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Teach us to pray - sincere prayer before God 1/4

My dear friends, dear women of God,

if there is anything that all the role models and heroes of the Bible had in common, it was that they knew how to pray.

And above all- that they prayed, off the cuff, as you might say.

It's amazing, and I don't know if you're aware of this, that the Psalms are a collection of praise songs.


Somehow that raises the hackles of many:

"Lord, cut off the heads of my enemies! Where is it, your justice? To the unrighteous you give everything, everything, but where are you when it comes to your righteous? I do not see your hand! I am weary, my bones ache, and where are you? Be silent no longer, Lord! Show yourself! I wrestle with you, with my faith-even my friends have turned away from me, and they stab me in the back!"

These are - not even particularly exaggerated - excerpts from the biblical collection of praises to the Lord. But why, why alone is even such complaining, such hurt complaining, why are even revengeful thoughts "a fragrance of praise?"

Well, quite simply:

The praying people- they give their heart, they bleed their heart before the Lord, they wrestle, they seek communion, and in doing so they do not mince words.

You can meet God only with your doubts, with your incomprehension, when you are convinced in your deepest being that what you see and experience does not correspond nor can correspond to His nature, and therefore one complains about His absence - and not about His injustice or unpredictability. In fact, there is hidden in it a deeper praise of God than we may perceive: "Lord, you are not like this, and this confuses me, angers me; you have hidden your face! Your beauty, justice, your joy, your goodness, your blessing. I wrestle with you to show yourself. And yes, I accuse it! I accuse it of not finding you! I want to see you!" And furthermore, as dark as the thoughts and fears, the depths or perhaps sin raged in the hearts of these people, where do they look for help? From other people? In secular judges? In vigilante justice? No, they run to where they hope to find help: they run with everything, unfiltered, honest and sometimes to the limit of pain self-righteous and proud- to God. is a good smell to him.

In a time when everything has to be super brilliant and above all positive, there is no room for complaints, doubts, fear, inner struggle and the feeling of being unfairly judged or even condemned. There is no proper place for impasses and inner struggles of faith, it seems. "You can't think like that, you can't even say that, how can you talk like that to dear, dear Jesus?" And so many are left alone, bouncing off the brightly-washed facade of blessed Christianity: Those who lost their jobs. Those who mourn the death of their child. Those who live in social housing rather than in a new development. Those who never experienced support, those who can no longer swallow their inner suffering because otherwise they suffocate.

Teach us to pray.

What we mentally overlook, for which in fact we also have to "think out of the box" a little, is that Jesus knows very well what we are really thinking. Jesus knows that the cake is burnt, even if we smear the pinkest possible icing over it until it is no longer visible from the outside. God knows full well that your prayer is just dutiful banter, when under the mask of holiness rages your doubts, your bitter fear, your indignation, your anger, and yes: He also hears your, "Maybe it's all just a nice numbing program for such incompetent and needy people as me after all, and in the end it's all just illusion."

He sees you. He knows you, and as with a good friend who tells you all kinds of things, yet you see very clearly the inner struggles, the tense shoulders, and the tense smile, Jesus sits in front of you, wondering what on earth you're doing by presenting him with this glossed-over version of your life.

"I'm so glad you're my friend! ( Background grumble: "Although I really have to say that I would have hoped for more support there!") Yes, you like to hear the former, and Jesus is also happy about your sincere praise, your gratitude, your joy in him. But in the background ...he wonders why, if you are so grateful for this friendship, you don't finally come to him and tell him what is really going on - why you don't claim his friendship and take his arm, which has been waiting for you for a long time.

Prayer is a dialogue with God. And all those who we meet in the Bible as great people of prayer- whether Moses, David, Daniel, Jeremiah or the repeatedly enthroned Elijah, who was ultimately also only a prophet, they all knew that - and expected, naturally assumed that God would also answer them.

Today, however- prayer is often used like an answering machine or voicemail. One-way street. I leave my petition on the answering machine, and because I can't be sure that God will call me back, I make sure that things go through.

Some may object that one should not compare oneself with Elijah, David or Moses. That is really presumptuous!

