Day 19 of Prayer
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. –William Shakespeare, King Lear
What a provocative statement—to speak what we feel! When it comes to approaching God in prayer, however, should we pray what we feel, rather than what we “ought” to pray about? Or maybe we should search the Scriptures, document all the recorded prayers, and pray those instead. It does seem right to pray the prayers that the heroes of faith prayed, but did you know God desires to also connect with us emotionally in prayer? In fact, if we only repeat the prayers in the bible at the expense of how we really feel, this might be a sign that there is a part of our heart we are closing off to Him.
Maybe it’s hard to speak what we feel to God, or we think its spiritually immature, or it’s just not us—we are a thinker, not a feeler. Perhaps we’ve bought into the lie that God only likes some emotions, the bright ones, so we only speak some of what we feel. If any of this hits home, we need only to turn to the Psalms to see the full range of emotions showcased in prayer: loneliness (Psalms 25:16), joy (Psalm 4:7), sorrow (Psalms 31:10), gladness (Psalms 9:2), grief (Psalm 6:7), hope (Psalms 33:22), alienation (Psalm 38:12), belonging (Psalms 35:18), shame (Psalms 21:1), and peace (Psalms 4:8). In one case, the Psalmist felt both anger and happiness together in the same moment (Psalm 137:9)!
God is so intimately concerned with our feelings that He became flesh in the person of Jesus to fully feel what it is to be human. With a righteous man and a favored woman as His parents, Jesus had the best family of origin one could have in Joseph and Mary. Throughout the first twelve years of His life, “he grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Being full of wisdom, Jesus told a parable on prayer about two people: one who used thanksgiving to God to mask his self-righteousness and one who prayed his sorrow and asked for mercy (Luke 8:9-14). The one who got emotionally honest with God in prayer was the one God heard.
God delights in us when we are emotionally truthful to him in prayer. Unlike Jesus, our family of origin was to some degree or another dysfunctional which has hindered our development. So, we must learn to speak truth including our emotional frame to God and pray in the light. If we don’t, we are only fooling ourselves and not praying the truth (1 John 1:8). Upon the night Jesus was betrayed, he prayed his feelings—agitation, grief, but also prayed “not as I will but as you will” (Matthew 26:37-39). If Jesus prayed with emotional integrity to the Father, let us also follow His steps and pray both what we feel and what we ought to pray. Pray in the Light.