Sometimes we are too casual about prayer. But in times of trouble we find ourselves wrestling with the Lord in prayer every day, until we are assured in our spirit that He has everything under control. The more we want to be reminded of that assurance, the more we go to our prayer closet.
The truth is, God never allows an affliction in our lives except as an act of love. We see this illustrated in the tribe of Ephraim in Israel. The people had fallen into great affliction, and they cried out to God in grief. He responded, “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus” (Jeremiah 31:18).
Like David, Ephraim testified, “Thou has chastised me . . . as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me . . . for thou art the Lord my God” (31:18). In other words: “Lord, You chastened us for a reason. We were like a young, untrained bull, full of energy, but You chastened us to tame us for Your service. You brought our wildness under control.”
You see, God had great plans for the tribe of Ephraim, fruitful, satisfying plans. But first they had to be instructed and trained. Thus, Ephraim declared, “I repented; and after that I was instructed” (31:19). They said, in effect: “In the past, when God had us in the classroom preparing us for His service, we couldn’t take correction. We ran away, crying, ‘It’s too hard.’ We were stubborn, constantly slipping out of the yoke He put upon us. Then God put on us a tighter yoke, and He used His loving rod to break our stubborn will. Now, we yield to His yoke.”
We also are like Ephraim: young, self-centered bulls that don’t want to be put under a yoke. We avoid the discipline of plowing, experiencing pain, being under the rod. And we expect to have everything now—victory, blessing, fruitfulness—by merely claiming God’s promises, or “taking them by faith.” We chafe at being trained in secret prayer, at having to wrestle with God until His promises are fulfilled in our lives. Then, when affliction comes, we think, “We’re God’s choice people. Why is this happening?”
The prayer closet is our schoolroom. And if we don’t have that “alone time” with Jesus—if we’ve eased off from intimacy with Him—we won’t be ready when the flood comes.