Courage and Honesty in Prayer

Better to pray honestly, complaining, whining, venting, than to say nothing at all.

by - Posted on Nov 15, 2011

Prayer blogger Rick Hamlin

Today during lunch I darted into a church near the office for a few quiet minutes. The place is dark, mostly empty, and smells of incense, plaster and candles. Usually I say a prayer or two and find some peace, but today I was feeling out of sorts and irritated. I sat in a pew and reached for some exalted language, then stopped myself. Exalted would have been phony.

I thought of a friend who lost a 22-year-old son, Jesse, in a car accident. Several years later his only daughter was pregnant. On her way to the hospital, she called her dad. She was going into labor. Overcome with a mixture of feelings, he hung up the phone, turned to God and almost shouted: “Don’t you mess with my joy!”

Why do we think we need to make nice in prayer? Why do I? I’ve been blogging my way through the Psalms, and the one overwhelming truth I see in the psalmist’s language is its often raw, blunt anger. Usually when people quote the Bible they don’t quote this line from Psalm 137: “Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” That’s the poetry of one hurt, angry dude. No amount of translating can whitewash it.

In a weird way, that line of Scripture gives me courage in my prayers. Better to say things that you wish, even the things that seem patently wrong-headed, than hold them back. Better to pray honestly, complaining, whining, venting, than to say nothing at all. Better to shout out, “Don’t you mess with my joy, God!”

I sat in my pew, venting to God for a while. Much of it was just plain cosmic angst, but I needed to get it out. I didn’t whitewash it. Some calm came. Not a whole lot, but enough. More important, there was a sense of connection.

As for my friend, his daughter gave birth to a healthy baby boy who has brought him much joy and happiness. She named the boy Jesse, after her brother.

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