We Don’t Know What to Do

A few years ago, I compiled a list of prayers in the Bible that I sometimes use in my own prayers.

It’s perfectly fine to just speak to our Father from our hearts. We don’t have to use certain words like an incantation in order for Him to hear us.

But prayers in the Bible help give our prayers more guidance and depth. It’s great to pray for God to bless someone and give them a good day. However, praying that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9) or “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17a) just goes so much further.

Plus, when we pray Scriptural prayers, or turn a passage of Scripture into prayer, we can know we’re praying according to God’s will.

Often we have some idea how to pray.

When someone is sick, we pray for healing, if it is God’s will, and for grace and help for everyone involved. We pray for wisdom for the doctors, freedom from pain, good reports from medical tests.

When we’re burdened for loved ones who don’t know the Lord, we pray that “the eyes of [their] hearts” would be “enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18), that God would draw them to Himself as only He can (John 6:44), that God would send someone to talk to them and live before them a good testimony (Matthew 9:37-38), that their hearts would be “good ground” (Matthew 13:1-23), that the Holy Spirit would reveal truth to them (John 16:13).

If someone loses a job or has a specific need, we pray for God to supply, while asking Him if there is anything He would have us do (James 2:15-16).

Sometimes, however, we just don’t know how to pray, except “Your will be done.” And that’s fine. It’s not like God needs our ideas or suggestions.

In those times, Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20 is one I lean on heavily.

Jehoshaphat was king of Judah when he was told a “great multitude” from several nations was coming against him. “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (verses 3-4).

Jehoshaphat reminded himself who his God was (verse 6). He reminded himself of God’s promises to Israel about their land and the fact that they belonged to Him (verses 7-10). He told God the problem (verses 10-11). Then he confessed, in one of my favorite Bible verses, “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (verse 12).

There are things in this world too big for me. In some national and world-wide issues, I have no idea the best course of action. Sometimes I don’t even know what’s true amid conflicting news reports. Sometimes I have a strong opinion about what should happen, but I am personally powerless to do anything about it.

Besides not being able to affect change on a large scale, I can’t change anyone’s heart. I can pray for them as mentioned above. I can speak or try to influence. But would that be useful or would I be “nagging?” Would I help or push them farther away?

Sometimes we have a major decision ahead of us. I can see pros and cons of each choice.

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on Him.

I’m powerless, but He is not. He sees the big picture. He knows what’s best when. I can rejoice that He is big enough and wise enough to know what’s best and and powerful enough to accomplish it. I can trust Him to guide me and work through me. Or, like in Judah’s plight in 1 Chronicles 20, He may have me do nothing but watch Him work.

Corrie ten Boom once said, “The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something, and enter God’s realm where everything is possible. He specializes in the impossible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love.”

Prayer makes a difference—sometimes in us, sometimes in our circumstances, sometimes both. Even when we’re not sure how to pray, we can take our requests and burdens to the Lord.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

24 thoughts on “We Don’t Know What to Do

  1. Amazing post! This one really touched my heart and dealt with somethings I’ve been mulling over. I love that q

    • (oops sorry, it sent too soon!) …. I love that quote from Corrie Ten Boom; Even when we can’t change something, God can do the impossible in crazy ways! Great thoughts!!

  2. Barbara, 2 Chronicles 20:12b is a prayer that often goes through my mind as well, in many of the situations you describe. Corrie ten Boom’s words are so wise and comforting. God knows what to do and has the power to do it. Wonderful post, my friend!

  3. There is something so powerful which occurs when we admit we don’t know something or know what to do. We turn to the One who not only knows what to do, but has the ability to do it and will respond as He knows best. With all that is going on in our world at this time, I so appreciate the reminder – “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” Amen!

  4. Love this. I love praying scripture, because, as you said, then we know we’re praying in God’s will. I’ve often had the thought about nagging. I guess it’s unique to prayer that that’s one area where we *should* nag — as in, pray over and over for something. I am so glad God doesn’t tire of hearing our words.

    • I was thinking of nagging in the sense of when to talk to someone about the Lord and when that would be being too pushy or perceived as nagging. It’s a puzzle–we’re supposed to speak for Him, but when someone has made it known they don’t want to talk about spiritual issues, should we do so anyway? I tend to avoid confrontation, so I lean that way–yet sometimes we are supposed to share, even when the response is negative.

      But I agree with the aspect you brought up, too–we don’t have to feel like we’re nagging when we bring the same requests before God.

  5. Whenever I want someone to come alongside me in prayer, I reach out to a particular prayer line because they pray scriptures. They pray the specific word of God over my circumstance. I agree with you when you say, we know we are praying God’s will when we turn a passage of scripture into prayer. A bonus benefit of that is memorizing scripture. The more Scripture we memorize, the more we have in our arsenal to pray. Thanks for including Jehoshaphat’s prayer. It is exactly what I need.

  6. I really love this prayer, and I had to write it down sometimes back on a sticky note and posted it on a wall so that I can keep seeing it, and praying it! Thank you for sharing.

  7. Amen. He wrote the original prayer book. He knew that there’d be more times than we could count that there’d be no other words that could even come close to the cries of our hearts.

  8. I appreciate Paul’s prayers in the Bible as they help our hearts express itself to the Lord. Corrie ten Boom is an inspirational woman of God, thanks for sharing her quote with us.

    • I tend to want every prayer answered positively and happily-ever-after, with rainbows and sprinkles for my kids. Yet that’s not always best for them. Praying Scripture helps me keep the right perspective and keep the core concerns in view.

  9. Some of our church got together last week to pray about a particular situation and this verse was the focus of our prayers. It is very reassuring that when we don’t know what to do we can still bring the situation to God, trusting that he does know. I love the Corrie Ten Boom quote!

  10. This post is good guidance at all times but especially in this time of the Ukraine and Russia war. I stopped before writing this comment to write down Corrie ten Boom’s words in my Bible. God specializes in the impossible.

  11. It’s so important that we be in the Scriptures regularly so that even if we’re not using exact words from Scripture as we pray, our prayers are still shaped by it. I love the reminder about the Spirit interceding for us too. Thank you for this thoughtful look at prayer!

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