I am innocent, Lord! Won’t you listen as I pray and beg for help? I am honest! Please hear my prayer. Psalm 17:1 (CEV)

He sat across the table from me and apologized. He told me the reasons for doing what he did; that he had no intention of hurting me; that as soon as things improved he’d make it up to me; that he was truly sorry for the way things had worked out.

The human mind is an amazing thing. I sat and listened intently. I looked him in the eye, did all the things a good listener should do in a situation like this. But in spite of the sincerity in his voice and eyes, I remember thinking, “I’m so sorry too. I’m sorry because I don’t believe a word you are saying.”

Was this the ‘proper Christian attitude’? Maybe not. But over the previous several months I’d seen him hurt other people by his decisions. I’d heard him say one thing and do another; make promises that he’d later back out of; fly into rage when someone crossed him. The bottom line is that his actions didn’t match his words.

I wonder how often, during my times of prayer the Father looks on my words and asks a similar question. Barnes writes, “True prayer is that in which the lips “do” represent the real feelings of the soul. In hypocritical prayer the one is no proper representation of the other.”

On a simple humorous scale, I remember praying around the dinner table. The simple “God is great” prayer was taboo. My father would lead us in a ‘real prayer’ because ‘God didn’t listen to those little rote prayers where you say the same thing time after time.’ Yet to this day I can recite the prayer my dad would say because he said the same thing time after time.

When my lips pray for my enemy, do they reveal the real agony of my soul? That agony brought on by the wounds inflicted on me? Or do they simply say some religious jargon based on scriptures that admonish us to pray for our enemies.

When my lips pray for deliverance from some secret sin, some hidden addiction, does my heart echo that desire, or am I already planning my next episode?

When my lips pray for my brother in pain, sin or some other distress, do they portray true human agony over the situation or is my heart rejoicing over my own piety in lifting others to the heavenly throne.

Perhaps the reason we often see so few answers to our prayers is because our prayers not only don’t reflect the will of the Father, they aren’t the true feelings of our heart. The prayer of the psalmist was based on his own honesty, his own integrity before the throne. We have the privilege of going before the very throne of a Father who knows our every thought. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect in our prayers, he asks us to be honest with ourselves and him.

PRAYER: Father, all too often my prayers are ill thought out, repetitious and religious in nature. Sometimes they lack sincerity and honesty because of lack of thought or pride on my part. Empower me in my prayer life to be honest with you and with myself. Thank you that you will listen to my heartfelt pain and honesty. Amen.