I’ve been mulling over what I heard from Chris Brooks at Kairos tonight. He spoke from Luke 18:9-14 about two men who went to the temple and offered two vastly different prayers to God.
One was very devout. He said all the right words and spoke out of a life that was consumed with faithfulness and devotion. He went above and beyond the minimum requirement. In terms of what most people look for, he was the model picture of faith. But God didn’t heed his prayer.
The other was a scoundrel. He knew it. His prayer was less of an exercise in devotion and more of a cry from the core of his being, almost a primal scream. “Have mercy on me, a sinner,” was his repeated refrain and his anguish took the form of beating his own chest while echoing a mantra of desperation. His is the prayer God heeded.
I’ve been guilty of trying to impress God with flowery language and pious phrases when what He really looked for from my prayers was transparency and honesty. What He longed for from me was my soul laid bare and my deepest sighs and groans laid at His feet.
I’m still figuring out the whole prayer thing. A lot of the time I feel like I’m praying to the ceiling, airing out my laundry list of wants and needs, and reciting rote words that sound and feel hollow and empty.
Sometimes, the best prayers are the shortest. A lot of the prayers that moved Jesus to action were less than ten words– “Have mercy on me, Son of David,” “I belief, help my unbelief,” “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
What matters most is not what you say or don’t say to God, but an attitude of confession and repentance with a heart willing to listen and to obey whatever Jesus asks.
What matters more than what we pray or when we pray or how we pray is that we pray. I believe God honors the earnest prayer offered in faith, even if the words aren’t right (or even if there are no words at all).