My wife Amy shared this idea with me the other day: since God is always with us and always listening to us, everything we say is in some sense a prayer. That’s a scary thought for some of us. It rings true to me though, both in my own experience and with the overarching theme of this blog, that our whole lives are marked by conversation with God. It’s also the presupposition behind the heart/breath prayers I wrote two years ago, that repeating key truths to God speaks them clearly to our souls and helps us live into the truth of them. I also heard a bit of a Joel Osteen sermon yesterday and he was pointing out that many times when we pray all we do is rehearse our problems and complain about them. God already knows what we need, so that sort of prayer-as-gripe-session isn’t a good habit to get into if it is the only active form of prayer we engage in. If we take a general lesson from the Psalms, we would give 1/3 of our prayer time each to worship, lament, and giving thanks for provision/restoration/forgiveness. And if we take the Lord’s Prayer as an outline for our own prayers, we would pray something like this:
- worship God for being God
- ask for/submit to what God wants
- ask for provision/needs met
- ask forgiveness/commit to give forgiveness
- ask for help with moral development/maturity
- worship God again
If Amy is right (and she usually is), then we should ask ourselves how everything we are going to say fits into one of these categories. The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t list lament specifically, but there is room for it in all the middle sections. Lament in the Lord’s Prayer would look like:
- this can’t be what you want God, can it?
- I have this need that is unmet, I need this to live
- I have sinned, I am having a hard time forgiving
- I am morally weak
I think this is closer to what lament actually is (as opposed to complaining masquerading as lament). This makes room for us to give full voice to the cry of our souls without that cry dragging us further down.
If we regard all of our speech as prayer and discipline what we say accordingly, how differently would we talk? What would our tweets and Facebook posts look like? God is always listening. Our souls are always listening. And what we say affects those around us more than we know. There is a lot of power in what we say. Let’s be careful with that. And then, once we’re careful, let’s be bold.