We Can Honestly Pray

Article by: Bridgehaven Team

There is much to be said about prayer in Scripture. We are told to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16). What happens, though, when our emotions are churning and we do not feel like praying—or at least not like “giving thanks”? Often we may hear prayer described in such a way that we think we must use “flowery” language or make it “neat.” Instead of honest, gut-wrenching emotion, prayer becomes a half-truth of what is really going in the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The next verse gives the answer: the LORD. He is the One who created the human heart and knows everything about it. He is the One who “searches” the heart and “tests” the mind (Jer. 17:10). Because God knows the heart—including the motivation and outcome of our ways, why would prayer be anything but honest? Prayer does not have to consist of complicated language or even have a positive tone to it. It can just be real. The Lord is big enough to take our frustration, anger, and pain. He can handle it. Unlike the line from the movie “A Few Good Men,” He can “handle the truth.” Even in the midst of very difficult emotions that we may face, we can pray. Scripture is full of these “real prayers.” Take Hannah, for example. In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah desired a child. She “wept bitterly” before the Lord (1 Sam. 1:10). David is another example. There are several moments of gut-wrenching, heart-felt prayer in his life. His faith can be seen in 1 Samuel 17—a man who feared God more than a giant. Through the Lord’s help, he conquered him. Later in his life, we see a picture of him succumbing to his own lust. Instead of turning that lust over to the Lord, he tried to cover it up, eventually murdering someone. Even in those moments of desperation, through the help of a friend and advisor (Nathan), he was able to give those raw emotions to the Lord. Psalm 51 is his prayer. David recognized that heart change could not take place on its own. He needed the Lord.

Of course the Ultimate example is Christ. He models prayer all throughout his life. He taught us how to pray through the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4), a prayer that is perhaps the most familiar to all of us. Christ cried out to His heavenly Father—honest cries—even from the cross. He asked, “Father, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34)? Forsaken— a word that literally means totally abandoned. Even in his darkest hour, Christ did not hide what was in his heart. He expressed it to God. (It is interesting to note that Christ’s question here was a statement fulfilled from Psalm 22:1.)

Scripture speaks to all of life, and even includes honest prayers. The book of Psalms is one example that contains genuine heart-felt prayers in the midst of some very raw emotion. Psalms 88, 13, 22, 38, 42, 55, 59, 61, 73, 88, and 102 are just a few of these “real prayers.” The next time you are suffering, cheerful, sick, or even angry, you can honestly pray. God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything (1 John 3:20).