It’s OK if prayers are full of pain

It takes guts to pray.That’s praying deep from the heart, from the depths of your pain. These are dangerous prayers, because they reveal who we are and what we feel and we might not like it.

But there’s a pretty good chance that God just might have a clue about our character and emotions, so it’s not as if we’re going to keep it secret from the Almighty.

Maybe that’s why David boldly prayed: ”Strike my enemies on the jaw, break the teeth of the wicked.”

When I began to read the Bible, I was shocked to find prayers in which the writer actually talked to God like that. Sometimes, the writer wasn’t only pleading with God, it sounded like screaming!

This was David in Psalm 3, when his enemies surrounded him. David probably figured out perhaps the hard way that every time he tried to bust his enemy’s head, it just made everything worse. So he took it to God.

He didn’t act it out, but he also didn’t stuff it down.

In Psalm 10, David wrote: ”Why, O Lord, do you stand so far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In his arrogance, the wicked man hunts down the weak who are caught in the schemes he devises.”

David essentially prays the question: ”Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Or, as Jeremiah wrote in Chapter 12 of his book: ”Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”

Of course, it’s not true that awful people always get away with it, but there are times when it sure feels like that. I have spent more than a few sleepless nights asking God the ”Why?” question the kind in which there won’t be any clear answers coming soon.

In Psalm 43, David wrote: ”Vindicate me, O God. Plead my case against an ungodly nation, rescue me from deceitful men. You are God, my stronghold. Why have you rejected me?”

Psalm 22 begins with weeping on the page: ”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”

Jesus made the same plea from the cross, so if you thought that and maybe prayed that, you’re not in bad company.

Some people are afraid to pray like that because it ”doesn’t sound spiritual.” Or because it somehow reflects a lack of faith. Or because we just should know better, be more mature and be able to handle the problem ourselves.

Down deep, most of us know otherwise. I can be so confident, so strong in opinions in front of others or in the newspaper and then I stare at the ceiling some nights and wonder: ”Am I doing the right thing?”

Sometimes, God answers. Sometimes, the silence is darker than Death Valley at 3 a.m.

If you read through the 150 psalms in the middle of the Bible, you find people who are thrilled with God, mad at God, scared of the future and more than a little paranoid about the people around them.

I once had a history professor who said, ”Paranoids have real enemies, too.” So maybe there were real reasons for David and the rest to be edgy.

Many of the psalms begin not with gratefulness or praise as some are taught to pray but with pain and frustration. Then they work their way around to faith, to a sense that God might not be taking me over this mess but might be carrying me through it.

But in the meantime, God, I’m going to complain for a while.

Depending upon your faith background, you might have a problem with this type of praying. Or, it all might be new to you, as it was for me.

But as Pastor Ronald Fowler of Akron’s Arlington Church of God said: ”God is big enough to handle it. God made the world, right? He can deal with your troubles.” noweb

Terry Pluto can be reached at


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