2017-02_LT-HonestPrayers

How to Pray/My Prayer

God Wants to Hear Your Most Honest Prayers

My relationship with God really started with me yelling at Him. I was raised in a Catholic family so I had been taught to pray since before I can remember, but I always had this idea that God didn’t love me so much as He loved the good things I did or the things that I got right.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I started to learn what it really meant that God loved me. It was on a retreat during adoration. Everyone around me was crying and seemed to be having some sort of great emotional encounter with God. I was kneeling in the front, trying so hard to concentrate, trying so hard to say the right things to Him, that I started to cry out of frustration. And then, finally, I just snapped. Internally, I yelled at God that I felt like He was ignoring me. Couldn’t He see how hard I tried? So why was prayer so difficult? Why wasn’t He acknowledging me? Did He even care? In fact, was He even there at all?

The Voice of the Heart

That night in adoration ended up being one of the most intimate encounters with God I’ve ever experienced. Looking back, it still shocks me the humility and love that He must have towards me to let me speak to Him in such a way.

I learned that night that honesty in prayer is far from sinful. Christ did not die so that I could pretend to have it all together; He wants to belong to me and I to Him. Even when I’m doubting Him, He wants to hear it.

God values the human heart with all its brokenness and confusion and restlessness. During every Mass, we hear a short reading from the book of Psalms, which contains so many cries and rejoicings of the heart. An amazing thing about following Christ is that we believe that our hearts are His instruments, not His enemies. The psalms are evidence of an honest heart given to God.

“Rise up, Lord, in your anger; be aroused against the outrages of my oppressors. Stir up the justice, my God, you have commanded.” (Ps 7:7)

“I keep the Lord always before me; with him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure.” (Ps 16:8-9)

“My soul too is shuddering greatly—and you, Lord, how long? […] I am wearied and sighing; all night long I drench my bed with tears; I soak my couch with weeping.” (Ps: 6:4,7)

The Book of Psalms is poetry of the heart—a doubting, searching, emotional, and very much human heart. But most importantly, a heart given to God. The most dangerous thing we can do is withhold something from God, even if that something is that we’re not sure He exists.

Know My Heart, Father

Psalm 139 says, “Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my thoughts.” I find verses like this especially helpful when I’m doubting or struggling to pray. No matter what’s going on in my life or how I’m feeling, I can always come back to this. I can always invite God into the mess and the void.

Some of my most treasured experiences in prayer have come from prayers like, “God, I don’t know if you’re even listening, but I’m going to talk to you anyway.”

“God, I’m such a mess I don’t understand how you could love me, but I promise to keep coming back to you.”

“God, I don’t love you, but I wish I did.”

Whether I’m on top of the world, a complete wreck, or anywhere in between, my Father wants my heart. He wants to hear all about the things that stress me out and keep me up at night. He wants to laugh along at the things that bring me joy. He wants to sit in the silence when I don’t have any words and just be with me. Christ died to tear the veil separating heaven and earth — to open the way for us to approach Him without fear. So be not afraid.

Anticipating the Symphony

Honest prayers are beautiful and necessary, because only a truly honest prayer is an authentic offering of our hearts to God.

C.S. Lewis said, “The tuning up of an orchestra can be itself delightful, but only to those who can in some measure, however little, anticipate the symphony.”

We can give Him our apathy, our questions, our frustrations, our desires with confidence because we can anticipate the symphony. That’s the gift of belonging to Christ. We can hear it in the silence and in the hymns; we see it in our brothers and our sisters. Above all, we see it in the Eucharist. We anticipate the symphony being written in our hearts—the one that’s been etched in God’s heart from eternity.

Your Father hears it, too. He hears it in our prayers, and He delights in the symphony that He is writing with us.

About the Author

Sophia Swinford

I'm a theology student at St. Mary's in London, but I'm still an Arizona girl at heart. I basically live off books, coffee, rainy days, and conversations about Jesus, who has stolen my heart and never given it back!