Real Prayer…

“Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts; make me, therefore, to know wisdom in my inmost heart.

Psalm 51:8 (JPS Tanakh version)

“Thou desirest truth…” The truth is this: we are all broken, marred and misshapen by sin, and we need not only to be rescued from the mess we’re in, but to be remade.

Jesus came not only to save us, but also to heal our brokenness, to grant us a new start, a new life: to make us “new creations.” He can and will do this for us (indeed, it is His greatest desire). However, we are required to humbly open ourselves to receive what He desires to give us and do for us. He respects our freedom, and so He offers us His best- His very self – and He awaits our response, our “yes” to His offer.

In order to actually receive this new life that He so willingly desires to give us, we must bring the truth of our whole, unadorned self to Him: our fears, our failures, our sin, our shame – all those things within us that we are tempted to try to hide. But we must not hide or pretend if we are to receive what we seek, for a real relationship demands real persons. The truth is that He already knows us, better than we know ourselves; our fearful hiding comes from not really knowing Him. The remedy for our fear is real prayer, the means by which we allow ourselves to be known by Him.

True prayer is this: heart to heart conversation, the uncensored sharing of the deepest part of ourselves. This is “truth in the inward parts”, as the verse above says. True prayer is a kind of “unveiling”, a removing of our “fig leaves”, our pretenses. It is driven by the longing for something deeper and more genuine, the life we were made for. Our hunger and dissatisfaction with this present life is actually a gift, because desire is the”fuel” of our quest for something more than this world can offer us.

This kind of openness doesn’t come easily; it requires a bit of courage and persistence, as well as God’s readily available grace. It demands a willingness to honestly look inside, and a commitment to learning to tolerate the quiet that is required in order to hear the Holy Spirit’s whisperings in our soul. Our desire will begin us on the right road; the decision of our wills will keep us on course (and will get us back on course when we lose our way). We can always begin again; that is the meaning of grace.

And what is the “wisdom” that God will then allow us to know in our “inmost heart” by such a prayer life? Our poverty and need, certainly, but also something else.

Our need, our longing, is answered by the good news that we are loved, treasured, cherished, rejoiced over, and generously received by a merciful Father, not a critical judge. We discover that our whole self – warts and all – is welcomed home in love and celebration, for we are His beloved children.

It’s Lent: take a risk, be real, tell the truth, come home, and experience God’s unfathomable mercy and love!