A few weeks ago, my husband was asked to pray at our church, specifically for the men and women in the military. He prayed as he usually did, saying whatever was on his heart. Later in the week, someone called asking for a copy of his prayer. He was astonished and told her that it was not written. He also said he scarcely remembered anything he said.
In today’s devotional reading, Spurgeon writes, “For real business at the mercy-seat give me a home-made prayer, a prayer that comes out of the depths of my heart, not because I invented it, but because God the Holy Ghost put it there, and gave it such living force that I could not help letting it out.”
He goes on to encourage praying even though sometimes words are broken and sentences are disconnected. He says when the heart is sincere, God does not mind how it finds expression. Even if I have no words, I might pray better without a planned prayer than with one. “There are prayers that break the backs of words; they are too heavy for any human language to carry.”
Today’s Bible verses are from the story of Hannah, a barren women who deeply wanted a child. She was in the temple and overheard by Eli, the current priest. His response to her prayer was not the same as the woman from our church to my husband’s prayer.
(Hannah) was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. (1 Samuel 1:10–13)
Praying aloud, or even in private can be a problem. We read or hear the prayers of others and feel intimidated. I can remember when I hesitated to pray aloud because I felt inadequate or not eloquent. Others prayed with loftier language or sounded more biblical, but my prayers were weak or I stumbled through, not sure what I was asking, never mind how to express it.
Hannah sets a good example. She prayed from her heart even though the priest chastened her and she had to tell him, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”
Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” (1 Samuel 1:15–17)
Her prayer and the priest’s blessing were heard by God, and He lovingly gave her what she asked. Her son Samuel later became a mighty leader in Israel.
From Hannah and from what happened to my husband, I conclude that when I pray, I’m not to think much about anyone who might be listening. My prayers are for God’s ears and only God knows my heart. He will hear and respond no matter what others might think about my prayers, positive or negative.
Lord, to be invited into conversation with You is an amazing privilege, but also a responsibility. You bid me to pray without ceasing, to bring every concern and joy to You in prayer. May I never worry about how I sound, but simply tell You what is on my heart.