Emotions and prayer (part 1)
Hands folded or pressed together.
Clean, calm, impassionate words.
Whether someone directly teaches us to do this, or if we instead pick it up from watching others pray…we have a tendency to sanitize our words and feelings when we pray to God.
From the gospels, we know that Jesus prayed often to the Father, however his prayer time is almost always shown to be him going away from everyone else to pray to the Father. As such, very few of Jesus’ words directed toward God the Father were recorded for us in the Scriptures…but have you ever wondered how his prayers went? What would it have been like to hear Jesus make requests from God the Father? Did he pray silently? Was he passionate?
The author of Hebrews gives us an interesting glimpse into Jesus’ prayer time:
Hebrews 5:7 During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals, with loud cries and tears, to the One who was able to save Him from death…
From this verse, we see that Jesus talked to God the Father in different ways, offering up both prayers and appeals. However, what stands out in this verse is what accompanied Jesus’ prayers and appeals, that he spoke to God with loud cries and tears. When Jesus spoke with God the Father, his words were full with emotion, they were not limited to quiet whispers. The times when Jesus was moved to tears – like when Lazarus died (John 11:35), or undoubtedly when his cousin John the Baptist was beheaded and he withdrew to be alone (Matthew 14:13) – in those types of moments, he wasn’t afraid or ashamed to dialogue with God.
From this we see that God the Father can handle our feelings…even the ones that spill over, are messy, or get loud. We shouldn’t feel the need to “drum up” these emotions in order to effectively pray, but Jesus’ example does show us that there is no need to suppress how we’re feeling before we talk with God. Knowing that is very comforting!
We bring our prayers and appeals to God because we believe that he has the ability to understand us, and that, if he chooses, he has the authority to act on our requests. If God has the proper strength and authority to rescue a person from death – and he does – then he certainly can handle whatever mental and emotional state we find ourselves in.
So let’s not be afraid to reach out to God the Father and honestly express our emotions.