Sometimes it’s hard to be yourself in front of God and everybody else.
Prayer in the presence of others can be especially daunting sometimes because it’s harder to be totally honest when other people are actually listening.
I remember standing in prayer circles in high school, being encouraged to offer up a prayer, each person in the circle, in order. If you wanted to “pass,” you just squeezed the hand of the person next to you to signal “Not me, Bro. Your ball.”
But you knew that if you “passed,” everybody would know you “passed,” so there was that pressure to push through your fear of sounding inarticulate at best, stupid at worst. And you pushed through anyway, but spent most of the prayer time not praying because you were trying to figure out what you were going to pray.
And doggone it, if somebody else two squeezes ahead of you prayed for exactly the same thing you were planning on, you were back at inarticulate square one again.
But you might know that as challenging as it can be to be yourself in public prayer, sometimes, it’s even harder for us to be totally honest in private prayer—especially when life isn’t going well.
Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie talk about this in their book, Good Enough, and they urge us—no matter what—to tell God. All of it. Fiercely. Even the unanswered prayers. Don’t leave out a single one…because you are united in love with all of suffering humanity, and with our God who came to suffer and die. A God of sorrows, acquainted with grief. But one who also came that we might have life.
Bowler, Kate, and Jessica Richie. Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection. Convergent Books, 2022. (pp. 134-136)