The Lord not only draws His people to prayer; there are times when He must drive us to prayer by various means. Paul had come upon something of a crisis in his life in 2 Corinthians 12. He was enduring some hardship that was causing him significant grief. We are not told whether it was a physical, mental, or spiritual crisis or perhaps a combination. But what we do know is that it was a painful, severe, and humbling experience.
First, it was a very painful crisis. It was a “thorn in the flesh.” The image of the thorn is intended to show that it was painful and that the pain was disrupting to every other part of his life. It was a crisis perhaps that he was always conscious of, that preoccupied him. Second, Paul’s crisis was a very severe crisis, the “messenger of Satan [sent] to buffet me.” When Satan is involved he is always severe; he has no mercy, no feeling and no conscience. It’s a blessing that the messenger of Satan is on a leash: he can go so far on us and no farther. Even Satan in his wrath is governed by a merciful of God. Third, Paul’s crisis was a very humbling crisis. He says it was given to him “lest [he] should be exalted above measure.” This was the purpose of the crisis that the Lord gave to Paul—it acted as a hedge to protect him from his own pride.
Perhaps you can say with Paul concerning your own thorn in the flesh, “For this thing.” Remember, Paul was a choice saint and because of this the Lord gave him this thorn to keep him humble. How much more do we need this thorn, graciously applied with grace by our loving Saviour. Let us learn to rejoice in tribulation as Paul did, knowing that with it God gives sufficient grace.
“Advance in the Christian life comes not by the work of the Holy Spirit alone, nor by our work alone, but by our responding to and cooperating with the grace the Holy Spirit initiates and sustains.”—Donald Whitney