By Ben Simpson
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?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
The theologian Karl Rahner once prayed, “I should like to speak with You about my prayer, O Lord. And though it often seems to me that You pay little heed to what I try to say to You in my prayers, please listen to me carefully now.”
That is an honest prayer.
Life trains us to pretend, posture, and project. We act according to convention, say what is socially acceptable, and do our best to fit in. We hide, sometimes in public. We fake it, and sometimes never make it. At our worst, we’re just fake.
Unfortunately, we carry this way of being into our life of prayer. We pretend, posture, and project an image with God rather than coming as we are, as ourselves. The Bible provides an alternative. Psalm 13 is attributed to David, Israel’s greatest king. David is desperate. He feels as though God has forgotten him and is hiding from him. David is unafraid to be real before God. He knows that he is safe even when expressing lament. He asks his questions and requests help. He then concludes with a declaration of trust, confidence, and praise. David may be desperate, but he has hope.
The Psalms give many more examples of honesty before God, showing how saints across time have been unafraid to offer their sorrow, disappointment, anger, frustration, and desperation in prayer to God. The writers also provide examples of praise, thanksgiving, worship, and wonder. The Psalms teach us to pray the full range of human experience and emotion. The Psalms help us to be honest with God.
God wants our faith, trust, allegiance, and obedience. But most of all God wants us. Christ came, died, and was raised out of love for humanity, to set us right, to bring us into relationship, to heal us, restore us, and redeem us. When you pray, don’t fake it. Be yourself. Speak authentically, in your words. If you are angry, say you are angry. If you are content, give thanks. If you are stuck, say so. Don't hold back. Share the good and the bad.
Express your heart. God listens. Pray honest prayers.
Why is it difficult for us to be honest with God in prayer?
Lord, thank you for receiving me as I am today, and for leading me forward in faith. Give me words that accurately express my heart, that are revelatory and clarifying, that bring me into the fullness of your presence. Help me to be honest and plainspoken with you. Even when I am frustrated or disappointed or angry or afraid, draw me into fellowship and assure me that I have nothing to fear. Thank you for your grace. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.