Checking in with our feelings at the beginning is another tool or aid to prayer. To be aware of our emotions is a good prelude to authentic prayer. We are praying as a whole person. We do not come to God only with our minds and reason. We come to him with body, mind, and emotions. Authentic prayer has to include how we feel.
The psalms give us ample examples of David’s authentic cries and range of emotional expressions. He is called a man after God’s heart and while in essence it meant he is one who seeks to do God’s will, authenticity about how he felt at different points in his life situations, and the ability to express that in prayer is certainly part of the spirituality in David that God loves.
What father among us would be satisfied with perfunctory, utilitarian, pragmatic prayers where children only ask for what they want and need. What father wouldn’t be delighted to hear his child share the emotions and deep feelings of his or her heart in the midst of happy or difficult life situations. It adds a deeper dimension to their relationship for sure. This is what God wants from us too. But too often we bury or repress or bypass our emotions and go straight into “business” or “the task at hand” – a transactional attitude towards God where an exchange takes place as though God is a Supernatural Vending Machine, not a father who loves and wants a closeness with us.
So a great aid to prayer is to sit still and reflect on what is the dominant feeling or emotion of the day or days or week. Is it confusion, pain, frustration, depression, sadness, joy, or excitement? Is it a blah blah boredom or a great sense of self-condemnation? A prolonged and deepening state of loneliness and isolation? No analysis is needed. No judgment of right or wrong is desirable. All that is needed is a gentle awareness of where we are emotionally, to feel it again and to express that to God. “Lord, I am feeling…….” If you have trouble identifying what you are feeling ask the Lord for help and look up Google for a chart of emotions that describe a wide range to help you label what you feel.
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise?” (James 5:13 ESV) We bring our suffering or cheerfulness or whatever emotions to the Lord and express it appropriately to Him. God loves such prayer and draws near to us who draw near to him as we are, sharing our deepest secrets and hidden emotions. Such prayer will find peace, wisdom, strength and new perspectives delivered to them.
Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane was keenly aware of how he felt and he expressed that to God and found the help he needed. Matthew records in 26:38, “Then he (Jesus) said to them (Peter, James and John), My soul is very sorrowful, even to death…” Then he went on to express that anguish to Abba Father. God delivered to him peace and supernatural strength and divine perspective.
Try this this weekend, and see how it helps you add depth to your relationship with the Lord.