Sunday, September 9, 2012

No More Prayer-as-Usual . . .

Someday I think I might write a book entitled Everything I Need to Know About Authentic Prayer I Learned From My Moody Fifth-Grader. I never have to guess how Jaden is feeling toward me; when he’s angry, it isn’t a mystery. When he’s sad or disappointed or any other variation of bummed-out, he says so. I’m sure he may become more and more enigmatic as puberty moves in like an intrusive houseguest over the next few years, but for now, Jaden still seems to want me to know when he’s upset. And why? Because I’m his parent -- and while I seem to become less cool by the day in his opinion, he still believes on some level that I am capable of kissing his (emotional) boo-boos.

Motherhood has helped me, over the years, to understand Father God just a little bit better. I am now better able to identify with Him as “parent” – as One who allows circumstances to befall me, allows life to happen to me in all its complexity, so that I will learn and grow and develop character, etc. But don’t be too impressed; that’s a very tidy description of a very messy process.

Unconsciously taking a few pointers from my ten-year-old and his shameless emotional transparency when in distress,  I guess I’ve changed up my prayer life a bit in recent weeks. For many years, somewhat unknowingly, I had adhered to a respectful, albeit formulaic, method of communication with God, most often probably adhering to the A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) structure that so many of us were taught in Sunday School. And while I believe it’s important to praise and confess and enter into God’s presence with gratitude, I guess I just . . . had enough. I had to get real. Truth? It hasn’t been pretty.

And I thank God for that. Seriously. Because I think I’m finally catching on about what it means to approach Him as a child, just as Jaden approaches me – and it is far less polite than prayer-as-usual. When my kid has an issue – especially an issue with me – he walks right in and lays it out on the table, daring me to do something about it. And yes, he’s ten, and some of his approach might have to do with a ten-year-old’s capacity for impulse control. But nevertheless, it’s honest – and that’s what I want to be. In fact, at this point in my journey, I don’t feel like I can afford to be anything less.

Prayers lately look like this: “God, where were You when . . .?” and “How could You . . . ?” and even “How dare You . . . ?” Bold, I know. Shocking? Not to my Father. He knows me. He knows what is really in my heart and on my mind, ugly as it is sometimes. And he welcomes my outbursts. He can work with brutal honesty. It’s the pious politeness – censorship, really – that ties His hands. He won’t force me to get real with Him. He receives me as I come to Him, He listens as I spout off my pre-cleaned, sanitized sentiments, seeing my heart all the while – and He waits. For me to lose the mask. For me to get real. Maybe even for me to get mad.

I often hear women say to me, “I’m really mad at God, and I know that’s wrong.” Whoa. Hold the phone; where’d we get that idea? Read the Psalms. David was one emotional dude; the Psalms read like a rapid-cycling bipolar diary. And yet we read that David was a man after God’s own heart. God was especially fond of David – and I suspect that it was his emotional transparency that God found so endearing. He was mad at God a lot – and he never really pulled any punches or minced any words. And now we have this amazing chronicle of one man’s journey with God, and it gives us permission, in a way, to get real. Or, at least, it does  for me.

So, here it is, shocking or not: I’m mad at God. For a lot of things. I’m disappointed. I’m confused. I disagree with Him on several points, and we’re duking it out, Him and me.

A friend asked me yesterday, with narrowed eyes and furrowed brow: “How are you doing, really?” And I answered her slowly, carefully: “I am wrestling with God. And it’s . . . okay. It’s a worthy struggle.” 

And I think  . . . I think I really believe that. I’d rather be shaking my fist at God, fully relying on the unlimited access I’ve been granted through Jesus, than to be poised and proper, hands folded into a very prim, pretty, tightly-clasped lie. Truth is, things between God and me are not all that smooth right now. There’s some tension. There’s disagreement. The air is not yet clear. But, we are on speaking terms. No more silent treatment. It’s raw, it’s ugly, and it doesn’t feel good. I feel out of control.

And that's something He can work with.


  1. I'm not one to "shake my fist" at God (never have, probably because of the way I was raised), BUT I SURE DO SHAKE MY FIST AT THE EVIL ONE (probably because of the way I was raised), who goes by the name of Satan to me (probably because of the way I was raised). And when I do, I sense God with me, shaking HIS ALL-POWERFUL fist at the evil one too. . . :-)

  2. thanks for posting this, It's really interesting, I have a hard time praying around others. I had been made fun of because according to my brother, I pray like a child, his exact term "like a 2 year old". So when I have to pray with others, it's like performing, I feel like I have to pray in a certain way, with words that are not me in reality. In my life I am just straight and to the point in everything I do, I am just real and honest with people, my family and also God. I am thankful I can just be myself and talk to God and express how I am feeling honestly. I don't have to feel like I am performing. I will let God know when I hate things, when I am angry that my grandma's sick, But I also let him know I am thankful for him and other things. it's been a 5 years and I know as the days, weeks and months go on and I deal with death and grief, I will be angry,sad etc but I know that I can just go to God with anything. I always do even if I can't pray like others think I should. I also know that it's important to be real. I had once been told by my grandma about 10 years ago "I was not allowed to be angry at God, and that God would punish me for feeling that way". My mom went to her and told her never to tell me again that I can't be honest with God and if I am angry at him, I am allowed to be. I am thankful we can let God know when are upset with him, disappointed, sad..etc. He knows everything we are going through anyway, he knows when are having a hard time with him, with others, with life in general. He knows when we are doing well. We need to be able to be real. The way I talk to God isn't a prayer you would hear in a prayer group, but it doesn't have to be. I have often started out with "God, I hate this, I don't like what's going on, help me" or a simple "please fix this" or even "I don't know what to do", is all that can come out at times. But the thank you's and praise has their times also. God knows this, this is how he created me, to be real. If I can't be real with the creator of the universe, who knows everything about me, then who can I be real with?

  3. Becoming a parent shifted my view of God as well and deepened my understanding of 'God IS Love'. I saw my love for my child influence my responses, for his good, and a light bulb went on- tough love took on new meaning. Now I see that transparency is always better than playing nice.Truth really does set us free.