Honest, Uncensored Prayers
Last summer, I was honored to be able to lead my church in an art activity where we wrote out, in invisible crayon, the prayers that we had been too ashamed of to bring before God.
We then made them visible with watercolor.
And then, together, pinned them to the cross.
So that project left me with a mass of watercolored pieces of paper with honest expressions of raw pain on them. What to do?
Make an art piece, of course! Here's the finished piece, with an explanation below:
This art board is two sided. One side has a picture of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and one side has a woman crying out to God in desperation.
The background is made up of "honest prayers" that my church community painted together and offered at the cross. It is meant to hang apart from the wall like a banner, so that the viewer can see both sides, depending on where they're standing.
Those honest prayers in the background touched my heart - I was amazed at how willing they were to be brutally honest and also how deep the pain was that they expressed. Many of them had some version of:
"Where are you, God?"
"Do you care?"
"You could have stopped this."
"So much pain.”
"Are you even there?"
I can relate. I’ve prayed many of these honest prayers, myself.
These honest prayers aren’t pretty, aren’t “Christian” in the way we like to think. And as such, depending on your conception of God (a glowing old man with a long white beard?!), many of us “sensor” our prayers according to what we think sounds holy and appropriate before him. But that’s not how Jesus prayed at all.
Listen to Jesus' prayer in the garden before his death on the cross. Jesus prayed something like, “please God, I know you want me to do this, but don’t let me go through this”, praying so desperately he sweat blood!
Because Jesus gave expression to his own heart's desires, we can be honest with our desires as well.
(And yes, as Jesus worked through his desires, he was able to end with “God, if this is what you’re asking me, I will trust and obey”. But he didn’t start with obedience, he started with honesty! This is relationship; God doesn’t want slaves.)
What I’m trying to show in this art piece is that Jesus can relate to our honest prayers.
In fact, that was one of the very reasons why he came to earth. He came as an expression from the very heart of God - an expression of love, of compassion, and of grief over this hurting world.
Maybe you feel discouraged that God seems to not hear or answer the honest prayer on your heart today. I would challenge you that he has and is answering today. The answer to our honest prayers, came in bodily form - God's own honest expression of himself in humanity. And it comes still in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
That may not be the answer you want or the answer you like, and I get that.
We want the pain to stop.
I believe that God also grieves over the pain we’re in. And as such, Jesus is called the “man of sorrows, familiar with grief” (Isaiah 53).
May you be comforted today, not because you live pain-free, healed of all sickness, and provided for in every need and desire… but let the comfort come from knowing that despite the pain and suffering, the loss and injustice, God has not abandoned you. He sees your pain, he values your tears, and he grieves alongside you.
He will heal. He will restore. He will set free! But until that beautiful ending comes, know that God is with you now, in the honesty, the mess, and the pain of today.
Comment: What's your honest prayer?