Pray Like You Mean It

April 30, 2012

God looks not at the elegancy of your prayers, to see how neat they are; nor yet at the geometry of your prayers to see how long they are; nor yet at the arithmetic of your prayers, to see how many they are; nor yet at the music of your prayers, nor yet at the sweetness of your voice, nor yet at the logic of your prayers; but at the sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are.  (Thomas Brooks, Works, 2:256)


Yesterday we held a worship service in which we expressed sorrow and grief.  Talk about counter-cultural.  Why would we do such an unhappy thing?  Because we believe the gospel has something to say to sad believers.  The work of Christ is deep enough to encompass the entire emotional range of our lives.

Of course we used the Psalms.  About that neglected book, here is the lead quote from our worship bulletin, from the wonderfully provocative Carl Trueman:

I would like to make just one observation: the Psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, have almost entirely dropped from view in the contemporary Western evangelical scene.  I am not certain about why this should be, but I have an instinctive feel that it has more than a little to do with the fact that a high proportion of the Psalter is taken up with lamentation, with feeling sad, unhappy, tormented, and broken.  In modern Western culture, these are simply not emotions which have much credibility: sure, people still feel these things, but to admit that they are a normal part of one’s everyday life is tantamount to admitting that one has failed in today’s health, wealth, and happiness society.  And, of course, if one does admit to them, one must neither accept them nor take any personal responsibility for them: one must blame one’s parents, sue one’s employer, pop a pill, or check into a clinic in order to have such dysfunctional emotions soothed and one’s self-image restored….  By excluding the cries of loneliness, dispossession, and desolation from its worship, the church has effectively silenced and excluded the voices of those who are themselves lonely, dispossessed, and desolate, both inside and outside the church.

I hope our church will lament together more often in the future.  It’s remarkable how a downer-of-a-service can be so uplifting.  The Spirit of the Suffering Servant was present, and his comfort was real.