“Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.”
— J.C. Ryle (1816–1900)
“For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.”
— 2 Corinthians 5:2 (NRSV)
It is no coincidence that the suffering the apostle Paul went through, as he shares with the Corinthians his suffering, is a shimmering testimony of the faithfulness of God to come alongside. The more suffering we bear, the more we shall be blessed by this knowledge of God’s atoning faithfulness, as strength and compassion are grown from within us, all the more, as we groan.
There are those given to all types of tempestuous longings regarding the heavenly dwelling; those, who for many reasons, that find life so tough, just now, their prayers are slinking utterances, full of numbed nothingness, with no possible words to describe what is being dealt with.
Suffering and pain are not the only states that render us ineffective to vocal prayer.
Many of us, if we were asked, would say we are woeful at prayer; that we are nervous in prayer or even ashamed to pray, especially publically. There is no sermon-preacher within, and we feel our words are useless, even a betrayal of God.
But we must remain convinced of the truth that belies these fears.
Approaching and Then Believing in the Truth
Perhaps the biggest betrayal we must deal with is a betrayal of ourselves.
We lure ourselves into a trap because we like to castigate ourselves about our inadequacies, in this case, prayer. We would rather criticise ourselves than deal with another’s criticism, but the reality is we cannot see another person’s praise when we can only see our own criticism.
As soon as we can contemplate the truth—that eloquent prayers and fine diction do not please God—and that simply being a needy human being qualifies us for God’s care—we suddenly understand what we don’t need highfalutin prayers. Indeed, such prayers just get in the way of real intimacy with God. Such prayers are motivated by comparisons with other human beings; they are not about pleasing God.
The best of prayers is nothing about what we bring to it, but everything about what God does through us in our prayer.
Fancy prayers of eloquent diction God does not desire. The prayers God honours most are those devoted to silence, the humble recognition of our need; those prayers that accept our spoken words often betray our truer hearts. In prayer, we must let the heart speak, at times, through indecipherable means.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.