A space to discuss the essay “The Prayer No One Wants To Pray”:
Carson, first let me say that your essay filled me with HOPE.
Though I’m now in a more “comfortable” place in life, the first 35ish years of my 54 were spent in the same emotionally dark, despairing EMPTINESS that Haman felt when he wrote this Psalm. I truly wish there had been someone to tell me that I could scream at God in my anger, sadness, despondency, and fear, and that He would love me because I was His child and that He would, perhaps, shed a little light in that dark place to give me some life.
I didn’t have that, had no one I could turn to; my family weren’t believers (I’m the only Christ follower in my family, but that came MUCH later), so I didn’t know God, knew nothing about Him and had no one to turn to. Worse, my family were the ones to victimize me, so I truly had nobody.
I tell you this, not as a cry for help, because I did find God- or He found me - when I was mid- 30’s, and my life changed; but if I had read your essay when I was a child, a teen, a young adult, I think it would have made me see that I wasn’t alone, that even WAAAYYY back then, that empty darkness existed, and that there is One who hears our cry and loves us.
You wrote: “It’s the prayer of a man covered in rubble, buried underground, gasping for air, writhing in pain, and waiting to die alone. Let’s be candid: not everyone makes it out alive. Heman isn’t sure there will ever be good times for him: not now, not ever.” Your words painted the portrait of how I felt from age ~5 until I was 18 when I met and married my husband and realized there was someone who saw me and loved me in spite of my hurt. Even so, I felt that darkness until my 30’s when Christ showed Himself to me (a story for another day). If I’d seen your words at a younger age, I wonder how it might have changed my thoughts?
I sincerely pray that you can find a way to post and repost and post again this essay. The children and teens who’ve been abused, abandoned, neglected and hurt need to see this, read it, post it on their mirrors so that they can see in their reflection the One who loves them, who will never leave, never hurt them, and wants only the best for them. They will see that in Psalm 88, there are others who suffer, but who know One who will make everything okay.
God bless you, Carson, for the beautiful work you do. You are always in my prayers. Sincerely,
Cathi (Tampa Bay, FL)
Sometimes negative emotions keep us from God and prayer because the weight of the emotions is just too much to process and sometimes because we may have begun to doubt God’s love and care. Psalms such as this one give us vocabulary to submit our thoughts and emotions to God and have his light shine truth into our lives. It is better to turn to God with questions about our conditions than ignore Him because of growing doubt, which has the danger of hardening our hearts. I have often found that turning to God with prayers such as these recalibrates my heart toward humility and my mind towards clarity from a place of anger and confusion. Turning to God, however imperfect our prayers may be, can convict our hearts toward confession to receive God’s grace for our situation.
In contrast to this psalm, the advice I have received in the past in some churches, though well-intentioned, was to pray with faith and avoid the negative emotions. The problem with such prayers is that there is no space/time given to process the grief or the honest questions before God.
Another problem I have seen is that sorrow and self-pity are sometimes put in the same category because they may look the same on the outside. However, our heart posture is one of humility when we take our sorrows, anger and questions to God but prideful when we indulge in self-pity. We can grieve a loss while being faithful to God. We can wrestle with questions without questioning the character of God. Turning to God and saying what we feel about God’s silence is not the same as saying God is unloving and avoiding Him. God will not oppose a humble heart expressing grief. He will however oppose the prideful heart.
These honest prayers especially when done in community can tenderize our heart toward others, pray better for them and take the pressure off in our Christian communities to appear fine when we are actually struggling on the inside.
Perhaps this is the kind of prayer the book of Hebrews calls us to when it says -
Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
I am also reminded of Jesus’s words in Matt 27:46. I wonder if these words about being forsaken were just honest words from our Lord as he felt in his incarnation when he died on the cross.
Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to read and to empathize - it’s not sympathy, which keeps listeners at a distance where they refuse to actually FEEL what the speaker says. It’s empathy you’ve given; you’ve heard what was said, understood with your head, and allowed yourself to FEEL what’s being said. To me, that’s the biggest gift someone can give.
My story is like so MANY others’. At the time, I felt so alone, but now understand how wrong I was; I was never alone, yet had no way to connect with anyone because I hadn’t been given the tools. Sometimes I wonder how my life would have changed if I’d been given that opportunity, but then I think about the providence of God:
** Job 10:12 NIV — You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.
If He had given me what I thought I needed, my life might have been temporarily better, but the things I learned by walking the path He set before me, there is a chance that I will be able to help someone with a greater need than I had; that I might be able to guide a lost child of Christ into the Kingdom. Oh, how I long to GIVE everything I am in service to He who saved me! He has watched over MY spirit - why? Because He loves me? Yes, but more… because He loves us ALL! He uses our failures, our sorrows, our weaknesses to reach the so-called “unreachable”. He uses the broken to reach others who have been broken by this, well, BROKEN world. He doesn’t LEAVE us broken while He uses us. In our sorrows He allows us the freedom, the choice, to turn to Him; He heals us from the inside out; He teaches us how to love those around us who are also broken; He gives us the tools we need to make our part of this world a little better because every SINGLE child is worthy of His grace.
You (and YOU, Carson) use the gifts and grace He has given to you to bring the broken into your circle of Light. What a beautiful sight it is to witness your love being demonstrated! What an unbelievable privilege it is to be counted among your sisters.
The GREATEST MAN in history had no servants, yet many called Him “Master”. He had no degree, yet they called Him “Teacher”. He had no medical training, yet they called Him “Healer”. He had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world. He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him. He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today.
His name is Jesus.
Thank you @cathi.
These words help me make some sense of unjust suffering. In this broken world there will always be injustice but it is through experiencing the pain and turning to God in this pain that we are restored, and then we become a part of God’s bigger plan of restoration. May God bring many more opportunities for you to bring hope to the hurting.
Thank you, Lakshmi. Thank you.
May the peace of Christ envelope you.
The Psalms are filled with laments. Before salvation I always prayed Psalms 13. It was my go-to prayer as it fit my life. I have learned…"Those who worship HIM, must worship in spirit and in truth. That means Tell YAH the truth, how you feel…what you’re thinking…how you want to respond to any situation…I have told HIM…“I want to punch her in the face.” Instead of following through with a face punch, I listened to HIM, tell me HE knew I wanted to, But I would not as I was no longer that woman, instead I prayed for me, the situation and went on. HE fixed me, to enable me to walk away, fixed the situation and made the woman come apologize to me. When you tell HIM the truth, is when HE will respond.