In “Lectures to My Students” the great English preacher C. H. Spurgeon, recounts the memory of a friend of Martin Luther regarding the great Protestant Reformer’s praying. Theodorus said of Luther, “I overheard him in prayer, but good God, with what life and spirit did he pray! It was with such reverence, as if he were speaking to God, yet with such confidence as if he were speaking to his friend.” Like Martin Luther, our prayers should be marked by confidence, and candor. We do not need to parse our words or hide our feelings before God in prayer. There is a guaranteed right to free speech that the Christian enjoys through Christ as our Great High Priest. There is a boldness, and honesty that ought to mark our conversation with God.
In the book of Hebrews, the Christian is encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace, so that he finds grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). This verse invites us to express a bold frankness in our talk to God. In secular Greek, the word “boldly” was used to speak of free speech in the public arena. While in the private sphere, it carried the idea of candor and openness. Because Jesus has passed into the heavens for us; because Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us; and because Jesus having purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high as our representative, we possess, and enjoy a right to free speech before God (Heb. 9:24; 7:25; 1:1-3). We do not need to fear a slip of the tongue, which might put us in God’s bad book. We do not need to hold back our feelings for fear of censorship. God knows everything there is to know about us, and He invites us to speak candidly (Heb. 4:12-13). God is not going to be surprised or shocked by anything we say. Plus, Jesus understands our struggles, temptations, and questions, having lived our life (Heb. 2:17-18). Christ had himself cried out candidly to God in prayer during the days of his incarnation (Heb. 5:7).
There’s not a friend to us like the lowly Jesus. He understands our losses, and how we can lose it sometimes. He is not offended by our questions. He is not taken back by our complaints. Our tears do not shock him. If anything shocks Him it might be our shyness, and the suppression of our true feelings. As far as the Bible is concerned, praying honestly is as important as praying properly. The God of truth invites us to be truthful before Him in prayer. He wants us to be frank and free in our speech. He is big enough to absorb our complaints, and secure enough to handle our questions. As Jerry Sittser notes in his helpful book ‘When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer’: “What God can’t tolerate is a plastic saint, a polite believer, someone who plays a part but never gets inside the soul of the character. God prefers working with people who like to fight.” Feel free to be yourself before God in prayer. God wants to hear from the real you!