What We're Neglecting To Do Before We Give Praise

 

Imagine this: You see the lady in church who is going through a hard time. She breathes heavy, and she swallows hard. She wants to publicly ask for prayer. She knows there is an expectation of self-sufficiency and of not wallowing in self-pity. She is hurting and the tears spring easily to the corner of her eye.

Her request goes something like this: I am asking for prayer for x, y, and, z and for insert dramatic situation here and would appreciate it if you would pray. Praise God, He is so good and can be trusted'. End prayer request. Everyone is happy, Mrs. So-and-so is devout and yet, well aware that we are not a people who wallow.

What would we think if her request went something like this instead: I am all alone. I don't have help and I can barely get around. The pain in my soul keeps me up at night and I wrestle in my spirit with the feeling that nobody cares for my soul. In my anguish I pour out my petitions before God and I know that He hears me. If not for God, I would have sunk down into the grave. I cry every day and almost every night. Is it not enough that I am crippled, but that I should also be abandoned by men? How bitter is my spirit and how far my appetite has flown from me. To eat or to drink is too much for me in the depth of my sorrows, for my soul is overwhelmed. Praise be to God the Father in heaven, for He listens and answers the request of my heart's cry.

Notice the difference? She poured out her soul in honesty and in truth without the veneer of keeping it all together and without needing to sanitize her troubles. The Psalms of David approach problems and praise in this same way. David pours out his grief and tells of the traumatic things that are happening to him, without filter and without glossing it over. He speaks to God and says what truly is on his mind. Prayer is not time for show or for pretending he isn't hurting or depressed. He says it all. And then he ends with praise.

Sometimes I think we are so scared of seeming faithless or ungrateful that we rush prematurely to the praise portion of our speeches. Should we offer praise? Of course. Should we censor our anguish out of fear or out of some misplaced sense of duty to rush to the praise part? Never.

Because we cut out our true feelings, we circumvent a powerful process which God allows us, which is that of venting our emotions. By keeping our troubles and our tears wrapped up with our stiff-upper-lip, we are not presenting a true picture. We deny reality and others feel that they must do the same to be socially-acceptable. Over time, we create an environment where no one can truly talk about their issues without quickly praising God and getting it over with. Many times we dare not open our mouths at all.

Is this done with good intentions? Of course. Is it biblical? Not exactly. It is a symptom of American culture. When others are going through divorce or through deep heartache, they often instinctively know that church is not the place that you do that. Worse still is if they think that they can't even talk to God about it frankly. As if He didn't already know.

Believe me when I say that God can handle our feelings; He made us to have them. Believe me when I say that he cares to hear what is going on in your life, that He wants you to express your troubles to Him. After all, what kind of relationship will you have where you have to censor prayer?

Afterward, when you've spoken your grief, and like a soothed child you praise His name, it will because you've tasted of the medicine of which God, in prayer dispenses. It will never be because you feel forced. Let us therefore endeavor to make our places of prayer an opportunity to pray like David did. And may we experienced the beauty of unforced praise. 

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