Have you ever sat down to pray and instantly felt so inadequate that you’d rather be doing anything else? Because I have. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve set aside just five minutes to pray, and thirty seconds in, I’m already checking the time and thinking about everything on my to-do list. I know that that isn’t how my prayers should be, and I’ve always struggled to cultivate a vibrant prayer life. As I began to study prayer more, I quickly realized that one of the things stopping me from enjoying talking with God was that I felt like I had to be perfect before I could come to Him. Maybe you have to. Why do we try to hide ourselves and our mess from God? We try to play this cosmic game of hide and seek, but what we forget is that we’re trying to hide from someone who’s all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. That’s like a child hiding in the middle of the living room with their eyes squeezed shut because if they can’t see you, then you can’t see them.
We’ve gotten so good at hiding and disguising ourselves because that’s what society has told us to do. They said don’t let people know that they get to you, so we pushed down everything that shows that we were anything but happy. They told you to be your own hero, so we locked our hurt and pain away because we felt that we couldn’t be brave if we were broken. They said, here are some amazing people you should be like, so we packed the unique parts of ourselves into boxes and stuffed them into closets to fit in with everyone else. Over time, we’ve learned to be chameleons in a world that tells us to be different but not too different. And we try to translate that over into our prayer lives, only showing up in our Sunday best and with carefully curated words. All in the hopes that this polished version of ourselves will make God happy. But He doesn’t want white-washed tombs; He wants dirty fingernails, bed head, and morning breath. God wants our midnight tears and our Saturday smiles. He wants every part of us because He loves every part of us. And He wants us to bring every part of our lives before Him in prayer
For a long time, I’ve struggled with feeling like my prayers didn’t make a difference. I felt like my words got caught up in the constellations instead of making their way to God’s ears. So I tried various prayer methods, but all I ended up doing was bringing only the most beautiful words and sanitized emotions in the hopes that that would make my prayers more pleasing to the Lord. What I always forget is that God already knows what’s going on inside my head, and He knows the deepest cries of my heart. I can’t hide anything from Him, yet I act like a child trying to hide the cookies even though the crumbs are all over the room. And all of those dressed-up prayers never made me feel any closer to God. If anything, they caused me to feel farther away because I felt like I had to hide what was going on in my life from the one person that I was told would always be there no matter what. Fancy words and dressed-up requests are only there to make us look better to the people around us. Those things don’t sway or impress the Lord. He’s not after eloquent phrases; He wants a relationship with us, which means that He wants every messy part that comes along with that. God’s not afraid of our mess and our mumbled words; He holds all of them in His hands like precious gems because they come from His beloved children.
There are times when I’m praying that I stop halfway through a sentence because I’ve forgotten the word that I’m looking for, or I lose my train of thought. And do I take a meaningful pause to try to get it back quietly? Nope. Mid-prayer I’ll say, “Well Lord, I seem to have lost where I was going. My bad, but you know what I meant.” And then I’ll continue, usually as silent smirks pull at the faces of those around me. At first, these “un-prayerful” sentences would make me feel self-conscious like I was less of a Christian because of them. But now I see them as an opportunity to bring my messy, forgetful self before the Lord with all pretenses gone. Just me and my Father, having a conversation.
So put away the ideas you have in your head of how you’re supposed to pray or how the people around you expect you to sound. Come out of hiding because God already sees you. He wants to have an open, honest, and real conversation with you, not one that only sounds nice to those around you. Dig into the Psalms and the other prayers in the Bible; read them, learn from them, soak in them, and use them when your own words fail you. I feel like we’ve made prayer this big scary thing that only the most spiritual of us can do well. But the truth is that every one of us can learn how to have a conversation. We do it every day with the people in our lives, and with practice, we can learn to do it with the Lord as well. So lean in, and start getting real with God so that He can get real with you.