Should You Pray if You Feel Like a Phony?
Phony people are everywhere. They live in your neighborhood. They sit in the cubicle next to you. They go to the same church as you. They put on a mask and pretend that everything is better than it is. Inside, they are just as insecure as the next person.
Let’s not be too critical though- each of us is a phony at some point.
You may not be 100% phony. It may only show up once in a while. Like when you’re in a meeting and want to sound smarter than the next guy- phony. Or, when you’re having someone over for dinner and you want to impress- there it is again.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who stands as one of the most significant spiritual figures of our time, called BS on phoniness. He discussed it using the phrase “the false self”. To Merton, there is the person you are, ultimately found in God’s love and mercy for you. This is the person you must discover and embrace.
The phony you (and me!) is where we get into trouble.
Merton put it this way, “Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. … My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God's will and God's love — outside of reality and outside of life. And such a life cannot help but be an illusion. … The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. … Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in him. … Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself, and if I find my true self I will find him (New Seeds of Contemplation, 1961, pp. 34-36).
Whether you feel like a phony today or it’s a general awareness that you have, the question remains: how ought you to pray when you know that you’re being phony?
Think about it- when we are phony, we least want to pray. It’s our ugliest place to be. Yet, in some ways, it’s the best condition through which we should pray.
Phoniness can be a blessing.
If we can place it before God, acknowledging how we feel- fake, plastic, incomplete, God can do wonderful things with it. Beneath it is a raw desire to draw close to the Lord. Beneath phoniness is something beautiful and that is who we are in Christ- beloved by God.
This is the ultimate journey: going through phoniness to our truest self in God- beloved.
So should you pray when you feel phony? Absolutely. Simply close your eyes, talk to God from your heart and pray for the grace to be real with God. Pray for the grace to accept yourself, where you are today at this very moment. Embrace that. Offer that “you” up to the Lord and pray that God does something extraordinary through you and in your moment of vulnerability.