“God, we need you. Like, real bad.”
Those incredibly eloquent words are written on the page of my journal today. Sometimes prayer is a love song, sometimes a battle cry, and sometimes a desperate call for help. For me, it can be all of the above in a span of five minutes.
Prayer isn’t always pretty. It’s not a neat and tidy list that starts with “God bless…” I mean, maybe sometimes. But not for me, most of the time. In fact, my closest loved ones have strict instructions that if I die young, my children are absolutely NOT to see my journals until they are 21. My prayers are not exactly PG rated.
And let’s be honest, neither is scripture. That’s not real life. Real life on this broken and weary planet comes with violence and oppression and suffering and four-letter words. It comes with screaming and wailing and death. Just look at David’s prayers in the Psalms.
I love those words. God was not content to stand by and watch his children suffer. God is not passive–God cares deeply. He cared so much he came among us to experience the heartache we feel, the gut-wrenching pain and the agony, and even death. And then….
God won the victory over all the screwed-up and the broken-down, and his life is breaking through the darkness, little by little. “God’s kingdom is like a mustard seed,” Jesus said. Smaller than all other seeds, yet it grows into a plant where even birds can make their nest. If we look for it, we’ll find it. God’s beautiful, surprising, marvelous kingdom is coming among us, and we are the privileged witnesses to it.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Our prayers are one of the many vehicles God often uses to bring his kingdom now. God’s glorious, full-of-hope future is breaking into our dim and dreary present, many times through our own prayers. God’s ways are higher than mine, and the way he works is still a wondrous mystery to me, but I’ve seen him use prayer countless times.
More often than not, God needs to bring his kingdom in me before he brings it in my situation, and he does that through prayer. When I pray for someone, God usually changes my heart towards them, causing me to see them through the lens of his love. When I pray for circumstances, he almost always changes my perspective on them. And the new perspective is always infused with his wisdom and hope.
If you don’t know how to pray, you’re in good company. Jesus’ disciples didn’t either, so they asked him to teach them. This is the prayer he gave them:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.”
If that’s too much for you, start with “thank you.” Or simply, “Help.” God can’t resist a humble heart (James 4:6), so just be brave enough to ask for help. That’s the first step toward trust. And if he tells you something, believe it. That’s what he calls “righteousness” (James 2:23). And if you’re angry, that’s ok too. You can tell him. David did. Once, when I lost someone I dearly loved, God said to me, “I’d rather you run to me throwing punches than stand at a distance.” God is big enough for our natural human emotions. It’s ok. And he is good. He can be trusted. I have a lifetime of proof.
“Oh, my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”
–King David (Psalm 62:8)
So if you’re full of joy today, pray. If you’re full of sorrow today, pray. If your heart is broken today, pray. If you’re soaring in celebration today, pray. Pray all the time, in every emotion and circumstance, without stopping. Pour out your heart to God, and watch him bring his glorious kingdom.