Keep it real
Jesus invites us to keep prayer simple and also to keep it real. The Bible is full of honest, gritty prayers that are deep expressions of the heart. Sometimes these honest moments become our most important prayers.
One dark night, when my wife, Sammy, was in hospital awaiting brain surgery and long before we knew for sure that she was going to survive, my friend, Dan, kindly came to pray with me.
"Lord, if this is your time to take Sammy home," Dan ventured at last, articulating my deepest dread, "would you please give Pete strength to bear the unbearable?" It can’t have been an easy thing to pray. It was a faithful and biblical thing to ask, but I was having none of it. "No deal," I said, interrupting without apology. "No way, God. Over my dead body!" I was out of my chair, pacing the room. "If you’re planning to take my wife from me, if you’re planning to take a mum from her two little boys, well, you’re going to have to fight me for her."
Dan looked nervous but I didn’t care.
"And you’re going to have to find someone else to do your PR in future too," I continued. "I resign. I quit. I’m not going around telling people you’re good if you don’t prove it to me now." Tears were streaming down my cheeks. "God, I just don’t care what your will is. Let me tell you what my will is: I want my wife to live. I want our boys to know their mum. And if her name is up there on some celestial wall-planner, if she’s destined to die of this thing, then what I want, what I need, is for you to sort it out."
I was almost howling my pain while poor Dan just sat there, probably wondering whether it was OK to say ‘Amen’ to this kind of irreverence.
It was one of the most honest prayers I’d ever prayed. For a while I was embarrassed about the way I’d tried to pick a fight that night with God, ashamed that I hadn’t been trusting enough, or was holy enough to echo the magnificent submission of Jesus in his darkest hour: not my will but yours be done.
But then, one day, the Lord showed me very gently that, in fact, he had cherished my willingness to fight for Sammy’s life because he loves her, too. That he wouldn’t have expected me to do anything less. That he himself had begged the Father "take this cup from me", before he managed the other bit.
Pete's deeply moving story reminds us of the importance of being honest and real with God. As we pray today, let’s spend some time telling God what is really on our hearts.
God, thank you that you are not scared away by the real me. Thank you that instead you welcome it, inviting me deeper into intimacy with you. Please help me be real with you today.