1 Samuel 30:6 “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”

When we are greatly distressed, our natural tendency is to immediately groan and complain-neither of which solves the problem. The true response of faith is to go swiftly and earnestly from our grief to our God and resist all temptation to blame somebody or to wallow in endless sorrow and self-pity. If we are to do this, we will have to believe that God is not only there to hear and answer but is sovereign and has “grace to help in time of need” (He. 4:16).

In 1 Samuel 30, David’s friends responded to the painful losses at Ziklag—understandably enough—with anger and wanted to take it out on someone who could be held guilty and immediately punished for their woes. David nimbly leaped over that tempting, short-sighted diversion and made straight for God’s throne of grace.

Notice three ways that prayer can help us properly process the pain:

Prayer strengthens us in the Lord our God. (6)

After great lament together, David’s men threaten to stone him.  David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. At this point he did not know how close he was to the kingship. He was alone, driven from the people of God and hunted by Saul; and now he had lost everything in the raid, including his precious family and the loyalty of his men. This was a moment where David, a man of like passions, must have felt overwhelmed and worn down-all while trying to be faithful to God’s call for his life.  Amazingly the man after God’s own heart still chose to find his comfort exclusively and tenaciously in the Lord.

We expect our enemies to give us grief.  However, when those closest to us turn on us, the sense of betrayal is intense.  This sense of betrayal invariably leaves us feeling extremely weak and vulnerable.  That is where pray must enter into our bitter experience of a fallen world.  A prayed-up believer is careful to not overreact or take too personally how their friends and followers emotionally react or lash out. They need prayer not attitude from you! An avalanche of suffering reveals ultimately where you get your encouragement-your allies or your God!  Complaining before men weakens and hollows us more than we would care to admit. Supplication before God strengthens the very marrow of our soul.  “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Ps. 42:11).

Prayer clarifies where to look for guidance on our next move. (7)

David turns from his now-resolved inward upheaval to the need for God’s guidance in the crisis that has overtaken their families.  In this deep depression David did not lose his faith in the Lord; but he looked immediately to God to learn His will. And he answered him presumably by Urim and Thummim again.  Remember David was ultimately not called to lead in the city of Ziklag; he was called to lead in Jerusalem.  But how he led in the loss of Ziklag would affect his leadership in Jerusalem!

In emotionally excruciating seasons, the praying believer is able to focus upon more than they can physically see and that they have physically lost. Too often in crisis, we assume that we already know how to respond instead of seeking the Lord before we do or say anything! Are you willing to allow the default response of intercession to change that default tendency in your life?  When prayer is regular and growing in your life, you will find it must easier to look to the Lord then when you are hurting.

Prayer affirms a wise course of action. (8)

Finally, David proposes a course of action and seeks the Lord’s affirmation.  Assured of victory, David and his men pursued the Amalekites to the Besor Ravine.  When they finally found them, David’s 400 men who were rugged enough to stand the rigorous march defeated the Amalekites and retrieved all their families and property intact.  Instead of turning on each other in a season of pain, prayer enabled David and his men to turn this pain into a striking, healing victory.

Due to our fallen condition, our first gut reaction to pain is almost always the wrong move.  Prayer guards us against lashing out or shutting down.  Instead it gloriously provides a sanctified path forward that unleashes God’s redemptive work THROUGH the pain, loss, and fear. Whenever we are cast down and are, as David was, betrayed by our closest friends/family, let us simply pray and then expect God to do His soothing, steadying work through our difficulties.

Pain for the believer, no matter its human origin or intent, is God’s personal invitation into the deeper realities of prayer.  Would you talk to Him when you are tempted to talk to and at everyone but Him?  As James summarizes, “Is any among you afflicted?  Let him pray” (Ja. 5:13).