A couple of weeks ago my mother and I took a road trip for some appointments. As usual, on the way, our conversation went all over the place but always centered around God and how we can live our lives more centered around Christ. In the course of that day’s conversation, we both confessed to each other that it was hard for us to meet God when we were experiencing deep brokenness, the times when we needed to meet Him most. In the end, we both decided that we didn’t like to “pray ugly”.
I’ve been thinking deeply about that conversation and why I won’t get ugly with God, the one person who truly knows my ugly parts. I don’t think this is an exhaustive list, but here are a few reasons:
Pride. Praying ugly requires humility. In order to meet God with my ugliest parts, I have to admit I have ugly parts and, more importantly, that I can’t fix or cover them up. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (NIV). When I humble myself before the Lord, I may actually receive the wisdom I need to deal with my ugly parts. When I resist, I may continue to think I’m fooling myself and the world, but eventually the prideful fall and expose themselves.
Perfectionism. The Psalms intimidate me. Why? Psalms represents a book of beautifully crafted songs and prayers to God. Who am I to think I could come close to expressing my praise, my needs, and my worship to God in a similar way? So often, when I am in the midst of my deepest ugly I freeze because I can’t speak my heart eloquently or in a version that I think is worthy of God. My thoughts and feelings are jumbled and incoherent. My emotions are in turmoil, a combination of anger, despair, and apathy. Instead, I clam up and wait until I can calmly and collectively approach God with a reasoned and well-thought-out explanation of my problems. Doing so negates the grace of God as 2 Corinthians 12: 9 states, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God doesn’t need us to come to him with reasoned arguments or requests. He will provide us with direction and reason.
Fear. Underneath both pride and perfectionism rests fear. Ultimately, I don’t approach God with ugly prayers because I deep down fear rejection. I fear that if I don’t have it “together” when I come to Him, He will think my unfaithful, and lacking understanding. He will find me wanting. Of course, we laugh at this notion, right. We know that He sent His Son to die for us. If He would do that, how on earth could we fear His rejection of us? But so often, we put human limitations on God. We view Him from our perspective rather than from a heavenly perspective. We might reject others and others might reject us, but if we come to God with humility and a sincere desire to follow Him, He will never reject us (Deuteronomy 31:8). Never.
Not too long ago, I went for medical treatment out of town and needed to stay overnight. I stayed in a hotel the night after the first round of treatments. Sometime in the later evening, I had a really bad reaction to the treatments. I have had similar reactions before, so I knew what it was and that it was not life-threatening. But I also knew I would also be extremely uncomfortable throughout the night. I prayed ugly that night. There was nothing beautiful or eloquent about anything that night. I came to God raw, desperate, humble, and in pain. The most beautiful thing, He answered my prayer. I felt the presence of the Spirit in that hotel room in the midst of my suffering, ugly, broken, and desperate.
Go ahead. Pray ugly. Meet God in the deep. He will rescue you and bring you hope and light.
Contributed by Liz Hunt