Have you ever been convinced that because of how audacious your approach has been with God, that somehow it was the same thing as being honest with Him?
I had this ah-huh moment recently concerning a prayer that I’m pretty sure I’ve prayed at least a million times. You know, it’s that prayer you offer with so much passion and fervor, and instead of it reaching heaven, it seems to hit the ceiling, bounce back, and smack you in the face?
Yes, that prayer.
You’ve tried bargaining, pleading, crying, and even giving up on this whole prayer business. And all the while you are convinced that your prayer is, well, honest. How could it not be? You’ve poured out your heart a billion times about how much this means to you, and how much you need for God to come through.
Sound familiar to any one?
As Christians, I would venture to say that we often feel like the prayers we offer place us in a game of tug of war with God. If you’ve been to any sort of summer camp than I’m sure you’ve played along at some point. There is one rope, and two teams, equally battling and competing over the same thing. Each team is strategizing, and throwing every ounce of their weight into every pull, gritting and bearing down with all their strength.
We know how the game ends. There can only be one winner. The team that gave just a little bit more to tip the scales (or rope) to their side wins.
My recent epiphany was about this subtle but powerful lie that if I told God I actually “needed” what I was asking for, that somehow this very thing would also be in competition with my need for Him…sort of like a divine game of tug of war.
I was afraid that by admitting to myself I needed something other than God that my prayer was flawed; somehow if I was gut wrenchingly honest about how I felt than that would mean I was fighting against God.
Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to be like Jacob and wrestle it out with God in prayer, but if we are not being honest with ourselves we are actually fighting God unnecessarily.
So, here are three questions I pose:
1. Where did we get the idea that by getting real with God about our needs that it meant we didn’t need Him?
2. When did they become mutually exclusive?
3. Didn’t God make us body, soul, and spirit with distinctive and valuable needs?
God understands that we have physical and emotional needs that do not negate our, exponentially-more-important-need for a relationship with Him.
For example, it’s like asking someone for a glass of water after going for a long run, and then thinking that because you need water your request must somehow be in competition with your need for a relationship with God.
How silly!? Clearly, they are completely different, and serve vastly different purposes and functions.
So here I was, thinking I was being honest when I prayed but I was actually attempting to make my prayers more pious, more acceptable, and less competitive in my presentation as it compared to my need for God. I thought, if I acted like I didn’t need this thing, than God would grant my request.
My prayers would go along these lines: “God, I want this, I don’t really need this, because if I told you I needed this than that would of course be kicking you off your throne, and make you less important in my life.”
This approach appears spiritual but it’s actually dishonest and rooted in fear.
The thing is, there are some things we do need, and they are on completely different playing fields than our need for God, but that doesn’t make them less of a need. It goes without saying that we need God, and NOTHING else could satiate or fill that place in our hearts.
God has shown me something about my own heart that He has clearly seen all along. I’ve been reminded yet again that He is never fooled by my religious piety but clearly sees my need, and waits for me to admit them fully and honestly to Him.
These days my prayers reflect a much more honest and understood heart. It sounds more like, “God I need you in your place–on the throne of my heart, my first and foremost desire–but I also need this other thing in it’s proper place.
We don’t have to qualify our prayers with God, we can lay our hearts open and bare before Him, confident that He knows ALL of our needs, and not one of them goes unnoticed or looked down upon by Him. He longs to fulfill the desires of our heart, and as we cultivate a love for His presence, in due time He will lavish us with the long awaited answers to our prayers.
Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”