When I pray, most of what I say can be categorized one of three ways: Forgive me, Lord; Thank you, Lord; Help me, Lord.
Outside of a private prayer, that’s a strange way to communicate. Imagine having such a conversation at the end of the day with your spouse.
“Honey, how was your day?”
“I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning. Please forgive me. I noticed you did the laundry. Thanks. Now, make me dinner for I am hungry. Amen.”
The Psalms are teaching me to rethink the way I pray. I can remember only a few occasions when I poured my heart out as David did in Psalm 22. “My God, my God,” he cried, “why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1). Despite knowing God would never forsake him, he was willing to admit that he felt abandoned and alone. His primary concern was not theological accuracy; it was honesty.
David reaches the nineteenth verse before he makes a single request. He doesn’t thank God or beg his forgiveness. Instead, he empties his unfiltered soul onto the page. Lord, this is where I am and what I’m feeling. You’ll know what to do with it.
The Psalter is showing me how to pray as one having an intimate talk with my heavenly Father. I’m learning to bear my soul without dressing up my prayers as though I’m entering them in a beauty pageant. I’m growing comfortable with telling him what he already knows because he gave Psalm 22 and similar prayers of the Bible to be examples for us.
I have found it helpful to write my prayers, a practice I learned from my wife years ago. She often journals her prayers to God, of which I never grasped the value until recently. When I combine journaling with praying, my prayers become something closer to that of Psalm 22. They are no longer limited to a three-point formula where l check the boxes and finish. I can sit alone with God, writing page after page, confessing my sins and struggles or just relating what’s happening in my life. He’ll know what to do with it.
I’ll have much more to say about the Psalms soon enough. For now, have a candid peek into my prayer journal. The following is a sample prayer journal entry from November 6, 2017.
It seems that I’m going to be a father as well. I’ve never felt this much joy before in my life. I don’t hesitate to admit that it makes me giddy.
Danae and I will literally become one flesh. Will the child have her beautiful eyes? Will he or she have my dry disposition? I can hardly wait to discover everything there is to know about him or her.
Even so, I’m terrified. Am I ready for such a tremendous responsibility? Show me how to be a father, Lord. Help me to learn from your example. Just the thought of becoming a parent draws me closer to Danae, and for that, I’m thankful. It moves me closer to you as well.
My world is shifting all around me. Life as I know it has become wonderfully complicated.
Your beaming son,