God orders the circumstances of our lives so that no amount of our own effort can successfully accomplish the deep longing and desire he has placed within our hearts.
Thus, when these impossible situations present themselves, we should not approach them with despair and become embittered against God as if he were cruel or evil. We should not view the circumstances as accidents or the result of poor planning. (This was often the sin of the Israelites in the wilderness, who greeted every impossible circumstance as proof that they should never have left the security of Egypt). Nor should we roll up our shirtsleeves and triple our work, as if the solution lay within a greater degree of our own effort.
Instead, we should recognize that God has intentionally ordered this impossible state of affairs in order to bring glory to his name in our own hearts and minds. Only in these circumstances can he show himself to be a father generous beyond imagination.
Prayer proceeds, then, from just this kind of recognition.
We should not pray for God to add to our efforts, as if he were a mere amplifier or imitator of human actions. God’s actions in every situation do not differ from ours in degree (“My ways are not your ways”), but in kind, or type (giving us an egg, not a stone; giving us the Holy Spirit, not the earthly result for which we pray).
We pray wrongly when we say, “God, I can manage a 6, but this task needs a 9. Please supply the missing 3.” It is God’s way that the task cannot be accomplished with a 9, but rather with an r or a q—that is, not by a difference in degree (i.e., of effort), but of kind (i.e., of action).
Our prayer should be the recognition that no amplification of our actions can produce a result that satisfies the longing than God has graciously lodged in our heart. Rather, what is needed is an action that only God can conceive.
It will by definition be beyond our understanding how he will act to accomplish this impossible thing. This is the realm of faith. But God does not leave us to be mere spectators. It is the essence of his glory that we become holy co-conspirators in his divine action. So when we pray, we must be prepared to become doers of an unusual word, because God will ask us to do something that, in and of itself, appears futile or desperate or irrelevant.