But the truth is that this is a pretty weird thought.

What made these kings, prophets, devoted servants of God so special was that they accepted God's invitation, the anointing he gave them. That he called them, and gave them the Holy Spirit, the few whose hearts were completely his.

David was a nobody, worldly insignificant. He was the youngest son with no inheritance rights, tending sheep outside the village. But his heart, his longing, his inner desire was for the Lord. He sang songs to him while he tended the sheep, he fluted to himself thinking of him. He was not a big shot, not a super apostle nor super elected, he was...shepherd.

And it is true that in Old Testament times, and until the first Pentecost, a direct connection with God, the dialogue that said, "Call to me and I will answer you" (Jeremiah 33:3) was limited to a select few.

But as we read in Acts 2, Peter says that the famous, often mistakenly postponed to the " indefinite end times", distribution of the Spirit has been fulfilled. Everyone, everyone now has equal access to God, through the cross, through the torn curtain in front of the Holy of Holies.

This is the great mystery, the great grace of believers, which is not postponed to the last days of the "end times", but which began with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, now almost 2000 years ago- by the way, this was also the dawn of the last days, because the end times do not begin sometime in the distant future, but began with Jesus' victory on the cross and resurrection- end times we have already had for a very, very long time.

So there is a well before us, a wonderful invitation to come before God, freed from all the bouncers and controllers, proxies and determiners that existed before. Each one of us can and should seek this intimacy with God, each one may come to him without flattering him or making a show of his piety.

"Do not babble like the pagans"-how did the pagans actually babble?

Oh, they did what today might be equated with sucking up, boot licking and stringing together many, empty words. When Pagans petitioned the Emperor, a letter would begin by listing all of his honorific titles, and that could take up as many as 2 pages:

"O highborn, noble, exalted prince, esteemed lord of all seven seas, who art of noble blood and unrivaled wisdom, whose steps are hallowed and whose words are like sweet dew from the mountain..." You get the idea.

No, this is not how we are to come to God to influence Him in our favor.

We should be honest, our speech should be yes and no. We should ask, plead, bounce on his door, throw our burdens on his cross! The word of throwing, which is in the original text, does not mean: "carefully checking whether it is not perhaps impertinent or inappropriate", but actually throwing with full force. We are to wrestle with him, to hold out our heart and everything in it to him - and we may trust that he will bear it. That he has what's raging inside of us, that he has it under control.

You know, sometimes people cry out because the pain is so intense. Sometimes people get angry because the discouragement is so deep. Sometimes disappointment rages inside you so much that you become cold and dismissive, and sometimes the cry for retribution is the bleeding of your own soul crying.

And so we experience it in the Psalms: they rage, they wrestle, they complain- and in the end they break down, become calm, and then, only then do they say what is really in them. And God has time for you. And he answers you.

Maybe he's just waiting for you to finally punch his chest until all that's holding the dams together in you breaks. Because when you start to cry, only then can he open your fists, take you in his arms, lead you into the desert and talk to you gently and kindly. And you will return miraculously comforted- and empowering others because you have seen Him.

Your ticket to a personal relationship with God - it is prayer. And maybe it will help you to know that nothing in you is too unholy, unwanted, and worthy of punishment that you cannot bring it before Him.

Trust God to separate the wheat from the chaff. You have an emergency number, truly you have.

And that number, it's in Jeremiah 33:3:  
"Call upon me, and I will answer thee; and I will make known unto thee great and incomprehensible things, of which thou knowest nothing."

So, if you're running from one to another to get answers, try Him. God is not a dumb idol. And God is a God who sees you. He has promised to draw near to you if you draw near to Him. Do not be afraid, little flock. He who called you also created you. And the one who created you longs for your heart.

We will talk about different biblical prayer styles and experiences in the next post:

For David prayed differently than Moses, and Moses differently than Jeremiah. And surely different...from you.

Be blessed.

Sibylle/Daughter of Zion


The Bible, esp: Book of Psalms, Acts 2, Joel.

C.S.Lewis: The conversation with God ( Reflections on psalms)

Photo: Pixabay

Worship: Your will be done, CityAlight.

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