How to Pray When the Lights Are on but Nobody’s Home


March 6, 2021

Psalm 77

To the tune of “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” C.M. Sing it at

1 I cried out to my God for help;
I cried for God to hear;
2 When in distress, I sought the Lord,
no comfort was found near.

All night I stretched untiring hands;
my soul could only moan;
3 I mused, my spirit grew more faint;
remembered God with groans.

4 You kept my eyes from closing, Lord,
too troubled e’en to speak;
5 I thought of days from long ago,
when faith did not seem weak.

6 My songs remembered in the night
bring mem’ry to my heart;
My spirit does inquire of God;
with musings, questions start:

7 “Will God reject forever? O
where has His favor gone?
8 Has His unfailing love now failed?
His promise trusted long?

9 Has God forgotten to be kind
and merciful to me?
Has He in anger withheld love?
No mercy do I see!”

10 And then I thought, “It is my grief
and my infirmity;
I will appeal to God’s right hand—
the years that I can see.”

11 I will remember the Lord’s deeds,
Your miracles of old;
12 I’ll meditate on all Your works,
Your mighty deeds once told.

13 Your ways, O God, are holy, and
no god’s great as our God.
14 The God who performs miracles,
displays Your pow’r abroad.

15 Your mighty arm redeemed the host
of people who descend
from Jacob and from Joseph—You
great help to them did send.

16 The waters saw You and they shook;
the waters saw with fear;
The very depths were shaken when
Your presence, God, drew near.

17 The clouds outpoured their water, and
the skies with thunder shook;
Your lightning arrows flashed about;
all trembled at Your look.

18 Your thunder in the whirlwind roared,
and all who heard did shake;
Your lightning lit the world, and all
the earth did fear and quake.

19 Your path led through the mighty sea;
Your way through waters deep;
And though Your footprints were not seen,
Your people you did keep.

20 You led Your people like a flock
which trusts the shepherd’s hand;
Through Moses and through Aaron, You
enabled them to stand.


Yesterday in my reflection, I mentioned Pete Greig, one of the founders of a worldwide prayer movement. If you want to read a page-turner treatment of that story, take a look at Red Moon Rising: How 24-7 Prayer Is Awakening a Generation. More surprising, though, is the title of Greig’s next book, God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer. Song 77 is all about that second title.

Jesus was clear about this. Remember when he told the story about trying to wake someone up late at night to get some food to help another friend in need? The man responded to the knocking with this helpful reply: “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything” (Luke 11:7). The point of the story was to create a comparison and a contrast. First, for the comparison: at times it’s going to feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, that the lights are on but nobody’s home, or at least they don’t want to get out of bed. The contrast: God is nothing like the guy who doesn’t want to get out of bed. The big point: never stop asking, seeking, and knocking. Do not despair. God is working.

Song 77 makes a decisive turn with this line:

And then I thought, “It is my grief
and my infirmity;
I will appeal to God’s right hand—
the years that I can see.

It’s as if he reasoned with himself that all this despair about being forgotten and rejected by God was not really about God, but his own grief and infirmity. Far from a “double-down on the effort because I don’t have enough faith” approach, the singer begins to ask, seek, and knock with a new tactic: memory. The lyrics to the song make a beeline straight to the Red Sea. But note: the psalmist pitches his tent on the far side of the sea. Pure brilliance.

Your path led through the mighty sea;
Your way through waters deep;
And though Your footprints were not seen,
Your people You did keep.

The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Though the old adage is often not true with people, it’s always true with God. Yesterday. Today. Forever. Never give up. There’s a campsite still here with plenty of room for you to pitch your tent for awhile.

Ask Yourself. Share with Another.

Are you feeling as if God is on mute when it comes to your prayers of late? Try to remember a past story or sign of the faithfulness of God in your life. Now try singing this song.

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

Share today's Wake-Up Call!


WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *