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How to Pray Honestly – Honesty with God

November 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Fr. Najim, Honesty, Prayer, Spiritual Direction

How to Pray Honestly: Honesty with God

 

“Let’s be honest.”
“I’ll be honest with you.”
“Honestly…”
“Honest to goodness.”

 

These are all phrases we’ve either heard or spoken numerous times. As children, we were taught that telling the truth is the right thing to do. And yet how many of us got into trouble – or maybe even still do! – for lying?

But what does honesty with God have to do with our prayer? As a teenager, when I began to develop a deeper personal relationship with God, my prayer was often filled with “Thees” and “Thous.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with addressing God in this way; but, in retrospect, I believe that the “Thees” and “Thous” that filled my prayer were obstacles that kept me from truly pouring my heart out to the Lord. I was more concerned with proper piety than with honesty, most likely because there were a lot of things in my heart that I wanted to hide from God.

mirrorofalexandrecouderwomankneelinginprayerwalters371369 for post on praying to God with honestyJesus knows what is in the depths of our hearts. He knows the thoughts of our hearts before we speak them. So if we fail to be honest with God in prayer then we are really only deceiving ourselves. It’s important for us to know that honesty with God in prayer is liberating.

A classic example is when we feel anger towards God. As a priest, people ask me this question all time: Is it wrong to be angry at God? First and foremost, we must remember that anger is an emotion, and oftentimes emotions are neither right nor wrong: they just are. What we do with our emotions is a separate issue.

People are sometimes surprised by the answer I give them: if you feel anger toward God you should tell Him. Really. He can handle it. He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him in prayer. He wants us to express what is in the depths of our hearts. For didn’t Jesus pour out His heart to His Father in prayer? In Gethsemane? On the Cross? Didn’t Jesus pour out the depth of His emotions to His Father?

We should do the same. Hold nothing back when you pray. Tell the Lord exactly what’s in your heart, especially the bad feelings that might be present. It is precisely by pouring these emotions out that we are freed from their hold and we enter more deeply into the loving embrace of the Lord.

No, God does not want us to be stuck in anger or any other negative feelings we may have. This is precisely the reason that we need honesty with God in our prayer. We need to go before God as we are, not pretending to be someone we are not. If we are honest with God in prayer, we will feel a sense of deep freedom, and we will find ourselves having a deeper understanding of how He is working in our lives.

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Pray Honestly!

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Art for this post on “How to Pray: Honesty with God”: Mirror of Woman Kneeling in Prayer, Alexandre Couder, between 1808 and 1879, PD-Worldwide, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. Michael Najim

Fr. Michael Najim is a priest of the Diocese of Providence. He is Pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Westerly, Rhode Island and has been the Director of Spiritual Formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary and Chaplain of LaSalle Academy, a coed Catholic high school in Providence, RI. He is the author of Radical Surrender: Letters to Seminarians, published by the Institute for Priestly Formation. He also blogs at Fr. Michael Najim's Blog.

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  • Kathy

    Excellent realization, really encouraging words. Sometimes I feel unworthy to pray because I have failed myself and God with unbecoming emotions, like anger or resentment.

  • Patti Knudsen

    Wow, I never ceased to be amazed at the beautiful and inspired guidance from Fr. Najim. Another priest I’d like to know personally, but will likely never have the chance. I often feel not worthy to take up God’s time, and I sometimes get very confused where in my heart the truth rests. I’m not sure when I am being honest, or just wishing what I am telling Him is true. I count on believing He knows the truth, even if I can’t articulate it well. Thank you, Father. Know that your insights are greatly appreciated by so many of us out here. Blessings.

    • LizEst

      Thanks for your thoughts, Patti. When I find myself not articulating well, I just say to the Lord “you know what I’m saying” or “you know what I’m trying to say”…not as anything flip, but just as an acknowledgment that I’m not doing a very good job at it. I’m at peace with knowing he knows our hearts.

  • marybernadette

    Oh my, I’m glad I read this. Maybe I didn’t read it before because I was ‘afraid to be honest’ and maybe because I was afraid to admit I was ‘angry at God.’ It was painful to admit, because of this and ‘not forgiving hurts from others’, I did not have an ‘Attitude of Gratitude.’ This was so helpful to me as I heard others say, my late Father being one of them, that ‘God can take it’ as is mentioned. The Lord has been very comforting and assuring of HIs Love as He understands our ‘weaknesses and hurts.’ Of course, we need to see doctors for both mental and physical diseases, however, the Lord can heal us miraculously, if He desires and we know He is the true Healer of our Hearts and Souls.

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