The Scariest Prayer You Can Pray
Remember the last time that you prayed a formal prayer in church. Maybe it was the Our Father or the Hail Mary. Now think of a time when you prayed, in private, for something general like for God’s will to be done or for God to receive the glory for something.
These kinds of prayers fill our days. They form a sort of ‘percussion’ for our faith, a backdrop for us to go deeper in relationship with the Lord.
It’s sort of like being married- I tell me wife that I love her every day. I tell her everyday that she’s beautiful (ok I may have forgotten one day last week!) and I call her to check in when I’m in the car. These small pleasantries are important. They are like a beat that is in the background, forming a type of foundation on which the song plays.
But they are skin-deep. These are not the kind of let-me-look-you-in-the-eye conversations that allow for deep contact. Necessary, yes, but as for depth, not so much.
No, the scariest prayer is found far beneath the surface.
By scary I don’t mean creepy. I don’t mean mystical. We’re not talking about something that spooks you.
Rather, a scary prayer is one which is raw. It’s a request for something very specific. It’s scary because you’re putting yourself out there, naked before God with your request. The request itself is revelatory, showing a degree of your desperation or even your faith.
One of the best jobs I ever had was to be a dean of students in a school. You saw everyone at their worst- a student who lied, a teacher who said something they shouldn't have, a parent in conflict. There were no pretenses, only a raw situation in need of the truth.
I don’t know about you but I resist these kinds of raw-truth prayers. They scare me because I’d much rather live on the surface. Because of my sinful nature, I’d much rather hang in the shallow water, exchanging small talk with God. You know what I'm talking about right?
Hey God what's up? (high fives here)
Everything's fine... I'm pretty busy today
All good here...talk to you next time (person walks away)
This kind of small talk isn’t all bad. It shows that you're familiar with God but it’s not where real growth happens. To go deeper, you have to show yourself and this is vulnerability before God. This is the cry of the heart.
As St. Augustine said, "Many cry to God, but not with the voice of the soul, but with the voice of the body; only the cry of the heart, of the soul, reaches God." This is risky, heartfelt prayer. This is plunging beneath the surface in order to love Christ more fully. Sometimes we think that we are being needy before God and then we settle for the surface.
The catch of course is that God wants our neediness to be whole. He wants our prayers to flow from an acceptance of dependence and towards the broken pieces of our lives and the lives of others.
Let’s talk about what this looks like.
- Surface prayer might sound like this, “Lord God I pray for your will to be done, for healing to occur if it’s your will and for me to have a positive attitude.” This isn’t a bad prayer at all. What it is though is general and very much a prayer of deferring to God. Again, that’s pretty darn good and certainly better than no prayer at all. Still, let me show you what a scary prayer might look like instead.
- A more risky prayer might sound like this, “Father I pray for a healing. For the cancer to run out of her body, for it to be afraid of the healing that’s coming for it. I pray this week for this to happen. I won’t stop praying for it Lord and ask from my heart to yours, that you hear me and answer me this week. I know that cancer is child’s play to you Lord and expect a miracle.” Now that’s a bold and risky prayer!
Look at how specific the prayer is: for a healing, for speed of healing, for it to happen this week, for me to not stop praying, …expecting a miracle. This is a person with some guts! This is an example of praying well- putting your junk before God and knowing that, no matter how messed up you may be, God loves you just the same. In fact, he's crazy about you, warts and all.
My hope for you, as you read this, is that you would search your heart. What’s bothering you that you could get very specific with God about?
Be prepared though- you’re about to plunge beneath the surface. Rest assured, God is waiting patiently for you there.