As a lifelong Church goer, I am fully aware of the patterns of behavior and ways of thinking that I can sink into that present me as a respectable and good “Christian.” I have been conditioned to look good based on the expectation of the church even though it is all very safe and does not prosper Growing Up or spark much inspiration.
One area where this is obvious is prayer. A lifelong church goer becomes conditioned to pray in the style and manner that they hear in public prayer within the church and among church members. These church goers find a raw and stripped down style of praying to be alien and unlike what they are accustomed to. So, when they go to pray, even privately, their initial tendency is to stick to the safe and staid patterns of prayer that they usually hear in church.
Through circumstance or need they have not been in a situation where crying out to God in a gut-level way is a viable option. Thank goodness that the Psalms demonstrate to us that prayer can be whining, prayer can be pleading, prayer can be lament, prayer can be stripped to the bone honesty.
Psalm 13 says, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
If this kind of honesty disturbs us or the use of raw language feels unsettling to us then this is probably a point of growth. The thing is, we can use the Psalms as our prayer book. This is how they have been used for thousands of years and we can use them in this way now. We can actually speak these words as our own words and start to flex our honest and sincere prayer muscles so that we can begin to talk to God with the enthusiasm of our highest highs and the brokenness of our lowest lows. This is what God wants us to do, he knows our hearts, he knows what we are truly dealing with so we might as well start there and leave the pretense and sanitized language behind.
I need this help too. In addition to praying the Psalms, maybe we should write our own prayers as an exercise in speaking honestly with God. Perhaps something like this:
“Father, I am so tired of this disease that has disrupted my life. I can’t bear the uncertainty it has caused any more. And I am not even suffering from the disease itself. The isolation, loneliness, and helplessness that it has caused good people, innocent people is awful beyond account. Make it stop. End this. I know you have the power to heal and to change this. When will you?”
Stop sugar coating your prayers and lay your heart in front of God. Break that need for refinement and emotional control when approaching God. He is not impressed by you playing a part. Be the real you. For it is in prayer that the Psalmists show us we need to be the most real.
Great message Scott! Thanks for your thoughtfulness & teaching. Our church is working through Psalms now & this post will be really helpful for our Bible study group tonight!
Thanks for reading Daniel. Glad that this is useful.