Sometimes prayer is difficult for me. I pray but it feels empty at times. Other times it feels as natural as breathing. But whatever prayer feels like on any given day, it's hard to be a human and not struggle with the faith that it takes to maintain a good prayer life. Talking to an unseen God, to me, will always be a challenge of faith. Especially when you're done talking and you don't hear anything in response...then it's really hard to "keep your chin up" and the eyes of your heart peeled. We are so used to a relationship involving conversation and the last time I checked, when someone doesn't talk back to you when you're talking to them, it can get awkward and downright frustrating.
I wrote something a while back on my battles with prayer and being in relationship with an unseen being who communicates in an inaudible voice...I never posted it, but I thought it might put into words what some people may feel. My "prayer" is that it will begin a conversation about prayer than actually gets you or keeps you praying. Prayer has been connected with "wrestling with God" in the Old and New Testaments...and I can't say that there is any other metaphor that sums it up any better.
If prayer is anything, it's honestly emoting to God at a gut level. It's about finding a way of relating to God without dismissing your humanity.
I read stories of Job and his friends and I get a picture of struggling with God that allows for some fierce conversation and honest dialogue with God. It seems that in the end, Job's friends were the one's rebuked for their "easy solutions". This is not to say that Job wasn't told by God what's what and who's who in chapter's 38-42, but God seemed to welcome the honesty as opposed to the cloaked and edited conversations of a person afraid to enter into honest relationship with God.
The Psalms to me are a great springboard for honest dialogue as well...especially the first 20 chapters which are replete with examples of extreme emotion being shared all the while the Psalmist is so-called "worshiping".
"My God, My God why have you forsaken me" "Why are you deaf" "Why are you far away" "Arouse yourself", "Break the teeth of the wicked" ect, ect.
The writer has to understand that his writing could be interpreted as arrogant and insolent, but he seems to realize that God wants and welcomes real questions and heartache, not watered down prayers that hide behind a fear of being irreverent. We see that in some of the same Psalms, the writer recongnizes God's love and power. So how could both of these emotions dwell simultaneously? It seems God gives room for questioning and worshipping at the same time. Just because someone questions with tenacity and terror doesn't mean they are aborting faith, it may mean they are pressing in harder than ever. It may mean that they aren't accepting easy answers and effortless solutions...they may want to wrestle in order to enter into rest.
The depth of my discouragement with prayer comes from my desire to see the things I read about in the Scriptures happen around me and through me and in me, and I get tired of reading about shadows healing people and lepers cleansed and bleeding being stopped with the touch of a garment without ever experiencing "in the ballpark" things in my ministry. We talk about following Christ, but it seems that we just assume that is all attitudinal growth...but when it comes to duplicating the actual dealings and activities of Jesus...it becomes difficult to do. There was so much of the miraculous in the New Testament...and so little of it in the church today. I know the theological arguments for why these things aren't happening today...and to me, they are strangely arguments from silence more than Scripture.
I don't want to spend much time on that line of thinking, I just want to convey that I desire to see God move miraculously...and experience precious little of it compared to the Bible. Sure, lives are being changed around me and "there is no miracle so powerful as the conversion of the human heart" and "every breath I breath is a miracle of God"...these things, though true, are diversions from the comparing/contrasting I'm seeking to do with the actual Bible. I feel sometimes like I have to fill in the blanks with arguments from silence and reinventions of the miraculous to sooth my heart and the hearts of many who wonder why there's such a discrepancy between the Bible we read and the lives we lead.
I realize that I error on the side of disclosure and honesty in my writings at times and my frustration with the gap between my knowledge of God and my experience with God...and there are times when I'm sure it does damage to someone's fragile faith.
But the edited life, though it's effects cannot be categorized and cataloged, seems, to me, to be much more destructive. This is why I love books like Lamentations..."the Book of Depressions"...it's gritty, raw, unorthodox and quite disconcerting...and the author isn't necessarily concerned with truth as much as being true to himself. We know as we read chapter 1-3 that what he's saying is just his perspective and that his accusation and frustrations are unfounded and absurd...but they're true to him, because it's what he feels and thinks and sees. Sure, we can rush right to the couple verse where he says, "your mercy is new every morning, great is your faithfulness."...but in our discomfort to grapple with reality, we tend to discount and discredit the rest of the story, when God chose to inspire it. All the words are inspired...not just the ones that make for great Hymns of the faith. The gravel in the mouth and the broken teeth and the desperation of a heart that made him want to throw in the towel he was so crushed and confused. We need some of those prophets out there to...
This is just my response to times when people feel like I share too honestly or irreverently in my blog...whether on prayer, church, myself, or the world around me. I don't write flippantly when I write...I think hard and write with trepidation as I pen my thoughts. I want to engage the truth no matter where it leads...and sometimes it leads to hard questions and harder answers.
God doesn't need me and I'm nothing compared to him. He doesn't owe me anything for sure. I deserve much less than He's given me and I'm grateful for his mercy on my poor soul. But that's not the issue to me...the issue to me is recognizing that I've been created to interact freely with him and that he cares about what I have to say. He doesn't have to...but he does. He doesn't have to listen, but he does. He doesn't have to do anything he doesn't want to do. He's God...and I have no idea what it's like to be Him.
But that's just the thing, I'm coming to him from where I'm coming from, and He's coming to me from where He's coming from. And for me to try to come to Him like I'm God, and for me to ask Him to come to me like He's Jason isn't possible. So I simply come to him with my honest feelings 'cause that's what I witness people doing that I respect in the Bible. There are times when I don't question and just thank Him for who He is and what he does. I stand in awe of Him 'cause I really do love him deeply. But then there are times when I don't get Him, so I enter into conversation with Him about those areas that are leaving me jaded and jostled.
I can't make everyone relate to God like I do...and I can't expect that I'm right and everyone else is wrong. For some, I'm sure they don't need as much evidence or feel as much angst...it's partly a personality thing, I guess. And that's great. In some ways, I wish I was more like that kind of person. I don't think they are checking their brains at the door for being that way. But I know that I'd be checking my brains at the door if I responded that way.
There are some Bible characters that had unflinching faith in God without so much as a hint of doubt...there are others who were basket cases. Both were used by God to author the Bible and convey His heart to the world. I hope that my relationship with God is cracking open more hearts than it's injuring, even though it's not airtight and air brushed.
And that is why I love the Bible and the God of the Bible and being in relationship with Him, because I feel I can be myself with him. I can be myself in prayer and tell it like I see it, and in patience God sets the drag and lets me go and after I "tell it like I see it", he lovingly "tells it like it is."
Prayer is an honest relationship, warts and all.