Sumter Pastor Clay Smith: Desperate prayer ...


There was a very troubled time in my life when all I had was desperate prayer. Desperate prayer is the prayer you pray when there is no one else to turn to. If God does not come through for you, you are going to be up a creek without a paddle, a canoe or a life vest.

The details of that painful time in my life are not important. The truth was I made a series of bad decisions, each of which had a compounding effect. I thought I was managing everything until my illusion of control came crashing down. It was then my prayers moved from perfunctory to desperate.

I think it works this way for most of us. We think we have life under control. We pray mostly for God to keep our little illusions of control intact. I think God lets our tower of self-deception fall because the kindest form of love is the truth.

There was no simple solution to my circumstances, no magical sitcom solution. God would need to change people and change me. I felt guilty asking for his help because I knew I had created my own problems. Still, there was no alternative.

I realize I am leaving out a great deal, but over the course of several weeks, God changed people. God changed me. Circumstances changed. Things fell into place. I did not dodge a bullet; I was rescued from a shell with my name on it. As the situation resolved, I remember praying over and over, "Thank you, God, thank you."

Not until recently did I understand God had done a miracle for me. There were no flashing lights, no voices from heaven. But something supernatural occurred. God showed up in ways I did not think possible. The ancient words of Isaiah had come true: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…" The miracle of the presence of God might be the quietest miracle of all, but it is no less of a miracle for its restraint.

Miracles are not just healing events. Every child that is born is a miracle. Marriages that last are miracles. Self-supporting children are miracles.

Moses parted the waters, but God still opens up a path for you through obstacles. Jesus helped Peter get the catch of a lifetime, but Jesus still opens doors of opportunity for you.

Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are more comfortable asking for miracles. The crowd I run with seems so afraid God won't send a miracle they are afraid to ask for one. Billy Graham once said he thought heaven would be filled with miracles no one asked for. That comment reminds me to ask God to send all the miracles I can handle my way.

Maybe a good first step for you is to pray for God to open your eyes to the miracles around you. Ask God to show you what he has already done for you. An old hymn still rings in my memory: "Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God has done…" A blessing is a miracle by another name.

Never confuse miracles with orders. We ask for miracles; we do not give God orders. We trust what God will do. Why does God sometimes give the miracle and sometimes not? We do not know. We only know that God wants what is best for every person. Working around billions of people and their free will to do what is right requires a mind greater than my own. I trust God knows what is best for every person involved, even if it does not seem the best in my eyes.

We live in a world in need of miracles. We need a miracle to bring our country together. We need miracles to protect our children from all manner of threats. We need a miracle to stop a war that is unsettling the whole world.

I need, you need, we need personal miracles. We need the miracle of joy to bring hope each day. We need the miracle of peace to not lose faith in the face of turmoil. We need the miracle of love to help us love those who persecute us or even those who annoy us deeply.

Desperate prayers are about miracles we need. Believe God can do the impossible. Pray for his will to be done. Pray for miracles, great and small, to be done. Desperate times call for great miracles.

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter. Email him at