One of the things about prayer that would so liberate God’s people to pray more is if they knew that the way they pray doesn’t have to be perfect or poetic or profound or polished. It doesn’t always have to be super structured or eloquent…it just has to be real. There are enough brutally honest prayers recorded in the Psalms that tell us that one of the things God is after in your prayer life is not merely the quantity of your words, but the intentionality of your words!
What God is after is your blood and guts honesty in prayer—He is after your authenticity in prayer. In other words, God wants you to pray like He’s actually there and that He’s real and that He’s a Person and that He’s your Father and that He is a treasure of infinite worth and value! Do you pray like that? That’s the question.
I still remember the day that I discovered the freedom and necessity of being blood and guts honest with God. I was in the midst of this paralyzing period of despair and depression and I couldn’t delight in God, I couldn’t enjoy God, I couldn’t savor the savior in the Bible, I couldn’t pray. I remember yelling at God—I remember swearing at God once. It was so bad that I wanted to die—literally.
I was in the midst of this paralyzing period of despair and depression and I couldn’t delight in God, I couldn’t enjoy God, I couldn’t savor the savior in the Bible, I couldn’t pray.
I was way too chicken to kill myself, but I distinctly remember asking God a number of times to do me a solid and kill me—to just snuff me out of existence. It all felt so hopeless and bleak and impossible until one day, slumping against the wall in my room with my Bible, in desperation I turned to the Psalms just hoping that I would find something that would cause the darkness to lift.
And lo and behold, I discovered Psalm 143…and it said with haunting clarity exactly what was going on in my soul. Here are a few lines from that precious, life-changing Psalm:
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
3 For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.
4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled within me.
6 I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah.
7 Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails; Do not hide Your face from me, Or I will become like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul.
11 For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
12 And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies And destroy all those who afflict my soul, For I am Your servant.
And in that moment it dawned on me: there is a place for desperation in the Christian life. God has provided, in His Word, the very things to pray when your soul is in despair. It’s okay to be needy and desperate and to just pour out your soul to God. In fact, Psalm 62:8 commands that you do that.
Oh, how freeing it was to have God in His own Word beckoning me to come to Him bankrupt and on the brink of despair. Everything that I was experiencing was in the text for me to pray back to God and God wanted no airs, no pretensions and no holding back—just to engage with Him as a desperate man who desperately needed his God.
The Throne of Grace
Don’t you see how liberating this is? There is no Biblical foundation for the conception of an emotionless God worshiped by an emotionless people! All human emotions that constitute human nature have been created by God and the Bible models for us that there are times when it is right and appropriate to be raw and unrefined and brutally honest with everything what’s going on in your soul.
Now that doesn’t mean that you be irreverent or bratty or pushy; that doesn’t mean that you can chew God out or lecture Him or treat Him like He’s stupid—He will always be the transcendent God of infinite holiness and you will always be merely human. Don’t ever forget who it is you’re talking to!
…so many Christians would be so much more freed up to pray if they just knew that they don’t always have to pray according to strict rules of formality.
And yet, so many Christians would be so much more freed up to pray if they just knew that they don’t always have to pray according to strict rules of formality. Is prayer like working at a nuclear power plant where there’s all these rigid protocols and strict procedures? No! It’s a throne of grace where paralyzed sinners run to find mercy and get sovereign power for the most desperate needs of their souls.
Therefore, my question is: do you spill your guts out, metaphorically speaking, before the God of the universe? Because you can—and you should. In fact, you must! This is so liberating, is it not? Because what God is after in your prayer life is not your eloquence or your expertise, but your blood and guts authenticity.