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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Honest Prayer

September 13th, 2008

It was the most honest prayer request I’ve ever heard voiced in a church service.

Marcelle and Oscar were a wonderful elderly couple in my church back in Chandler, Arizona. Their story was storybook. They met and married overseas during the war. She was a singer and performer in the USO, entertaining the troops and sharing the stage with people like Bob Hope. Oscar was an Air Force man. To look through their scrapbook is to see a glimpse of the honor and service to country that defined the “greatest generation”.

When I met them for the first time they had been married about 50 years. Marcelle would smile and laugh and hug you. Oscar would greet you and shake your hand in the parking lot where you’d find him leaning on his oxygen tank, finishing off a cigarette. They were absolutely delightful people and dearly loved.

On this particular Sunday Pastor Duane asked the congregation to share any prayer requests they might have. Marcelle, by this time using a walker to get around, labored to her feet. In her French accent, she said…

“Please pray that I will stop bitching at Oscar.”

Once everyone got past the “did someone just say “bitching” in church?” I’d lay dollars to doughnuts that everyone who heard Marcelle’s request were silently saying “Amen!”.Why? Because it was an honest request. Happily married for nearly five decades, they were still two imperfect human beings dealing with one another’s quirks and indiosyncrasies. Marcelle was just keeping it real.

I absolutely loved Marcelle’s request. It was honest. It’s where every married couple lives at one time or another. Some might argue there was a better way to say it. A kinder, gentler way, perhaps. Maybe “please pray that I be more patient in my marriage”. That communicates, I suppose.

Kind of.

Sort of.

Maybe.

But…

“…pray that I will stop bitching at my husband”?

That preaches.

People who live in the real world can relate to that. Someone once asked Billy Graham’s wife Ruth if she’d ever considered divorce. She answered, “Divorce? Never. Murder? Often.”

Honest prayer. What does it look like? If we take our finger off the edit key and really pray our heart, does it have any resemblance to what we hear in church on a Sunday morning? (Marcelle’s example, notwithstanding.)

A couple weeks ago during worship our Praise Band was leading with a song called “Enough”. The lyrics, in part, say, “All of You (God) is more than enough for all of me…”In the middle of the song I picked up my journal and with a black rollerball scrawled, “What’s going on inside of me when all of God isn’t enough?”

Then the conditioned Christian part of me wondered, “Is that too honest? Is that too brazen? To wonder, out loud on paper in the middle of worship, if God really is enough?” In that moment the thought that God is more than enough was butting hard against my apparent glaring needs and desperate long-prayed prayers still unanswered.

Is it ever appropriate to say, “God, right now, you don’t seem like enough.”?

Is there such a thing as being too honest in prayer? Is it appropriate to censor ourselves? Or is that folly in the face of an omniscient God? As if we can hit the backspace or delete button when we think we’ve said too much or said it too harshly. Where’s the line between remembering we are talking to a perfect holy God and pouring out our heart?

Or could it be that because He is the perfect holy God, there’s no line to worry about?

Jeremiah, the Lamenter, penned one of the most visceral lines in all of Scripture when he cried, “He (God) has broken my teeth with gravel; He has made me cower in the dust. My soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. So I say, “My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:16-18)

In that moment, Jeremiah is not singing “all of God, is more than enough for all of me.” He’s saying, “I feel like God’s pushed my face in the dirt and I’ve come up with a mouth full of rocks. I’m miserable. I’ve got nothing left in the tank and I’m done hoping God will ever help me.”

Ever feel that way?

Or, better question, ever feel that way and tell God you feel that way?

What’s your prayer request? What is it that you want to tell God?

Whatever it is, remember Marcelle’s example.

Be honest.

And keep it real.

“As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He (God) will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me…Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” – Psalm 55:16-18, 22

 

  Todd A. Thompson – www.ASliceOfLifeToGo.com