O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?
Habakkuk 1: 2
Think for a moment about the couple we talked about yesterday who were on their first date. I hoped for an easy conversation between them, good repartee, without anxious, nervous bouts of silence. They likely wanted to make a good first impression, to put their best foot forward. But if there are to be any future dates, any likelihood for a genuine relationship, they will eventually have to stop trying to make a good impression. They will have to get real; put away the masks and stop pretending to be something they are not.
We will discover that the same is true for a maturing, intimate prayer relationship with God. We will have to stop pretending to be something we are not. We will have to let down the masks and get real with Him. C. S. Lewis frankly advised an inquirer about prayer: “We must lay before him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer) We grow in prayer as we learn to present to God our true self and not our false self.
If that couple on their first date were to later come to me for pre-marital counseling, I would have them make of list of subjects they avoid in talking with each other. That is because I have learned that the things we avoid talking about, usually lead to conflict in the relationship. So it is with God and our relationship with Him. We need to talk with Him about the ‘elephants’ in the room, the things we avoid telling Him. God wants honesty and truth in our relationship. C. S. Lewis said, “The prayer preceding all prayers is ‘May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.’” (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer)
Ann and Barry Ulanov in their book Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer advise the reader:
In prayer we say who we are. Not who we should be. Not who we wish we were. But who we are… With no secrets we come at God crudely, like beggars or greedy children. It is no good denying this or trying to mask it. We must see the crudeness and include it. God loves us in the flesh. Denying what God loves and died for is trying to go God one better, and only impedes our prayers. We must bring to God the crudeness too.
The psalmists set a good example for being honest and real in prayer. Consider the following: “I pour out my complaint before him” (Psalm 142: 2). “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13: 1a). “You have caused my companions to shun me” (Psalm 88: 8a). “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22: 1a). “Why do you hold back your hand; why do you keep your hand in your bosom?” (Psalm 74: 11).
In today’s Scripture the prophet Habakkuk let God know that he is not happy with the Almighty. It appears to him that God is doing nothing about the widespread violence and injustice in the land. Habakkuk’s complaint then leads to honest dialogue between the Lord and Habakkuk in which God reveals one of the Scripture’s greatest truths: “the righteous live by their faith” (Habakkuk 2: 4). The Lord replies in essence: “I hear you, Habakkuk, I hear your complaint. I’m asking you to trust me. The righteous live by their faith in me.”
To mature in our relationship with God, we have to be honest and real with God as He is always honest and real with us. So just be you. Tell God the truth and He will tell you the truth. In the process you will find yourself transformed.
- Think for a few moments of some subject you have been reluctant to bring up with God. Perhaps it is a sin with which you struggle. Maybe it is unacknowledged anger with God or another.
- Write down in your prayer journal what it is that you have been avoiding with God. Tell God about your desire to be honest and real with Him.
- Now sit for a few moments and rest silently before God. Conclude by praying The Lord’s Prayer.
“All this stuff – ordered, unordered, disordered – is what we must bring in a big sack and dump out and sort through and talk over with God.”
Ann and Barry Ulanov, “Prayer and Personality”, in The Study of Spirituality