Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Groaning to God

Continuing the last post, here are some more thoughts on prayer.

Tell God your secrets. Show him your shame. Shout out his praises. Beg for his presence. Bring him your questions. God cares about the details of your life. Nothing is too big for him to handle, and nothing is too small for him to be concerned about.

Let joy dance on the edge of your heart. And when you need to give voice to your pain, don’t worry if you don’t know the right words to say. Open your heart up to God and his Spirit will do the rest, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will,” (Romans 8:26-27).

If the Holy Spirit himself groans when he prays, why are we so concerned with sounding articulate and eloquent to God? We don’t need the right words. We just need the right attitude.

Prayer is the process of shedding our lies, our masks, and our inhibitions, and standing in God’s presence as we really are--neither proud nor ashamed, simply accepted and loved and heard.

That’s how Job prayed. That’s how David prayed. That’s how Paul prayed. That’s how Jesus prayed. And that’s how we need to pray.

For then, in the midst of the turmoil, suddenly, taking us by surprise, comes the calm that we longed for. Peace within the storm. Within ourselves. Peace and comfort from the hand of the Spirit. A calmness and stillness that we wouldn’t have noticed unless it was surrounded by the gusts of hardship and sheets of slanted, cleansing rain that we call prayer.

God dwells there. Where all of life is sacred. All of life is worship. And where every moment can be spent dwelling in the center of a prayer.

Prayers with Teeth

A few weeks ago I pulled out a project I'd shelved for two years. It's a collection of prayers that I'm writing, so I thought I'd spend the next two posts sharing some of my thoughts on prayer.


Let’s be done with these tidy, packaged, sacred-sounding speeches once and for all. Real prayers are unvarnished. They’re not soft, cuddly little kittens. They’re more like thunderstorms, windy and ragged.

They flash with insight and rumble with complaints. Wet and soggy sometimes, but opening to rainbows at the end. Real prayers express inspiration and drudgery. Fear and glory. Joy and praise and roaring truth. With God in the middle and all around.

Real prayers are not flimsy and weak, but big and round and bold. They don’t worm their way into heaven, they pound on the door and knock it down. A thousand volumes of dull, timid, pale, lifeless prayers will never move the heart of God like a single sentence exploding from the honest places of your life.

“How could you let this happen!” we scream into the unknown.
“Why, God?” we weep in our loneliness.
“Are you there?” we shout, shaking our fists at heaven. “Are you even listening to me!”
“I failed you, God. I don’t deserve your love,” we mouth, afraid to even speak the words aloud.
“So you are real. And I am so small,” we whisper in a moment of revelation.
“God, show me your mercy,” we beg, “I’m so, so sorry for what I’ve done....”
“God, can I be completely honest with you....”

Those kind of prayers have teeth. And guts. And heart.

Sometimes we throw our hands up in wonder. Other times we weep and pound the table. We’re broken. We’re angry. We’re amazed. We’re lonely. We’re inspired.

And we’re changed. Something happens during the storm. We’re washed clean again, shocked by the cold, but thankful for the reality of being alive in the middle of his love.

You can’t escape the raw experiences of life when you’re standing in the middle of the storm. Real prayers ache with the truth and pour from your heart with anger and agony and awe.

That’s why prayers, true prayers, reveal both God and ourselves. We stand naked and honest before him and become clothed and real. No more masks in the storm. No more gentle, rational excuses piled on top of each other like coats of paint; each trying its best to conceal the wood. Prayers scrape us clean and bare before God, where we can finally rest as calm and unashamed as a child in the arms of her father. In the arms of our Father. Who wipes every tear from our eyes.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Good News from Christy

Just a quick note I want to share with everyone. Last week we found out The Pawn is one of the three finalists in the suspense category for the Christy awards, which is the top award given out to a novel published by a Christian publishing company.

I share this because in our conversations over the last few posts, we’ve been exploring art, faith and writing. I’m encouraged that The Pawn is a finalist, not just because I wrote it, but because it shows me those evaluating the novels are moving away from agenda driven stories that are really sermons in disguise toward books that are written from a Christian worldview that are not necessarily moralistic or didactic.

Check out the list of all the Christy finalists by clicking here.