2004-01-10 - Prayers in the Bible
God has provided many examples of differnt types of prayers in His word. Though His intent is not that we recite them by rote, we can learn from each of them. This will not be an exhuastive examination, but we will look at some representative samples, and think about how we can apply them in our own lives.
We'll start with the Psalms, because they are so down-to-earth and honest. I think most of us can identify with them. The Psalms run the gamut, from unabashedly praising God to lamenting a feeling of desertion by Him.
Psa. 42 (The Message)
A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek;
These are the things I go over and over,
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
Why are you down in the dumps,
Note the raw honesty of the prayer in this Psalm:
Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God
The Psalmist doesn't mince words, nor try to "pretty things up." Some of us have been mistakenly taught through the years that we must be "careful" about what we pray to God, that we dare not express our doubts. But this doesn't make sense for several reasons: Obvously God's word shows us here that our Heavenly Father encourages our frank prayers. And besides, He already knows what we are thinking and feeling, so why should we try to hide it? That is dishonest anyway. He's like a parent who knows what is troubling his child, but wants to hear it from the child. As Psalm 62:9 instructs us, we should "pour our hearts out" to God.
God's word does not promote the stoic, "stiff upper lip" religion that some churches espouse. Rather, God provides examples of - to coin a phrase from the 70s in the US - "letting it all hang out." In other words, He wants us to take off the masks with Him and be real. The Psalmists teach us that we don't have to pretend we are happy with God if we are angry at Him or disappointed. They are not afraid of our emotions, which are gifts from God anyway.
Even though God is omniscient, the Psalmist expresses his everyday concern, the mockery of his enemies. Some Christians believe we should only pray about "the big stuff," but here we see that God does indeed care about our personal concerns.
Also note that the Psalmist admits that his soul is sometimes "in the dumps." People who claim "Real Christians are never depressed" are people that don't really know the word of God deeply, and people who simply haven't experienced depression themselves. There is joy on the other side, but it' causes unnecessary added pain - and is bad theology, to tell people they are depressed because they don't have enough faith, don't pray enough etc.
So from Psalm 42 and others like it, we learn, among other things, that we can be ourselves with God, that we don't have to keep our emotions insid and let them fester, that He wants us to be completely real with Him. What a freeing gift it is to realize that!
Next week, we will look at a prayer of praise.
May we all be totally authentic in our prayers this week.