Don’t edit your prayers

Don’t edit your prayers

When we think of prayer, sometimes what think about are the carefully crafted prayers we hear in church and see in prayer books. You know the type of thing I mean. These are prayers with carefully thought-out structures, references and echoes from all kinds of different Bible passages, with confession and thanksgiving and prayer all included. Prayers that start like this: “O Heavenly Father, you who are the creator and sustainer of all things, omnipotent and omnipresent, before all time and the one who sits on the throne, praise to you.”

There is a time and place for formal, planned prayers. It is not like they are bad. They can be good models to follow in some instances, encouraging us to be thoughtful when we talk to God.

Prayer doesn’t need to be that formal. In fact, it shouldn’t always be that formal. We are God’s children if we trust in Jesus, and this means we can speak directly to God the Father through Jesus Christ. We don’t need to frame our prayers perfectly for God to hear us. He hears us even if we pray simply and plainly (Matt 6:8).

One example of this is in 1 Kings 17. Elijah is confronted by the woman he lives with who is holding her dead son. She accuses Elijah of bringing this tragedy on her house. Elijah has no idea why this has happened, so he takes the child to his room and prays to his God. In his grief and crisis, he says this:

“O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” (1 Kings 17:20)

That’s a direct prayer! Essentially, he is expressing his frustration to God. He knows God is behind all life and death and everything, so he goes to the source. He says what he feels.

The Psalms are also full of this kind of direct prayer. We see the psalmists accuse God of not acting, of not caring, of allowing the wicked to prosper. This is raw emotion expressed honestly. This shows respect to God by not hiding what they feel but speaking to God about it.

Don’t be put off by the formal prayers you hear in church. Prayer is simply talking to God. If you are upset with life, say that to God. If you are frustrated and angry, say that to God. He know what you are feeling anyway. You have a relationship with God because of Jesus, so use it.

Prayer is a great gift. Don’t over-formalise it.