"Let Me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet... Open to Me, My love, My flawless one." [SS 2:14; 5:2]
Many years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I struggled tremendously when it came to daily prayer. I just didn’t know what to say to God. Each night I would sit in a chair, stare at a wall, and try to think of impressive words to send up God’s way. When flowery speech eluded me, I simply uttered all of the prayers that I’d memorized as a child, lest God should lose interest and turn His attention to someone else. Because I insisted on turning prayer into a monumental project, it became agonizing for me. Something that God designed to be so beautiful, natural, and energizing actually became work for me - unenjoyable work. It also became a daily chore to be endured. On nights when it became too difficult to pray, I simply called it quits, walked out of the room, and hoped that tomorrow would be a better day. This is how I ‘communed’ with Christ for many years, even into my mid-thirties.
It wasn’t until I was older that I began to realize that when we pray, the Lord wants us to ‘get real’ with Him by speaking to Him genuinely from our hearts. In the above verses of Scripture, the Lord is calling for us to open up completely to Him when we come to Him in prayer. He wants us to hold nothing back, especially when it comes to the manner in which we express our love and affection for Him. This can be challenging, especially in a culture where expression of such things is simply not done.
Did you ever notice that on daytime soap operas or in romance novels, the men and women always speak intimately to one another? The reason why these shows are so wildly popular is because deep down inside, human beings crave affection, intimacy, and outward expressions of love. The problem is that when the television set gets turned off, and the viewer returns to ‘reality,’ he or she quickly learns that in ‘real life,’ people just aren’t that open with one another. Simply put, we hide. We laughingly talk about Point B when what we really desire is to seriously discuss Point A with all of our heart. We just don’t get real with one another. It’s not a part of our culture, a culture that is based on superficiality and shallow relationships.
Unfortunately, this part of our culture often carries over into our prayer time with the Lord, and we can find ourselves getting superficial with Him as well. An unemployed man will go before God to ask for help in finding a job, but it does not enter his thinking to open up to Him about what his unemployment may be doing to his self-esteem. A woman will go before God to ask for grace to be able to manage the household well, but it does not enter her thinking to open up to Him about any feelings of guilt or inadequacy she may have as a wife or mother. A young person may go to God to seek His help in overcoming a drinking or drug problem, but it does not enter his thinking to open up to Him about why he feels the need to drink or take those drugs.
God wants us to open up to Him completely. We will never know what it is to enjoy a close, loving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ until we learn how to speak to Him openly, honestly, and from our hearts.
I’ve observed that both Catholics and Jews love to pray to God using prayer books. Every Sunday, when my family goes to Mass, we arrive at the church a half hour early so that we can pray, meditate, and prepare our hearts before God. When we walk into the church, we see lots of people already sitting in the pews. Many of them are meditating and praying to God using a prayer book. Is there anything wrong with using prayer books when we go before God in prayer? Absolutely not. In fact, I have my eye on a beautiful Catholic prayer book that I’m planning on purchasing the next time my husband gets paid.
If we are going to use a prayer book, however, it’s important that we pray the prayer slowly and thoughtfully so that the prayer will genuinely come from our heart. This is essential if we are to make the prayer our own. Otherwise, we are merely reciting the words of someone else.
But it is also important to talk to God from our hearts without the use of a prayer book. The Lord wants to hear from you about the things that are going on in your life. He wants to be involved in your life. Christ is saying to us, "Let Me hear your voice, not the voice of someone else. Open to Me, My love. Open to Me!" God is well aware of the details surrounding our lives. He doesn’t invite us to open up to Him in heartfelt prayer because He needs to be informed. He’s omniscient. He already knows what’s going on in and all around you. He invites us to open up to Him in prayer because He loves it - absolutely loves it - when we open up to Him about those details. When we do this, we show Him many things. We show Him that we need Him. We show Him that we want to be close to Him. We show Him that we trust Him. We show Him that we want Him to be the absolute center of our lives and all that is taking place within them. God not only wants to be included in our lives, He wants to be at the very center of them. To the extent that we are willing to open up to God in prayer about everything that we are feeling and going through in our daily lives is to the extent this will be achieved.
When I pray to the Lord, I open up my heart to Him completely. I speak lovingly and affectionately to Him in ways that I could never speak to man. I can do this because He is my God, and I love Him with all my heart. I don’t feel awkward, for it was for this purpose that I was created. I was created to love Him, fellowship with Him, and commune with Him. I was created to need Him, include Him, and embrace Him. I was created to bring pleasure to His heart, and when I fail to do these things, He is quick to become jealous.
If I’m depressed, I tell him why I’m depressed. If I’m distressed, I tell Him why I’m distressed. If I’m confused about things that He is allowing to take place in my life, I open up to Him and express my confusion. I hold nothing back. I pour out the details. I do this because I want to be close to God, and He wants to be close to me. We cannot experience closeness with God if we keep Him at a ‘proper religious’ distance in prayer.
When I was 21 years old, I attended a women’s Bible study at my local church. The woman leading the study stood in front of the class and said, "before we get started, I’m going to ask our sister Lorraine to stand and pray to the Lord so that His blessing will be upon our time here this morning." Me? Pray? In front of an entire room filled with people? If she had asked me to gnaw off my left foot, I would have found that easier to do than to pray in front of a bunch of people. Prayer can be very intimidating to someone if he or she has never done it before. But this is often because we make it a lot harder than it really is.
As mentioned earlier, many Catholics depend on prayer books when first learning to pray because they feel shy when coming before God. This is completely understandable. We must be careful, however, that our entire time with God is not spent reciting prayers or reading them from a prayer book. This is not how we are going to become close with God. We can only grow close to Him and truly feel His love, joy, and presence with us all throughout the day when we open up to Him completely and honestly when coming to Him in prayer.
If you don’t believe me, try it. Start ‘getting real’ with God in prayer and see where your openness will take you. See how close you’ll become to Him and how sensitive you’ll be to His presence in your life.
"Let Me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet... Open to Me, My love, My flawless one." Can you hear the heart of your Beloved as you meditate on these two verses? Does this sound like the plea of One Who only desires superficial and lighthearted conversation or do you hear a cry for closeness and openness with the One Who created you for Himself?
Let Him hear your voice, my brothers and sisters. Open your hearts completely to Him when you come before Him in prayer. Do these things and do not be afraid...
...and watch where love will take you.
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