The issue of prayer is not prayer. The issue of prayer is God. (Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel)
I read that this morning…
That’s a heavy way to start the day.
How much do the words we speak (or sing, for that matter) reveal our true beliefs about God?
I think more than we realize.
Or how about this: how much do the words we avoid speaking reveal our true beliefs about God?
My wife and I are constantly debating this, but when I read the Bible—and especially the Old Testament—I see people boldly praying to God, even to the point of arguing and bartering with Him. At the very least, they aren’t afraid to be honest. Some of my favorite “honest” prayers are recorded in the Psalms, like this one:
O God, do not be silent!
Do not be deaf.
Do not be quiet, O God.
Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies? (Psalm 83:1-2)
This is a gentle one, but Asaph isn’t afraid to basically tell God to wake up and see what’s going on.
At first glance, we tend to think that these words are more pious than they appear to be; that Asaph is calmly reciting words that don’t really mean what we think they mean.
But then we read some of Jesus’ words on prayer:
‘There was a judge in a certain city,’ he said, ‘who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, “Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.” The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!”
Jesus said that.
The implication is that we are free to be honest, passionate, and even a little bit brash in our prayers.
Where does this passion come from?
- belief in our cause
- belief in the character of the judge
Jesus goes on to ask that if this judge—who was lacking in love and justice—could eventually respond to this woman, how much more would God respond to us?
Returning to Psalm 83, it’s easy to see the tension we live in. Though we might be afraid that God is being silent, or not hearing, or even somehow unaware of our situation, we don’t need to be afraid of His character that invites us to persevere in coming to Him.
The upside-down logic in this is that if I stop asking someone to act on something that is important to me, it’s because
- I no longer believe that it’s important
- I no longer believe that the person cares
- I no longer believe that person is capable of acting on my behalf
When you think about it this way, the brash honesty of Asaph, or Abraham, or Jesus is actually a radical statement of faith in the capacity of God to care for His children (not to mention His graciousness to allow them to come in honesty and freedom).
Are there areas in your life where you have “stopped knocking”?