Small Thoughts on Prayer

Prayer as a conversation between God and us is a common idea. This personal dialogue is often spoken of as a gift. Indeed, the promise of prayers heard, cared for and answered by the Creator is beyond measure. Wrapped in this talk also is the commonly emphasized bidirectional nature of a conversation; that is to highlight our responsibility to participate by speaking and listening. These ideas provide a great illustration for engaging in a lifestyle of prayer. It also allows us to critically evaluate how we relate to God in this way.

We can compare our conversations with others to our talks with God. This helps us find patterns or similarities in the way we communicate. It can also reveal strengths and weaknesses. Specific to prayer, this comparison can demonstrate how well we allow God to be in conversation with us. The many elements of a conversation (i.e. active listening, engagement, silence, etc) are all a part of what is valued in prayer.

Unfortunately, many will probably have to confess to their own limitations in a conversation with another person. Safe to say, there are times we don't listen well to what the other is saying, or we are preoccupied with our own part of the conversation. There are times we would rather not listen to someone else. Depending on the topic, or person, we may sometimes feel we cannot be honest about what we are feeling or what our opinions are. How do these feelings pour into our conversations with God? If we struggle with these issues with others, how much more difficult is it to struggle with God? Can we be honest with God? Is the comparison between God and others even fair?

Honesty in prayer is a pivotal building block of a healthy prayer life. God has dealt truthfully with us—if we have learned to listen. It is in our honesty we are able to confront, overcome or establish what our spiritual needs really are. How can there be a list of acceptable emotions we are able to present to God? What doesn't He already know? The Psalms represent many of the feelings we face, even in our modern world. Our ancient brethren knew how to openly present everything about themselves to their God. Being honest with God and allowing God to be honest with us can be perceived in the words of the psalmist who asked, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).

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