words to. I have often prayed the words of Psalm 27, 54, and 63. Lastly, as I mentioned above, a book of prayer such as Every Moment Holy or The Valley of Vision can provide rich and deep ways to help us talk to the Lord.

  2. Asking other believers to pray with you When we are overwhelmed, we need to reach out to other believers to pray with and for us. I cannot begin to stress enough how important it is to have people in your life who will be consistent in their prayer for you and be available to stop and pray in the moment when a need arises. I was not surprised about my friends’ response of “Did you go pray yet?” or about her willingness to stop in that moment and pray with and for me. Our friendship is the perfect example of living out one of my favorite “one another verses” we read about in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

  3. Journaling about what overwhelms you As I was reading the prayer my friend had sent me, I also realized how critical it is to journal your thoughts. I know, it is not for everyone, but it can be such a great relief, especially when words keep overwhelming your thinking in a way that makes you feel dizzy. A key component of that journaling is that this process helps to clarify your thinking. For one, getting the words out of your head gives you more space to think. On top of that, when you read through the words you put on paper and try to reflect on them, you will likely find how confusing your thinking has been. Those moments enable you then to reorganize your thoughts. Suddenly you see more clearly what things have been throwing you for a loop. Whether you are simply doing a mind-dump or you have a guided journaling process (like using the questions from this heart-journal), going through the effort of putting your thoughts to paper can be super helpful. Here we should not forget, however, that the journaling has to then be submitted again to Christ. We need to ask him to help us see the lies, the doubts, and the fears in our thoughts and learn to replace them with the Truths from his Word. Without this resubmission, we are simply working harder at rescuing ourselves from our own thoughts instead of seeking our kind Savior to provide wisdom and insight for what we don’t even understand.

The words in the prayer my friend sent me that night from Every Moment Holy resonated in my heart not only as I fell asleep but in the days after as I continued to bring my worries to the Lord.

“Amidst doubt, anxiety, uncertainty, I would learn to practice a more constant awareness of your presence, directing heart and thought and petition to you.”(from, “A liturgy for those who cannot sleep”)

In the middle of our overwhelming thoughts of doubt, anxiety, and uncertainty, we should recognize the Lord’s presence and bring our hearts, thoughts, and requests to Him. Not only in that night of restlessness as I worried about Lorelei’s trip, but in the many other moments during our move and transition to Germany, have I had to put this into practice myself. In the moments I have felt overwhelmed, I have often come back to these prayers, whether from the Bible, others, or even my own journaling. I asked the Lord to calm my heart as His will is done and I rest in His constant care.

As a family, we have also seen the benefit of using guided prayer as we prayed for others. It can be as simple as a running list of people you care about or circumstances you are praying for in a journal; even a prayer calendar can support us in prayer. Having something written down is a great way to find focus on what you are praying for and what is on your heart. In light of that, our family has created two tools we hope your family will find helpful!

There is nothing we covet more than your prayers for Germany, the ministry of biblical counseling here, and for our family. Many of you have asked, “How can we be praying for your family?” We would love it, if you used this prayer calendar as you pray for us - there are 30 specific requests you can pray for. Additionally, if you have kids in your family, this coloring page that Lorelei created can be a great tool to guide your kids through praying for us and for other missionaries they are already praying for as well!

May your soul find rest as you run to Jesus in prayer!

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