“Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night!” Lamentations 2:19
Just play it straight with God. He can hear your heart anyway. He is slow to anger, rich in mercy, and is the Lover of your soul. So, cut the garbage and just be who you are before God. He made you and knows the games you like to play, so just be who you are. Then, let him do with you what you never dreamed you would be able to do.
One of the most stunting things that a person can do in their prayer life is pretend that they are someone that they are not. It is hard enough for God’s word to get through our ego, id, but when we are appearing to be something else in our superego, it adds a layer to be removed. This additional work is often what slows down spiritual growth. It is also a reason why patterned prayers are so popular.
Patterned prayers are excellent for teaching us how to pray, the history of prayer, and how the community experiences God. The most famous patterned prayer is the “Lord’s Prayer” or “Our Father”. It was given to us by Jesus and is considered the perfect prayer. It should. There are other patterned prayers: collects (such as the “opening prayer” at Mass), Novena prayers, the Hail Mary, and many others. These are all good. Yet, there is a dark side to the use of patterned prayers.
Many people will pray set or patterned prayers so that they do not have to say what they really feel to God. Suppose you are angry. Suppose you just lost a loved one, lost a job, your car was wrecked, or your family member did the unthinkable. Would you really feel “thy kingdom come, thy will be done”? You certainly wouldn’t. In fact, a prayer like, “God! Where are you! What have you allowed to happen!” would be the more accurate sentiment of our ego.
The fact that a book like Lamentations exists in the Bible is testament to the fact that God wants us to be real with him. It is the book that was written by the prophet Jeremiah after the Israelites were led into exile. They were a broken people and the prayers and words in the book itself are those of people who are broken, looking for hope in the faith that seemed to let them down. It is a writing which exists as testimony to how we ought to give our real feelings to God.
It is when we allow how we really feel, especially in dark times, that God can do something with what we feel. It is when we are real with our feelings before God that we can then be like Job and remember before Whom we stand. We can then reflect on the deliverance that this Father has done for our ancestors in the faith over and over again. Then, we can see that in the midst of the darkness, he will be the Light.
So, every prayer time you have should have a time for being real with God. He knows you. He made you. He already knows what is in your heart and mind. So, don’t pretend he doesn’t. That is an insult in and of itself. Be real and see what God will do with that. You will be amazed.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian