Context: This blog had a rather unusual start in life. It began to arrive just as I was about to leave my hotel room early yesterday morning to walk the short distance to London City Airport. The words I was given were clearly an ending, so I hastily jotted them down, then set off, thinking no more about them.
At the airport, I had a very welcome breakfast, went to my gate and boarded the plane. Just as we were taking off, the beginning of this blog arrived, so I had to repeat it in my mind until the plane levelled out and I could reach for my iPad. By the time we landed, the first draft was largely complete. This is what I received:
You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).
I often find it impossible to say “Amen” to other people’s prayers, to join in with printed responses during services, and to sing congregational hymns. This is because:
- I don’t agree with what is being asked for, or said.
- A prayer or hymn doesn’t speak for me, or doesn’t express what is in my heart at the time.
- The language used is formal, grand or flowery: that’s not how I talk to God.
- The prayers or hymns are too long for me to take in, or to make my own.
- The person leading the prayers speaks so quietly that I can’t tell what they are saying.
- The prayers are said so impersonally, or so quickly, that they seem devoid of meaning.
Reflecting on these reservations helped me to draw up a list of personal aims:
- To pray because I want to, rather than because I think I ought to.
- To pray for those who come to mind, rather than working my way through a list of those I feel I should include.
- Not saying “Amen” to prayers I don’t agree with, instead quietly sharing with God that I don’t concur.
- Not joining in with hymns whose words don’t speak for me.
- Not ignoring, overriding, hiding, or suppressing my hurts, irritations, disappointments, anger, judgements, fears etc. Rather, I aim to be honest about them, facing their truth squarely with God, who knows exactly what is in my mind and heart.
- Not pretending to feel other than how I actually feel. Rather, I aim pray about how I’m really feeling, and what I’m really thinking.
- Not saying what I think God wants to hear.
- Facing up to things I’ve got wrong and asking God to help me put them right.
- Avoiding grand or flowery language, instead praying simply and honestly, like a child.
- Not worrying about how short or long my prayers are, as long as they’re honest, genuine and heartfelt.
In conclusion, I aim to follow my golden rule:
Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me (Psalm 139:1; NLT).
As for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts (Jeremiah 12:3; NLT).
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord (Psalm 139:4; NLT).
Today’s reading: Matthew 6:7-13; NLT
When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles. They think God will hear them if they use a lot of words. Don’t imitate them. Your God knows what you need before you ask it.
This is how you are to pray: ‘Abba God in heaven, hallowed be your name! May your reign come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: give us today the bread of Tomorrow.
And forgive us our debts, as we hereby forgive those who are indebted to us. Don’t put us to the test, but free us from evil.’
NB: I can say “Amen” to this without reservation, apart from disliking some of the punctuation!