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Is It Okay to Be Honest in Prayer?

by Hillary Morgan Ferrer


I grew up in the church and was always interested in the things of God. I knew I was supposed to pray, but I wasn’t quite sure how. To this day, I have notebooks full of prayer lists that I made in junior high and high school. There is nothing profound in those prayers. I’m embarrassed to admit that I mostly prayed for popularity and for boys to like me. (Give me a break! I was in junior high. That’s what junior high girls think about!) Even in those meager attempts to follow God, the Lord developed in me the habit of coming to Him with my uncensored thoughts—praying what was actually on my mind, not what I thought should be on my mind. The shamelessness of those prayers cultivated an honesty in talking to God. And that honesty led me to pray a prayer that essentially changed my life.


I was in the ninth grade, and our Bible study leader started a New Year’s tradition where we wrote letters to ourselves documenting the past year and making projections for the future. At the end, we wrote out a prayer. The prayer I wrote in December 1993 became the model for my prayer life from that point forward:


Lord, I don’t really want You...but I want to want You.

Talk about honest! Who straight-up tells God that she has no interest in Him, but that she kinda wants to? Me, that’s who. By this time, I knew what prayers “should” sound like, but I had practiced being honest with the Lord for so many years that when I matured enough to pray for something that really mattered, I didn’t feel pressured to sugarcoat it. The Lord knew my heart. He knew if I desired Him or not. Why pretend to be anything other than what I was? It’s not like I had lost my interest in following God. I wasn’t in any kind of rebellion. However, I heard people talking about having a desire and yearning for the Lord, and I knew that—emotionally—I didn’t have that. But I really wanted to! Starting that ninth-grade year, I saw the Lord faithfully answer that prayer, slowly changing me from a “good Christian girl” into an avid disciple.


That one simple prayer served as the “aha moment” for the rest of my life. And an aha moment is my hope for you too! Often, we are so consumed with what we think our prayers should sound like that we neglect to say what we are actually thinking. God knows our thoughts! He’s not going to be surprised that we’re not more “spiritual sounding.” There’s nothing in Scripture about Him valuing elegant prayers more than simple ones. (Just the opposite, really.) So why not come to Him as we are since He already knows? Picture your kids coming to you like, “Oh, thou art my wholesome parental unit! Wilt thou doth grant me this sugary confection that delighteth my eyes and bringeth joy to mine heart?” rather than “I want a cookie.” If it’s right before dinner, the answer is no either way. And if we’re at a carnival, it’s probably yes either way!


An honest prayer is one in which you are willing to sound stupid, say the wrong thing, or admit things out loud that might be embarrassing for someone to hear. When we try and dress up our prayers, we aren’t fooling God. More often than not, we are fooling ourselves.


Hillary Morgan Ferrer, founder of Mama Bear Apologetics®, has a burden for providing accessible apologetics resources for busy moms. She has a master’s in biology, and her specialties are in cultural apologetics, the relationship between science and faith, and understanding the root causes of doubt. Hillary and her husband, John, have been married for more than 16 years and minister together as an apologetics team in Iowa.


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