Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bare-Naked Prayers

Everything has been a swirl of activity since getting back from India. Almost immediately after unpacking I had to fly out to Seattle to speak and teach at the Christian Educator’s Conference and then finish editing my new thriller, The Pawn.

But, without boring you with my daily schedule, let me get back on track and share a few thoughts I had recently as I worked on a couple of new book ideas.

Mostly I’ve been thinking about prayer.

All too often today, prayers among North American Christians are unnatural, fluffy, or simply absurd. I’ve heard some prayers that are speeches, others that are sermons in disguise, others that seem to be crafted with the sole purpose of impressing the other people present, others that sound like someone imitating Shakespeare. And of course we’ve all heard these contemporary classics:

“Oh God, we just thank you for just being God and we just ask that you would just help us today and just guide as we just seek to honor you and just bring glory to your name...”

“Father God, you are great, Father God. You’re a powerful God, Father God. And we ask you, Father God, to be with us, Father God...”

As my friend Tim Hawkins, one of the country's funniest comedians, ( pointed out to me, we would never think of talking this way to our friends:

“Oh Bob, we just thank you for just being Bob and we just ask you that you would just come over for dinner and just bring along some Pepsi and Cheetos and just ask your wife if she would just like to come too...”

“Oh Bob Friend, you are a great friend, Bob Friend. You’re a good colleague, Bob Friend. And I ask you, Bob Friend to visit me Friday night, Bob Friend…”

Now, I know that God hears all of our prayers no matter how feeble or ridiculous they are. But imagine how he must long for us to simply talk to him from the heart in a somewhat intelligible way, and to do so without pretense or gimmicks, and without lofty, holy-sounding language or inane repetition.

I believe God wants us to approach him with hearts filled with both awe and familiarity so that we might know him as our king, but yet speak to him as our friend; to pray with openness and vulnerability, with honesty and passion. I think he wants us to share our deepest needs and darkest desires, our hopes and our dreams, our secret little temptations and our dirty little secrets.

What if we came to him with all of our frustrations and questions, like Job… with our deep anguish and bitter tears, like Hannah… with our broken souls and healed dreams, like David… with petitions drenched in sweat and blood, like Jesus? What if we finally brought God all the bruises on our hearts?

We have deep rivers tumbling through our souls, why do we dip so many of our prayers from such shallow, muddy puddles? What would happen if we finally stopped praying comfortable and predictable prayers and started praying honest prayers, raw with the realities of life, tender with the realization of grace? What would happen if we finally brought God prayers with teeth and glory, born of marvel and pain?

Then we would be bringing him our true selves, our unveiled souls. Then we would be offering him our bare-naked prayers.

And I believe our relationship with him would be transformed forever.


Heather said...

I just got a new email address and discovered my spam filter has been eating your newsletters.

It's great to hear from you. I agree there needs to be a new book about prayer!

Some of it might be the fact that people get nervous praying out loud in front of others. I used to be that way in college -- since I grew up Methodist, where prayers are always written and read out loud (very formal.)

It's very different talking to God in a private prayer -- or through my journal.

Glad you're blogging!

--Heather, Mom 2 Mom

Steven James said...

Thanks, Heather. Good to hear from you. I think I might be exploring more on prayer in an upcoming book. I'll keep you posted.