I think everyone prays at some point in their life, even if they’re not sure someone is listening. And I’ll bet that one of the most common prayers goes something like, Lord help me; give me strength.
I really like that prayer. It has a genuine humility to it. We find ourselves facing something that overwhelms our personal resources, and we cry out for help, for strength. The man who casually answers his phone on a Tuesday afternoon only to hear that his family has been killed in an automobile accident. The woman who, at a routine exam, learns she has Stage IV breast cancer. The caregiver who day after day labors under the crushing load of providing for every need of their incapacitated loved one.
Give me strength, Lord.
Jesus liked that prayer.
He instructed us to pray it, and he prayed it himself. (Hebrews 5:7) Toward the end of his days on earth, he began to give his disciples clear instructions for living through extremely hard times, knowing they would record those instructions for future generations—including you, dear ones. He assured us in no uncertain terms that this story would sweep toward a climax, and that those days would be especially hard on the human soul. He urged us to ask for the strength that prevails:
Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:29–36 NLT)
Strong enough to escape—that’s who and what we want to be. Strong enough to be the survivors, the triumphant ones. To make it through the storm.
This is no ordinary strength Jesus is offering. This isn’t optimism, this isn’t simply feeling refreshed for a new day. Hard times require something more than willpower. Jesus warns us, urges us, practically commands us to ask for strength. The Greek word used here is katischuó and it means
to be strong to another’s detriment; to prevail against;
to be superior in strength;
This is a valiant strength. It implies a fight, an enemy we can and will prevail over.