With all the recent events, there’s been a steady stream of tweets and posts about prayer (#prayforboston, #prayforwest). The Huffington Post had an article on Psalm 46- “Be still and know that I am God.” Stillness at this point seems like an unlikely response. Even if we affect an outward stillness, how can we still our inward being? Besides, the whole nation is in turmoil right now. To adopt a meditative repose and quietly trust in “God’s sovereignty” seems a little feigned, detached, and impersonal. God’s sovereignty shouldn’t be an excuse for inactivity or lukewarmness. In my mind, prayer, in all its intimacy, candor, and uncouthness, does more than stillness because it gets your being in motion toward God. We don’t have to recite religious prayers that excerpt how we really feel. We can come to God just as we are and “pour out our complaint before Him” (Psalm 142:2). We can call on His name from the lowest pit (Lam. 3:55-56). The title of Psalm 102 is instructive: “A Prayer of an Afflicted One, When he is Fainting and Pours out his Complaint Before Jehovah.”
In On Being a Christian, Hans Küng has a section called “The God with a Human Face” that indicates how ‘human’ our prayerful contact of God can be:
Israel’s and Jesus’ understanding of God is not to be optimistically trivialized. There is no empty jubilation in the Old Testament. Besides praise there is always complaint. Modern man’s anxieties about God–His absence, incomprehensibility, inactivity–are also to be found in the Old Testament. The suffering both of the nation and of the individual–that great counterargument against God and His goodness–is continually present and often cries to heaven. When the earliest Gospel gives us Jesus’ last words to His God in the form of an inarticulate cry (Mark 15:37), there is in it the echo of all the crying of a constantly suffering and oppressed and also guilt-laden people. They cried to God in Egypt when they scarcely knew Him. The people cried to Him and individuals cried, when they had settled in the promised land, then in the Babylonian exile and finally under the alien Roman power–in all possible situations of distress and sin. The fact that one can cry to Him in every situation amounts almost to a definition of this God. (p.298)
From the first to the last page of the Bible there is talk not only of and about God, but constantly also to and with God, praising and complaining, begging and protesting… From first to last the Bible means by God a true partner, friendly to man and absolutely reliable: not an object, not a silent infinite, not an empty unechoing universe, not an indefinable, nameless depth in a Gnostic sense, not a dark, indeterminate void interchangeable with nothingness, least of all an anonymous, interpersonal something which could easily be confused with man and his (so very fragile) love. No. Where others perceived only an infinite silence, Israel heard a voice. Israel was permitted to discover that the one God can be heard and addressed, that He comes among men as one who says “I” and makes Himself “Thou” for them: a “Thou” who talks to them and to whom they can talk. (p. 304)
Yes, prayer really is an honest talk with God. We can simply come to Him and tell Him what is on our heart – our anxieties, concerns, fears, and so forth. As we make a motion toward God, He faithfully and quietly dispenses Himself into us.
I appreciate that, with Christ, there’s no need for pretense. After all, He’s our High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of our weakness.
I like the connection you make between our honesty and His dispensing. Also, Genesis 18 has always amazed me as an example of God incorporating Abraham’s prayer into His economic operation. God wanted to do something to save Lot from Sodom to preserve the lineage of Christ. But rather than acting unilaterally, He initiates a conversation with Abraham about Sodom to subtly draw out Abraham’s intercession. Often when I think of praying with God for His move it is supercharged and intense. Abraham’s intercession was spontaneous, conversational, and candid. I love how Abraham poses challenging questions to God about His actions and character. This encourages me to be real with the Lord in my prayer and even challenge Him with His own attributes.
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