I've been thinking about prayer this week, and how much my prayers have changed as I've grown closer to the One I love. Both in Trinity's (@ trinityomaha) Sunday morning service last week and in Hearts (@heartsomaha) this past Tuesday, we've been discussing the concept of going from "familiar" to "follower".
Thank God we live in the US, where we have the liberty to become as "familiar" with Christianity as we like! We are free to attend the church of our choosing on any given day of the week, we are free to openly discuss religion at Starbucks or Village Inn, and we are free to read a Bible, or the Koran, or the Communist Manifesto. We have freedom to familiarize ourselves with whatever ideology we please. And I'm grateful for that! I believe that God intends for us to seek Him, not have Him forced upon us by a government.
But I came to a point where familiar was suffocating, and "civilized religion" (as Erwin McManus calls it) became a cage. It was placid and static and life-stealing. I was surrounded by hypocrisy and noise. Eventually, I just tuned it out and let it blend into the background, like a bad commercial or paid programming. It wasn't until I became so desperate for God - so barbaric in my need for Him - that my relationship moved from "familiar" to "follower". At the time, I didn't fully realize that it was God I was searching for, but I was uncontrolled inside, like an animal clawing for something with a frenzied desperation. It was a hunger that drove me to one hundred different ends, but eventually, I found what I was looking for. Well, I should say, He found me.
I don't know what the journey from "familiar" to "follower" looks like for others. I feel like God has to be kinda loud with me because I can be so strong-headed. :) But I was thinking about how all of this related to prayer. I used to say to God what I thought He wanted to hear. Now please understand me, I believe there are many occasions where we use another's words in a prayer in an act of reverence or to be guided when we don't know what to say. In corporate prayer, especially, there must be thought and theology applied. I'm talking about personal, "prayer closet" time. Sometimes, on those occasions, our hearts need to cry out from the core of our beings and our minds need to take a break while the Holy Spirit inside of us intercedes.
If I was upset, I'd dumb things down in talking to God. I'd go through the ACTS model and make sure that I adored, confessed, and thanked before getting down to what I really felt. And usually, by the time I got to the supplication part, I felt stupid for asking anyway. This was, of course, because I was in the land of the familiar. I didn't understand who God is or how He sees me.
I am not a theologian or a Bible scholar. I don't claim to know much more than anything at all! But I'm looking at today's scripture and this verse rips my heart out:
Matthew 27: 45-46
"From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?" -- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
The commentary in my amazing Study Bible is strangely quiet about this. For good reason. I've heard many, many sermons preached on these two verses. I don't claim to have the "right" answers to this weighty passage. Here's what I do know: Jesus lived and died and never sinned. (1 Peter 2:22) Regardless of the multi-layered implications of this final, audible prayer of Jesus Christ, we know that He was not found "guilty" in screaming this from the cross.
Without going deeper, here is my one thought... Can we be so candid with our God? I, unlike Jesus Christ, am a sinner. I know it, God knows it, the world knows it! So why am I so afraid to say the "wrong" thing to God? He knows my heart - he knows my thoughts. Can't I just be honest? Because sometimes, when life hurts the most, or I am the most troubled or confused, I don't want to ask for peace and wisdom and favor. I want to ask the impossible questions like Christ did on the cross. Regardless of whether the premise of my prayer lines up with the doctrine I hold fast to be true, if it's what I'm thinking and feeling in the moment, I am not allowing God entry into my reality if I am not willing to be honest.
In my journey from "familiar" to "follower", I noticed that my prayers (for the most part, not ALL of them) went from "let these gifts to us be blessed" to "Abba... thank you. Abba... help me. God, WHY?" And it opened up a world of conversation that I never knew existed.
He already knows. He does. The only person I was conning was myself.
What is your perfect prayer?