As I have confessed several times throughout this past week, I have many unanswered questions about prayer. I have also shared some personal thoughts about what I think prayer can be and what it has been for me, and that my experiences with prayer are always compelling me to do it again in one form or another. Maybe there is something to all the mystery in prayer that makes it compelling for me.
For this last post on this series about prayer, I wanted to share something that has been very liberating in my "faith journey" or "prayer life", whatever you want to call it, And that is that prayer needs to be honest.
I think that we are often afraid to tell God exactly how we are feeling, and let's face it, we are not always thankful, we do not always feel like worshipping, we don't always feel like praying, and we don't always like what God does, or what we perceive God to be doing. Or at least I don't.
No, instead the are times when I question, there are times when I doubt, and there are times when I am angry with God. And I let God know it.
I have learned to be brutally honest with God, and I am finding out that God can handle my honesty. God can handle my doubt. God can handle my questions, and God can even handle my disbelief.
There are several stories throughout the Hebrew Scriptures that speak to this brutal honesty. One of my favorites is the conversation Abraham has with God concerning Sodom. The text in Genesis 18 paints the picture that Abraham is standing before God when he says...
"Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
That last line is my favorite... "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" Abraham thinks that God is wrong, and he let's God know it.
What I love so much about this passage is God's response. God doesn't become angry, fire doesn't fall from heaven and consume Abraham (though Sodom wasn't so lucky), God isn't offended, but rather the more Abraham questions and even accuses God the more God seems to be involved with Abraham.
This honesty and interaction is demonstrated all throughout the scriptures, and time and time again we see people such as Moses, Job, Abraham, Jesus, and of course, Jacob (who actually wrestles with God and demands to be blessed before he will loosen his grip), question, accuse, and doubt God.
I have experienced this questioning to be healthy, freeing, and extremely biblical. I especially relate to Jacob who struggled with God. Because that's where I am, constantly wrestling, constantly questioning, and constantly doubting.
However, I believe that being able to be honest and open, laying it all out on the table, may be the very thing that keeps bringing me back to prayer, and why I still feel compelled to do it, even in the midst of all the doubt and unknowing.