(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Psalms 142 & 143
Have you ever considered just how limited most of our prayers are?
We can ask God for help us in our circumstances.
We can intercede on another's behalf.
We can praise God for who He is or thank Him for what He has done.
But because we are not God, because our knowledge and wisdom is limited, our prayers are likewise limited. We very seldom know what help we actually need. We very seldom know how best to pray for someone else. We see just a glimpse of the character and wonders of God.
And so our prayers can quickly turn into trying to inform God about a given situation, trying to convince God that we know how He ought to run His universe, or muttering words about that which we have no clue. If that is the whole story, then praying becomes so futile. But the Psalms are a great remedy in this area. Today's reading is of particular help.
We sense the desperation and raw emotion of David very clearly. He is surrounded, alone, faltering, troubled, entrapped, faint, dismayed, crushed. But this place of anguish is exactly where David reaches out to God. There is no hint of formula, flattery or any kind of religious sounding words- this is honest to goodness prayer.
Here is an idea I want you to consider:
Prayer = Pouring
What I mean is that the best and most honest prayers are when we simply pour out the contents of of our heart before God. No covering up our blemishes. No use of fancy language. No attempts to bargain or bribe. No mimicry. Not offering directions or instructions or advice to God. No, just offering ourselves. Sharing with God what He already knows, but what He wants to hear from us: our hearts. This simple shift in thought can revolutionize our prayer life.
Here, David pours out his complaint. There are many other examples of this kind of pouring prayer in the Bible:
Job poured out tears before GOD (1)
Jacob poured oil on the LORD’s altar (2)
Hannah poured out her soul to the Lord (3)
Jeremiah poured out his heart to GOD (4)
Mary poured out the entire bottle of costly perfume to anoint Jesus (5)
Each of the above situations share both a sense of desperation and a sense of baring the entire soul before God. They each were on to something.
The entire point of prayer is the relationship- the chance to know and be known by God. Every other "benefit" is bonus. That is the only thing that keeps our relationship from becoming formulaic and mercenary. That is what stops the whole "I will follow you/obey you/serve you/ praise you IF you give me A & B & C & D." That is what prevents us from turning a living faith into a dead religion.
So we shouldn't stop asking for specific requests, or interceding for others, or worshipping God despite our limited understanding. But what it does mean is that all these come only after we are being real and honest and uncensored before God.
So talk to Him. Pour out your heart. Tell Him how your day went, how you are really feeling, about something that really is bothering you. Tell Him about a person who you need to forgive or something you feel guilty of or anything that is heavy on your mind. When you have done so, you have joined in a long line of men & women who learned just what it means to pour out their hearts.
(1) Job 16:10
(2) Genesis 35:14
(3) 1 Samuel 1:15
(4) Lamentations 2:11
(5) Luke 7:38