“Prayer is the way to experience a powerful confidence that God is handling our lives well, that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come.”Tim Keller, Prayer
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What have you prayed for lately?
Just five minutes of silence?
That the kids wouldn’t hurt themselves while you close your eyes for a bit?
A break from sickness or ER visits or the endless chauffeuring?
Just one meal without someone crying?
Or maybe you’re having a day where you’re so busy that you crawl into bed at midnight realizing you never prayed once today, and if you try to pray now you’ll 100% fall asleep.
Sometimes we have days of special revelation where we pray the eloquent instagrammable prayers. But I find that more often than not, my prayers are a scattering.
Tired and unassuming.
God wants us to come to Him with everything, and praise Jesus that we can.
But let’s set aside the prayers for parking spots and the infinite times we pray ‘please give me patience’ like malfunctioning robots as we try not to utterly meltdown, and just take a minute to think more deeply about this privilege we have to pray.
I asked a bunch of my mom friends: What is the most honest prayer you’ve ever prayed as a mom?
The responses I got were real and vulnerable.
They were weary prayers for strength and energy just to get through the day.
They were desperate prayers for babies that were or were not growing in wombs.
They were heartbreaking prayers for babies that were supposed to be theirs but were placed elsewhere in an unhealthy environment. Prayers that even if they didn’t get to be that baby’s mom that God would watch over and protect that child.
They were helpless prayers of grief for inexplicable loss.
They were earnest prayers that God would not allow their own sin to lead their kids astray. Prayers for grace in the moments they knew they had failed.
Themes I see in the prayers of my friends are trust, faith, and dependence.
They came to God knowing that He could help them. He is powerful and sovereign and loving. When they felt completely overwhelmed and helpless they knew the Solution was outside of themselves.
They knew that He had what they needed.
They needed help so they came to the Helper. They needed healing so they came to the Healer. They needed grace, peace, hope, and strength and they came to the Author of all of them.
Have you ever just sat and pondered prayer?
What are our motives when we pray?
Do we really believe our prayers will be answered or do we just pray because we’re supposed to?
Are we thinking about God when we pray as if we’re speaking directly to Him or are we just throwing words up to the sky and hoping they land in the right place?
Prayer is a simple thing and it’s a complicated thing.
Prayer is an easy thing and it’s a hard thing.
Prayer is an essential thing but an afterthought.
I’ve been pondering prayer. And specifically honest prayer.
What makes a prayer honest?
In one sense it’s telling God how we really feel, unfiltered.
But in a deeper sense, honest prayer tells the whole truth— about ourselves and about God. We aren’t instructing God, we’re the ones learning. Honest prayer reveals the Gospel.
Maybe it’s easier to first ask what makes a prayer dishonest?
Dishonesty in prayer looks like pride, arrogance, demands, negotiating, performance, and entitlement.
Believing God owes us something or that we’re in a position to tell God how to do a better job with our lives.
Deceiving ourselves into thinking we could hide anything from an omniscient God. Or not really believing God can do anything at all!
For me personally I think one of the most honest prayers I prayed was after miscarrying my first baby.
My prayer was this: ‘I’m mad at you God. I know you love me but I don’t feel loved right now. I know you are good but this doesn’t feel good. I know I can trust you but I don’t want to. Help me to believe that you are who you say you are.’
This was my ‘I believe, help my unbelief’ prayer. (Mark 9:24)
“ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”Mark 9:24 NIV
My ‘I don’t know what to do but my eyes are on you’ prayer. (2 Chronicles 20:12)
“Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV
Mark Vroegop wrote a book about prayers of lament called Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament. He says this: “Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.”
We see prayers of lament all throughout Scripture. In the Psalms, David frequently pours out his fears, pain, and anger yet still praises God for who he is and thanks him for what he has done.
My and many of my friends’ prayers were prayers of lament.
Lamenting is honest because the emotion is raw and hearts are laid bare. Yet they are centered on the Sovereign Lord who reorients our perspective.
We are not hopeless. We cry out with expectation, asking God to show us himself through justice, peace, joy, love, healing, goodness, faithfulness.
Keller says, “You should not begin to pray for all you want until you realize that in God you have all you need.”
As moms we give so much of ourselves for our kids that they are basically an extension of our own bodies. I think some of our deepest pains and fears revolve around our children whom we love more than we thought possible.
And that’s what I love about hearing my friends’ honest prayers- they have relinquished their children into the knowing hands of God who loves them even more than we do.
That’s a hard place to come to because we are fierce protectors and we’ve raised and carried our little ones for so long, but trusting God with our children is accepting the goodness of God.
It’s telling the truth about who he is. That’s an honest prayer.
Another important aspect of honest prayer is confession and submission.
Being honest about our sins and our failures and recognizing that God’s grace covers them if we humbly come to him and ask for forgiveness.
Kyle Strobel wrote an article on The Gospel Coalition saying, “Honesty is difficult in prayer because it is in prayer, above all else, that we discover how much of the gospel we have not accepted…Prayer is not a place to be good. It’s a place to be honest. Prayer becomes real when it accepts the truth of the gospel…”
It’s easy to be ‘good’ when we pray. It’s hard to be honest.
Yes, God already knows everything, but when we pray it, we have to admit it to ourselves.
The Gospel is about seeing our shortcomings and our need for the Lord. It’s about submission, humility, and the end of self-sufficiency.
Have you fully accepted the Gospel?
Your prayer life may shine a light on an area you haven’t.
One of the awesome things about God is that He has made himself accessible to us. His death and resurrection paid for our sin and our shame and our guilt and even more— it tore the veil that separated us from a holy God. (Matthew 27:51)
“ At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.”Matthew 27:51 NIV
We can now boldly approach His throne.
And he wants us to! He beckons us every day to talk to him about anything, however small, and by his grace every prayer is heard.
We don’t have to censor our prayers or stop asking God about things that feel important to us, even if it’s finding our phones for the thousandth time or praying for good weather to make our outdoor plans more enjoyable.
We don’t stop praying.
But we should strive for honesty in prayer. Think about our motives, our posture before God.
I mean, seriously, the Creator of the entire Universe is waiting for us to talk to him. Prayer should be a joy, a relief, a hope.
He has designed prayer as a way to commune with us and to make His glory known. He wants to answer our prayers! And we can trust him with the ways and times he decides to do that. If He wills, He can. (Matthew 8:2)
“A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”Matthew 8:2 NIV
Keller says that prayer leads us to self-knowledge, trust, and surrender.
We recognize our sinfulness, our weariness, and our inadequacies. And we come to the One who redeems and makes us new.
The One who can take our failed parenting ventures, our pain, our lost children, and can bring beauty and hope.
We can’t save ourselves. We can’t save our kids. Only Christ can, if we surrender all to Him.
Are we willing to let honest prayers transform our lives?