“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
– Matthew 6:7-8 (NIV)
God will not answer my prayers unless I pray the right way, the way He wants me to pray. Have you ever thought that to be true? I have. I spent many years of my life thinking I had to say the right prayers, at the right time, and in the right posture, in order for God to hear me and respond to me. I thought God wanted only perfected prayers, eloquent payers, poetic prayers.
The light in what Jesus said in Matthew 6:7-8 came when He shared that “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” God already knows all that I need. God already knows all that I want. God already knows my whole heart, filled with desires and wishes. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what I say to God when I pray. All that matters is that I pray.
I have heard people share, and have read it in many places, that the only two prayers we ever need to say are “Help me” and “Thank You.” That may very well be true, but I believe God does want more than that from us. I believe God wants us to talk to Him. I believe He wants us to be honest with Him, no matter what that might look or sound like. I believe this because of what I have felt during certain times of praying, talking to, and even yelling at God. It was when I was honest with God about what I really thought and what I really wanted that I have felt the closest to God. In fact, those were the times when I have actually felt a response from God – a comfort and inner peace that enveloped me almost instantly.
Had someone told me that yelling obscenities at God while punching a pillow in my therapist’s office would help me to feel closer to God, I would have thought they were crazy. But what I experienced immediately after doing that – getting really honest with God for the first time in my life – was an overwhelming sense of freedom and calm I had never before sensed. When someone suggested I write letters to God in order to let go of my worries to Him, I was skeptical. But what I experienced when I wrote those letters was release from fear and a newfound faith. When a trusted spiritual friend told me that God doesn’t want me to just recite prayers from memory, but to have a conversation with Him, I thought I would be ignored completely if I followed her advice. But what I experienced when I stopped having to say all the right prayers, at the right time, and in the right posture and just talked to God instead, was the beginning of a relationship that is more fulfilling than anything else I have ever felt in my life.
Yes, God does know what I need and what I want before I even ask Him. He also knows everything that is happening in my life at any given moment. He knows all that and He still wants to hear it from me. He still wants to hear my prayers, my fears, my joys. He still wants to wipe away my tears and appreciate my smile. God doesn’t want practiced prayer and repetition. God just wants the real me.