For all the years I have suffered with my cancer my pain has been surprisingly minimal. But for the past week I have had some severe pain. I just left my doctor's office. To his surprise and my delight, it is evidently not caused by my cancer. But it still hurts.
In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis calls pain, God's megaphone.
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks to us in our conscience, and He shouts to us in our pain."
I doubt if it surprises you that police and fire engine sirens or the smoke alarm in your bedroom don't play Beethoven melodies or the latest jingle from a TV commercial. Their purpose is not entertainment but alarm.
Although it may go against most modern American thinking, it is not necessarily the will of God that our lives be filled with pleasure, comfort and entertainment.
Above all else God wants us to hear His voice and respond to His grace. It is through pain and suffering that we are shocked into the realization that there is something wrong in our lives and in the world. Through pain God quickly gets our attention.
Pain certainly calls us to pray. But prayer does not often relieve the pain immediately. And we need to learn to pray while we are hurting. Over the years of minor to moderate pain prayer has been a comfort and joy. This week, my pain increased enough that the pain pills the doctor give me do not take away all the pain. Sometimes they don't seem to do anything at all.
Among other things, I have to ask God to help me focus on what I am praying. I have to ask God to help me focus on other people and greater needs. It is still true that nothing lifts my heart like worship and praise. But I need God's Spirit to keep my attention on His glory.
Of course, we always need God to help us pray. We even need the Spirit of God to teach us what to pray. We need His hand on every facet of prayer. I have become painfully more aware of that.
Lord, I need You not only to teach me, but to help me pray.