Wednesday, May 21, 2008

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.

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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.

3 comments:

TAMI said...

Over and over again, it seems, I'm "shocked by the cold, but thankful..." Looking forward to finding your book of prayers on Amazon sometime! Our family is just finishing up Quest For Celestia during our devotional times.

Doc Op said...

Thanks so much for this. I would like to think that I pray this way, but to be honest, prayer in even its most basic form comes hard. I don't know if that is because of (putrid) self-sufficiency --- or scar tissue on the soul.

but then, there are the moments. This "poem-prayer-ramble (link below) started out kind of heady, but tuned heart-wise by the end.

http://startledbyexistence.squarespace.com/bones-6-for-by/2008/1/28/for-him-by-him.html

(ps, feel free to erasee if you want to.)

gracelikerain said...

I read a book once (not yours,but good anyhow). It said it was ok to rage against God sometimes. In our weakness and frailty, it was ok to just scream out all of our disappointments to our creator at times. So I was having a moment (ok, a meltdown) where I guess it was a prayer, I was yelling at God if that counts! Anyway, I was saying everything I could think of, how my life was easier before I met Him, what's the point in any of this if I'm just going to end up miserable and alone, I might as well start smoking again because none of this is worth it anyways. I mean, I was screaming this at an invisible creator who made everything in the world like I mattered to Him. Like I was His very irritated bride. And you know what happened the next day? We had a guest speaker, Joni Aames, at our church,who moves in the prophetic, and right in the middle of her "Hi, this is me, how ya doin today?" speech, she turned and looked directly at me and said "God just wants you to know it is worth it." So, how cool (or more direct) can you get? I mean. who am I that He would send such a profound "last word" to my heretofore one sided argument? He is incomprehensible and strange and awesome, but above all, He just loves us and wants us to love Him, even if your expression of love comes at the very ragged end of a horrible day when you're ready to just drive off a cliff. I know this is really long, but I just wanted to share my "prayer experience" because so many times I think maybe people think praying is something huge and weird like on Monty Python "Oh Lord, You are so very big..." Or maybe I'm just a weirdo, but He loves me and He gets my jokes that most people don't.It's also late and I tend to ramble. Sorry! Love your words!