Growing closer to God.
I sit with a lot of people who say they want a deeper relationship with God but don’t know how. They want to have spiritual communion with the Creator, but they aren’t sure where to begin.
A few years ago Daniel and I sat down with a young woman who was trapped in drug addiction. I didn’t know if we could help her. I didn’t know if we’d ever see her again, but the one thing I could leave her with was an invitation to pray. She grew up “in church” but wept as she said, “I don’t know how.”
How do you pray? Maybe you do pray but feel like your prayers are faint. How can you make your prayer life deeper?
If you find yourself unable to pray, or unable to pray deeply, consider this: do you have a wrong concept of what prayer even is? I notice that some folks have a lot of preconceived, false ideas of prayer. One of those lies about prayer is that it has to be structured, formal, or verbose to attract God’s attention. What we are saying is, “I can’t come to God the way I am.” Let me tell you, God doesn’t want a polished version of you. He just wants the raw you poured out on His throne.
That’s all prayer is. It is nothing more than your heart poured out to God in words. I mean really poured out. The crazy thing is we don’t even have to come up with words.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. Romans 8:26-27
Now let’s look at one of the recorded prayers in the psalms. Max Lucado tweeted this, a while back and I still love it, “The Psalms give us permission to pound on God’s chest.” Oh do they ever give us permission to just wail on God.
Psalm 88 is pretty much nothing but pounding.
O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out to you by day. I come to you at night. Now hear my prayer; listen to my cry. For my life is full of troubles, and death draws near. I am as good as dead, like a strong man with no strength left. They have left me among the dead, and I lie like a corpse in a grave. I am forgotten, cut off from your care. You have thrown me into the lowest pit, into the darkest depths. Your anger weighs me down; with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
You have driven my friends away by making me repulsive to them. I am in a trap with no way of escape. My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for your help, O Lord; I lift my hands to you for mercy. Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead? Do the dead rise up and praise you?
Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness? O Lord, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day. O Lord, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face from me?
I have been sick and close to death since my youth. I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors. Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me. Your terrors have paralyzed me.
They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long. They have engulfed me completely.You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend.
I know there’s a lot of cute little acronyms out there to help you pray better, like “ACTS” (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication), but Psalm 88 is nothing but dumping on God. Sometimes I think we are afraid God can’t handle all of the negative emotions that clog us up inside. Trust me, He can.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that is all our prayer life should be. But if we can’t give God the ugly, we will never be able to give Him the rest of our heart. I have resigned to the fact that He can see all the garbage in me, so I am better off to just expose it myself. Like David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.”
So today, surrender yourself, the good, the bad, AND the ugly, to a God who desperately wants to hear from you.