God knows our darkest, deepest thoughts. He knows the thoughts that we barely admit to ourselves, let alone to someone else.
Yet, prayer is about consciously voicing those thoughts to God. Our needs, dreams, desires, heart breaks. It's admitting our fallibility. It's admitting our ugliness and sinfulness-to ourselves and to God. Even though God already knows it all.
It's being honest. Vulnerable. No facades.
Prayer is getting down dirty to the nitty-gritty. To the real. That's why it is a discipline. Why it is hard work. It is moving past the surface requests, the rote phrases, the patterns. It is showing up empty handed before the God of the Universe.
Prayer is wrestling with God until we can say-no holds barred-Thy will be done. And really mean it.
Praying is a very intimate practice. Thus, it can be very hard to pray with someone-whether a friend or a spouse or a group. At least, I find it hard. It is hard to let down your guard when someone else can hear you. When they can see your tears and heart and struggles. Conversely, it almost feels like you are eavesdropping on someone else's private conversation when you are listening to them bare their heart to God.
It is much easier to settle on the surface requests. Safety. Provision. Tangible needs.
Maybe this is why so much group prayer has so little power. Because we aren't being honest with ourselves, let alone with anyone else, what our true needs are. We settle at praying for the surface stuff that really isn't rocking our world.
Is that _______ what's really keeping you up at night? Didn't think so!
The digging down and getting real with someone else (besides God) listening in? Well, that is awfully vulnerable and hard.
Confessing sin with someone listening? That's hard. Praying about character development with someone listening? That is humbling. Admitting that you are at the end of your rope and resources? That is vulnerable territory right there.
There is room in public prayer for genuine, hard work praying. There is room for this kind of praying when we cultivate safe places for honesty and vulnerability. A safe place for grace, vulnerability, no judgement, and discretion. Then, and only then, will we get far more real than only asking for prayer about things that have little bearing on our lives. Then we will be honest about our needs and pray fervently and earnestly for our own and others' needs.
We will vulnerably ask for prayer for strong marriages. For our love to increase. For pure hearts.
We will vulnerably ask for prayer for wisdom in parenting. For eyes to see what we should see. For grace and forgiveness for faults. For mercy and for consistency.
We will vulnerably ask for prayer for relationship issues. For humility and teachability.
I'm really in a rough spot right now, I don't know what to do, and I need prayer for direction. I need prayer for God's love to fill my heart. I need prayer for a forgiving heart.
This vulnerable honest soul baring praying should also include praying with our spouses. We must pray with our spouses. Why? Prayer knits our heart together with the one we are praying with and for. It takes work to set aside the time to pray. It takes work to pray about the real. But, the result is worth the work.
How are you working towards really praying with others?