Praying from Where You Are: Letting Our Experiences and Emotions Fuel Our Prayers

2014-11-13 13.14.09Many of us struggle with prayer. We struggle with what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and so much more. One of the most common concerns we face with prayer is whether it is okay to simply bring who we are from right where we are to God. Another way to say it is: can I be real with God in prayer?

The answer to this question is definitive: yes.

In prayer, it is always good to take our cues from what we find in Scripture. With this question, I would encourage us to take our cues from the Psalms and from Jesus. The Psalms are filled with expressions of the full range of emotions and human experience. Consider just a few examples of this:

  • agony (Psalm 22)
  • isolation (27:10)
  • joy (28:7)
  • repentance (51)
  • suffering (55:3)
  • yearning (63:1)
  • rejection (85:5)
  • abounding praise (150)

All 150 psalms reflect the range of human emotion and experience in ways that are both affirming and instructive.

Jesus also reflects a range of emotions in prayer. Whether it is his angst before Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:35) or his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane before the Cross (Luke 22:39-44), Jesus prays from the reality of His experience.

While we can argue that both writers of the Psalms and Jesus do not let their emotions or experiences control them, at the same time they allow their emotions and experiences to be a valid starting point and fuel for their prayers.

As I often like to say, there is nothing you can throw at God that He cannot handle. So, let us bring our real selves in the real presence of God in prayer. Do not hold back, but allow your emotions and experiences to lead you beyond yourself and into the transforming presence of the God who is there.

Obedience to Christ and Experience of Christ (part 2)

The second part of Jesus’ statement in John 14:21 reveals that obedience and love for Christ impact two other parts of our spiritual life. Our love for Christ becomes tangible on the pathway of obedience to Christ. That pathway of obedience leads to the love of the Father for us. Now, we know that God’s love is not dependent upon us and our obedience. But our experience of God is tied to our love for God.

As the next part of Jesus’ statement makes clear, our love for Christ leads not only to an experience of Christ’s love for us, but also His revelation of Himself to us. Obedience is a key element toward seeing Jesus.

Do we want to see Jesus more clearly in our everyday lives? Do we want Jesus to show Himself to us? Then we should begin in obedience. In a Scripture I referenced earlier, we hear it this way:

Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them. (John 14:23)

Our experience of God will grow as we choose the path of obedience.