Have you ever heard people pray in church? It’s usually very reverent, very proper. If you learn to pray based on prayers like these, prayers made in situations where the speaker knows everybody is listening to them, you’ve probably gotten the wrong idea about prayer.
Christian prayer isn’t a formal petition in a medieval king’s court. It isn’t a marshaling of our reasons why we should get what we want. It doesn’t need to be calm, cool and collected. It’s not groveling and insulting yourself and saying how great God is.
I really like the “simple math” concept that God showed me a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a similar approach to illustrate the simplicity of prayer:
Prayer = Talking to God
God = King, but also Friend, Counselor, Comforter, Daddy
Don’t let religion complicate a simple thing. Prayer is a conversation with God. Yes, God is the awesome, Almighty Creator of the universe and King of everything and everyone. But he also calls himself a friend of Abraham, the Counselor, the God of all comfort, and Jesus (whom the Bible calls the firstborn of many brethren — our big brother) called God “Daddy” (well, it was in another language, so it was “Abba”, but that’s what it meant).
We Gotta Be Real
Prayer, the kind that we do when it’s just between us and God, starts with one thing above all else: honesty. What’s the point in holding back how we really feel? God knows it already. And when we say it to him, we are expressing our trust. We are letting him in, baring our souls, being vulnerable. This is important. This is intimacy.
And it can be scary.
If we aren’t sure how God will react to how we really feel, being honest is a risk. Will he judge me? Reject me?
Let’s deal with that.
We Gotta Be Brave
When we talk to God, there’s good reason to be confident that he’ll listen. Take a look at this:
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." - Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB)
Remember, you’re not alone in life anymore.
Jesus is right there with you, every step of the way, including when you pray. He’s called our Advocate and because of him, God will never again hold our sins against us.
Real Feelings, Even Wrong Feelings, Belong In Prayer
The Bible is overflowing with examples of people who were blunt with God about how they felt. And guess what? God didn’t strike them with lightning, ignore them, or go find someone else to do his assignments. Take a look at these examples (some paraphrased to modern lingo):
- “I wish I’d never been born” - Job 3:3 (Job)
- “I hate those jerks with a perfect hatred. God, I wish you’d kill them!” - Psalm 139:19-22 (King David)
- “I’m nobody.” - Exodus 3:11 (Moses), Judges 6:15 (Gideon)
- “I’m just a kid. Nobody listens to me.” - Jeremiah 1:6 (Jeremiah)
- “Give me whatever I want, God! I want special recognition and reward.” - Mark 10:35 (James and John)
- “I can’t do this, God. I’m not qualified.” - Exodus 4:10 (Moses)
- “What I’m going through is too hard, God. Please make it stop.” - Matthew 26:39 (Jesus)
- “This hurts so much I could die! I’m so sad…” Psalm 116:3
We can be completely wrong, and yet be honest, and it does us more good than praying something “right” but holding back how we’re really feeling. You’d be amazed what happens when we’re honest with God.
Doesn't God Already Know? Why Do I Have To Say It?
Of course God already knows how we feel. But like anyone in a close relationship, he wants to hear us say what’s on our minds. He wants an exchange of thought, and he designed humans so that putting things into words changes things — mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
Have you ever noticed that just saying your fears out loud sometimes takes away their power over you? Have you ever explained a problem to a friend and right in the middle of talking realized the solution?
Prayer makes a difference not only because God answers prayer, but because the act of praying changes us. Gives us a fresh perspective. Gives us a chance to dump the negative thoughts out and get rid of them.