The "I've Got Nothin'" Prayer: The Crisis and The Solution
I’d tried everything. Considered every lead. Brainstormed in search of creative ideas. I’d combed through all the job postings I could find…repeatedly.
When my husband returned to school, we needed a job that worked with his tough school schedule, provided enough income, and still allowed him to sleep and eat. I agonized, not knowing what kind of job would be best…Night? Part-time? In his new field or old one? My frazzled nerves were shot. How would this ever be resolved if I didn’t even know what kind of job to pray for?
Then I felt God tell me, “Do you really think I need you to figure that out? Do you really think I don’t know your needs better than you?” That was the first of many times that he led me into what I now call the I Got Nothin’ prayer.
Let’s face it—tough problems come up. We study the Scriptures and teach them to others because we know that encountering Jesus in the Word gives “us everything we need for life and godliness,” and equips us for godly living and ministry (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Timothy 3:15-17). I once heard a pastor say that 95% of the time, we already know what to do because of what God’s Word says.
But other times, your solution isn’t immediately discernible by reading the Bible alone. You’re in over your head and desperate for a rescue.
2 Chronicles 20 has been a great inspiration for me on how to pray in those situations. The backstory here is that King Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, had received word that three formidable foes—the Moabites, the Ammonites, and some of the Meunites—were coming to make war with his people. He knew their army was far too powerful for his, so he inquired of the Lord, proclaiming a public fast for all.
What we find in his situation is an impossible crisis, the promise of an unlikely solution, and a miraculously abundant rescue. The components of his prayer have proven invaluable to me in times of crisis, when I’ve needed miraculous intervention of my own.
An Impossible Crisis
Acknowledge who God is and what he’s done—
At the first sign of trouble, Jehoshaphat says, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you” (2 Chronicles 20:6). He continues, recalling God’s previous provisions and promises to respond in their times of need. When you’re in an impossible crisis, it’s tempting to first size up the problem. But it’s so important to instead begin by sizing up the God you serve. That’s why it’s so frequently done throughout the Bible. Remembering who God is and what He’s done in the past helps us have faith in our current crisis.
Present the problem and acknowledge your helplessness—
Jehoshaphat lays it out there before God: “But now here are these men,” and “we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us” (2 Chronicles 20:10, 12). If the situation is impossible, say so. In our job search, I prayed, “God, I’ve tried everything, and this problem is too big for me. I can’t solve this.”
Ask God for help and wait on him expectantly—
Jehoshaphat shows the people’s utter dependence on and submission to the Lord: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). Ask for help from the God whose wisdom, power, and sovereignty far surpass your own. And wait expectantly. But remember, this requires giving up control and submitting to his plan.
An Unlikely Solution
Listen to, or remember, what God has promised you—
God gave Jehoshaphat a clear promise: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s....You will not have to fight this battle” (2 Chronicles 20:15, 17). Does God’s Word contain promises that you need to remember? Has the Spirit taken those promises and revealed a reassurance to you in your situation? In our case, I felt the Holy Spirit consistently remind me of Matthew 6:25-34. He can be trusted! You can stand on his Word.
Obey your marching orders… even if they’re bizarre—
And now things get interesting. God gave the people clear—and pretty surprising—marching orders: “Tomorrow march down against them…. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (2 Chronicles 20:16, 17). And they obeyed. They marched, though they knew they had no earthly chance at victory. They marched, though God said they wouldn’t have to fight. They marched, but they didn’t strategize. In my impossible situations, God has given me similar orders, gleaned from the Bible. Since Matthew 6 teaches me that my heavenly Father will provide what I need, there were times to put down the job postings and instead just go fold laundry in peace (which, let me say, feels so counterproductive). But like Jehoshaphat’s people, if you know you’re supposed to surrender the problem to God, don’t be tempted to pick back up the problem and scramble for a plan—just do what you know he’s given you to do.
Give praise and thanks at the head of the battle—
Jehoshaphat’s people didn’t stress or strategize, but they did praise and thank God—before the battle had been won (2 Chronicles 20:21). God has proven himself faithful time and again. Give praise and thanks, not for your desired solution, but for who He is and what he has done and promised.
So, what were the results of their bold obedience? How could they possibly have survived the coming confrontation? And what does that mean for you in your own impossible crisis?
We’ll see all of that in “The I Got Nothin’ Prayer, Part 2: The Rescue.”