In my childhood, I grew up on a dirt road which was paved when I was about nine or so. During this early time, many of the roads out in the country were dirt. On wet winter days the roads would become a miry mess. I remember our school bus getting stuck on one of those old dirt roads. Even back in those days, all the roads were ditched, meaning the county had cut ditches on both sides of the road to carry the water away which kept the roads from washing away. Our paved roads today also have ditches to take the water away from the roadway. We rarely notice the ditches but they are important. So what do ditches have with praying?
Ditches are usually empty but fill up with water after a big thunderstorm. I think most of our praying takes place only when we are knee deep in trouble or flying high with the angels. Dry ditch praying is the in-between times of prayer. When the ditch is dry, we may not be motivated to pray. If we only pray in times of trouble or on those high praise days, our praying is probably slim. If we only pray or read our Bible when we feel motivated to do so, then we may not spend enough time in those spiritual disciplines.
Sometimes in my prayer time, God’s presence is so evident I can almost touch Him but other times He seems distant and out-of-reach. The trouble is not God but it is my “dim mirror”. “For we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12a). My dim mirror may not even be related to sin or unconcern. Maybe today, I’m just not in the right mood, or maybe my work load is too pressing, or my mind is wandering to other things.
I have been in this spot; behind closed doors separated from the world with time allotted to pray–but the ditch just seems dry. I know from scripture and experience, Holy Spirit is just as near when I don’t feel Him as when I do feel Him. My spiritual man is filled with the Holy Spirit but my soulish-man has his mind somewhere else, his emotions are just not clicking, or his will is not persistent today. This is an experience I have had many times so I know it is not permanent–tomorrow the ditch will be filled with water or maybe it will fill as I continue to pray.
In these dry moments, God may be glorified just as much or maybe more than in those desperate or glorious praying scenarios. When the ditch is filled with water, it doesn’t take much faith but when the ditch is dry, perhaps Jesus sees the most faith. At least I tried. I voiced a prayer in a dry ditch. I called out the names of those on my prayer list, even though my voice was dry but I know Jesus can hear a raspy voice as well as an angelic choir.
So today, I pray at the foot of Mount Transfiguration with the nine left behind while Peter, James, and John see the glorified Christ with Moses and Elijah. I hold the hand of a frightened and discouraged father with a son who needs deliverance. I pray but nothing happens but Jesus is coming down from the mountain. The ditch is dry but it is about to fill with water. (See Matthew 17.)
Who knows? Maybe in these dry ditch moments God is honored. In our severe weakness of faith, we cry out through weakness for the manifestation of His strength. We are told His strength is made perfect in our weakness. So here I am Lord in the dry ditch with a whispered prayer on my lips. I need your strength Lord. I rest my weakness in Your strength as I recall Your Word, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a NKJV).
Harry L. Whitt