I had to write my view on prayer for a class the other day and it took awhile for my answer to reflect my prayer life.
I struggled with prayer for a long time as a new believer and I will still get caught up in it at times. Not sure if it is this way for others, but my view on prayer reflected my view on Christianity. It had to appear perfect and loving while I waited for God to change me. I almost gave up on prayer because it was so ineffective. If prayer is supposed to be you communicating with God, then why would God want to hear trivial fluff which was more hopes than reality. Something like “please change my thoughts God to make me how you want me to be”. It doesn’t sound bad but what is it really? I am sending up a generic request to God with no idea what to expect. This might work for some people, but it didn’t do anything for me except waste my time and make me frustrated. I never said what I felt cause I thought that was disrespectful to God.
I am not sure who it was, but I was watching a TV program and the person made a comment that prayer was supposed to be a conversation with God. Not all prayer, but your personal prayer. That intimate time with God was not supposed to be me putting on my Sunday best and trying to act good and righteous. I struggled the first time I just talked to God, but it got a lot easier. I would express how I felt, even if I was angry or mad, and the surprising thing was I actually got a response back. It was no longer me beseeching God, it was now a two way conversation with God.
When I am struggling with my prayers, it is because I have slipped back into that religious approach to prayer. I get frustrated while praying and will just say enough. It sounds wrong to cuss at God or tell Him you hate a situation, but if you are withholding true emotions from Him, how is He supposed to do anything about it?
As I started reading the Psalms, you can see a similar approach from David. This is a man after God’s own heart and he is laying it out for God. He is a bit more poetic than I, but David knew you had to surrender completely to God.
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. (Psa 5:1-2)
You don’t groan when putting on the happy religious face. You groan when you are honest and exposed before someone. This is how you should pray to God during your intimate time with Him.
With all of the books on prayer, why isn’t this taught? You would assume someone would write about it, but if it is out there, people are not finding it. I just read an article about a pastor who struggled with this same issue. It wasn’t until he started studying the psalms that he was able to move past the religious and empty prayers and get truly open and vulnerable with God.
It is frustrating to see people struggle with their relationship with God and I wonder if this is part of the reason. How many people talk about how God never answers them in prayer? Is it simply that He is waiting for them to be honest with Him about how they feel? I wonder.