Thursday, July 31, 2014

An Honest Prayer is Hard to Find

There is a scene in the movie Signs (Shyamalan, 2002) which depicts an ordained minister who has lost his wife and his faith. One of his children is on the brink of death, and for the first time in years, he prays to God. His prayer is short and to the point. He cries out, “I hate you.” To my mind, this is a profound, righteous prayer. He isn’t indifferent and he isn’t dishonest. And paradoxically, his words demonstrate a true and strong faith in God.  He’s hurt, to the point of rage, and he wants God to know it. God can always take that kind of honesty and build on it a foundation for true intimacy with him.

I have wasted so much time and breath, praying the way I think I should rather than offering God my honest and vulnerable thoughts. When I had my come-to-Jesus moment at the age of twenty-four, my first prayers sounded more like short homilies or Theology 101 papers. I think sometimes we would like to prove we are worthy.
Saint Thomas does not hide his unbelief
So why is it so hard to tell him the truth? I think our desire to self-justify pops up even in our prayers. We would love to think that we have somehow merited God’s love and mercy, that our relationship with him is rightfully earned. The naked truth -- that Jesus irrationally and whole-heartedly loves us -- is so much more uncomfortable for mere mortals like we are, and beautiful, flowery prayers cannot disguise that.  Thank God for it, for even our best efforts and most eloquent, theologically-sound prayers fall short. It’s his love and grace, all the time. 

A Christian is marked by a relationship with Jesus.  Our prayers to God and our listening to his responses, are essential for our relationship with him, and like any other relationship, honesty is always the best policy. An honest prayer may be hard to find, and hard to say, but in the end, it is the very best.

So, where are you today? What is your honest prayer? Are you tired, confused, or angry? Are you indifferent or unsure of him? Are you angry with him or doubting? Let him know. And have faith that he is strong enough to handle your unrighteous deeds and your worst feelings, and he is gentle enough to handle your hurt and despair. He never gives up on us, even when our prayers are dismal, pathetic, or unholy. He always wants to be in an open, honest relationship.

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