“I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone.
He said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.’
So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:8, 9 (Common English Bible)
Someone once remarked that promised prayer has no power, only practiced prayer. Hunter Hayes practices powerful prayer in his single, Dear God. Written alongside pop singer Andy Grammer and Dave Spencer, the song is a prayer between Hunter and God as Hunter wrestles with faith and self-doubt: “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong with me?” The song’s theme of self-doubt is advanced almost immediately following that lyric with the raw, honest, and expressive line, “And why do I feel like I’m not enough? Dear God, are you sure that you don’t mess up?” Here is a question that is asked all the time by people of faith – a valid and authentic question that presses in those moments of disappointment, failure, and pain.
A part of the human condition – and validated by experience – is the striving to live into a higher purpose and meaning in life. In those moments when we stumble and are made vulnerable by exposed weaknesses, the thought of feeling like “I’m not enough” unsettles us. This is precisely the experience of the apostle Paul in his words to the church in Corinth. Paul suffers from an unnamed affliction, what appears to be a chronic and debilitating problem. Paul’s zeal to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is hampered by this affliction so Paul comes before God, in prayer, on three separate occasions asking that the affliction be removed. Anyone who has a struggle, infirmity, or difficulty accepts the reasonableness of Paul’s request. Yet, Paul’s request is denied.
What is apparent by any close reading of Paul’s ministry – both before his conversion to Christ and following – is that he is a self-sufficient person. Paul is intelligent, resourceful, and driven. Such persons rarely need others, much less God. When a weakness becomes evident, such people develop a laser-like focus on conquering and prevailing over the weakness as they again move forward to greater success and accomplishments. Hunter acknowledges as much in his song, “The truth is it’s not even you. It’s just me that I’m up against.” Hunter is dissatisfied with the frailty in his life: “Dear God, are you sure that you don’t mess up?” Paul is no different. Paul is dissatisfied with the frailty in his life.
Paul’s request for strength without weakness is refused. But Paul does receive a gift. Paul receives a deep understanding of the “riches” that are his in God’s grace, “My grace is enough for you.” As Paul must now embrace his weaknesses so also must he now embrace God’s grace. The result is a stronger character, a deeper humility, and an uncommon ability to empathize with others. In the music video for the song, Dear God, Hunter is seen making his prayer to God through a flaring horn like those commonly seen on old phonograph devices. It makes perfect sense for anyone who has every pondered whether God hears our prayers. But God’s refusal to remove Paul’s limitations reminds each of us that, ultimately, God intends that we trust ourselves, and our future, to God’s care.
Appreciation is expressed to Marchele Courtney for bringing this song to my attention.