As a writer I am constantly tempted to use more words than necessary, especially when I’m excited about a topic. Even in conversation with someone I drift into passionate unnecessary descriptions. My words are like water breaking through a dam; once they find a crack they’re gushing out.
You know what I don’t get though? Why doesn’t this same verbosity apply to my prayer life? Ask me about politics, the bible, American football, professional wrestling or the best way to prepare squirrel, and you’ll probably get an earful. (Go ahead. I dare you to ask me about squirrel and noodle casserole.) But when I’m sitting in the presence of God, I’m stone silent.
It feels unfair to God. I’m sure there’s grace for me, but I think God deserves better from me. Actually, it’s not just my better that he deserves but my best. God deserves the best of my day, the best of my thoughts, and the best of my words. I don’t have to carefully curate my prayers. “Best” does not mean most poetic but rather most honest. To give God what he deserves, I have to surrender what keeps me from him. I have to pray in a way that thanks him, praises him, and submits to him.
We started our conversation on prayer last week talking about what prayer is: deliberate time with God. This week, I want to focus on those prayers that are the shortest and most powerful. These prayers come when we are most desperate. They come from the deep places of our souls, out of great need and fear. They come from deep emotion or physical pain. When we are at the end of our rope, they are the last gasp. When we are at the top of the mountain, they are the cry of exhausted triumph.
Maybe you’re like me and you use too many words. Friend, we don’t need many words. In fact, God often prefers the simplicity of our gasps and cries to our long-winded prayers. That’s not to say that God doesn’t desire more time with us. He does. It’s just that the kind of prayer God wants is one that’s from our hearts. Here are 3 simple prayers for you to try.
Help! (Matthew 14:30)—this is a deeply theological prayer. When aimed at the universe it’s like a shotgun blast randomly in the air. When aimed at a target, it hits on many points. In this case, God’s the target. Hit him with this prayer, and he hears your need. Not only does he hear your need, but he acknowledges that you’re confessing his ability to meet it. But wait – there’s more!
When you cry to God for help, you’re admitting you need him. If you’ve been around toddlers you know their tendency to want to do things for themselves. Friend, you’re no different. You’re a big toddler. You go through life thinking that you’ve got it handled. Then one day, if you haven’t already, you’ll realize that there are some problems you can’t solve. Only God can.
Who are you, Lord? (Acts 9:5)—this prayer comes when you’ve just met God, but you don’t yet know it. You suspect there is some cosmic purpose to your circumstances, that there is a plan in motion bigger than your own. When life shakes you to the core (e.g. losing a parent unexpectedly, losing your job, or facing colossal failure), you get angry or sad and you shout at God, “Who are you to let this happen? Who are you to interrupt my plans? Who are you?”
Since humanity fell into sin, we have slipped out of intimate relationship with our Creator and into a long-distance one. Where we once walked with him openly, now we only call once in a while, when we think of it, when the mood strikes us, when there’s nothing else to do. Is it any wonder we don’t recognize God when he intervenes in our lives? Some of the “catastrophes” I’ve faced have been blessings from God, saving me from myself, and some of the “blessings” I received were the most devious weapons of the Enemy. Crying out to God, “Who are you, Lord?” shows that in our desperate moments we sense he’s at work.
Jesus! (John 20:16)—this prayer is the most precious. Of all the words in all the languages of the world there is none simpler or more powerful than the name of Jesus. When times are most desperate, cry to Jesus. When you’re terrified and lonely, cry to Jesus. When you’re excited and no one is around to share it, cry to Jesus. You will never have a better friend than Jesus. You cannot be saved apart from Jesus. You cannot find peace without Jesus.
Do you want love?
Do you want forgiveness?
Do you want healing?
There is only one name in heaven or on earth that carries hope for the broken, rest for the weary, and grace for the criminal. Like William Wallace at the end of Braveheart crying “Freedom!”, when all you have is one word to utter, let it be “Jesus!”
There are many simple prayers I’ve uttered in my life. What are some of yours? Please leave a comment below to talk about the simple prayers that have made a difference in your life.