Posted by: Philip Rushton | July 2, 2012

Putting Honesty Back In Our Prayers

If you have been following our Psalm prayer schedule this past week, you have probably noticed that there have already been a lot of Psalms of lament. David does not hold back in his prayers. He is honest about the brokenness of our world and the pain he experiences. In fact over half of the Psalms include lament.

This is an aspect of our prayer life that I think we need to talk about. Sometimes I think we make prayer to ‘pious’ or ‘religious.’ We live in a Christian culture that seems to suggest that we must be joyful at all times. We must put on a front that everything is okay. The Psalms call us to something deeper. They call us to be honest about the hard things in life.  This coming week I will be preaching on Psalm 13, which is a Psalm that focuses on lament.  In preparation for Sunday I came across this helpful quote by Walter Brueggeman.

Brueggeman writes:

“Note that the Psalms thus proposes to speak about human experience in an honest, freeing way. This is in contrast to much human speech and conduct, which is in fact a cover-up. In most arenas where people live, we are expected and required to speak the language of safe orientation and equilibrium, either to find it so or to pretend we find it. For the normal, conventional functioning of public life, the raw edges of disorientation must be denied or suppressed for the purposes of public equilibrium. As a result, our speech is dulled and mundane. Our passion has been stilled and is without imagination.”

How do you respond to the lament Psalms?  What gets in the way of you experiencing this type of freedom and honesty in your spiritual journey?  What do we stand to gain by allowing for honesty to prevail?

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Responses

  1. I identify with speaking “the language of safe orientation and equilibrium” that Brueggeman writes about when I talk with people at church. Usually when people ask, “How are you?” I say I’m fine and show a happy face, when I may actually be hurting on the inside. From my perspective, there may be times when this is not really hypocritical, because in the brief moments we have before or after the service, I don’t have time to give much of the details of why things are going poorly. I also don’t want to share my “dirty laundry” with everyone because it may involve other people’s privacy (e.g. why I beat my spouse – just kidding). I also put on the happy face because, despite current personnel problems, I truly am happy in His many blessings, such as knowing that Jesus gives me grace, He knows and cares about my problems, I’m going to heaven, etc. And I’m happy knowing the believer I’m greeting shares these same blessings.

    A key tenet of God’s Kingdom is putting others needs before our own, so we need to be quick to listen to the cares of others and slower to bring up ours. On the other hand, we can become unbalanced if we are so “spiritual” that we never tell anyone our needs or complaints. I can’t remember Jesus healing or helping anyone without someone first asking for help (maybe not Zacheus?) Which brings me to my main point, I believe we need to find one or a few people we can trust to share our needs with. I’ve been fortunate to meet regularly with a prayer partner to share my joys, disappointments, struggles and doubts who will keep them confidential if needed. There have also been several people in my Sunday School class that I’ve felt free to be more open with after class. For others it may be in Bible studies or small groups.

    In summary, I feel it’s important to be candid and honest in our laments both to God and to a few trusted friends.

  2. “From my perspective, there may be times when this is not really hypocritical, because in the brief moments we have before or after the service, I don’t have time to give much of the details of why things are going poorly. I also don’t want to share my “dirty laundry” with everyone because it may involve other people’s privacy.”

    Well said Stan! You provide some helpful discernment around how and when to voice our laments. I agree that there are certain situations where it is inappropriate to go into the details of our lives. I think you are right in suggesting that this works best in a smaller setting.


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