There are certain phrases that resonate powerfully with us, they speak for us.
There are certain phrases that bring instant recognition, even though they appear only once. We know where they are, we know the context, we know what they mean. They resonate powerfully with us, they speak for us.
“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” Spoken by the father of the epileptic boy brought to Jesus right after the transfiguration. (Mark 9:24) Jesus had just said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” We instantly know just how this father feels, because we too do believe, and yet we too realize our faith isn’t all it could be—not such that all things are possible for us. Who has not, in his or her own prayers, quoted this, and deeply felt the need for the Lord to help?
“I do not understand my own actions.” Written by Paul in exasperation and shame over his inability to do right, instead falling into sin. (Romans 7:15) It might be that one of the other phrases in verses 7-25 comes to your mind more, such as “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” We immediately know exactly how Paul feels, and who has not come to the same conclusion: “Wretched man (woman) that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” What relief that the answer to the question is right there in the next verse: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
“Lord, teach us to pray.” Spoken by the disciples as they observed their Lord praying. (Luke 11:1) We don’t need explanation of why they would ask this—we fully understand how they felt. Few if any of us are completely satisfied with our prayer life.
They made this request even though Jesus had earlier (in the Sermon on the Mount) given them instruction on prayer, including what we call “the Lord’s prayer”. (Ever patient, he taught it to them again here.) Actually the full question was, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” If they’d been taught by John, and then by Jesus himself earlier, why the need to ask again? But we get it. Who has not yearned to commune more deeply with the Father?
There may be other phrases that resonate for you. These all share some common traits, which make up the resonance. They are all confessions of weakness and insufficiency, and we are conscious of our own weakness. They are all addressed in exactly the right place—to the Lord. And they all have a solution, which allows us to find relief. Feeling weak in faith? Feeling ashamed of repeated failure? Feeling too distant or unconnected or even absent from prayer? Whatever it is, we need to take it to the Lord. He has the answer for us.