The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

The Emotionality of Prayer

The Emotionality of Prayer

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

God loves variety, which is why He has created such a broad spectrum of human temperaments. Some of us are highly emotional while others of us are quite calm. Some of us tear up over every tender moment while others of us wouldn’t cry if the person we loved the most suddenly died in front of us. We all have feelings, but we express them differently. We all care deeply about certain things, but some of us keep the intensity of our feelings so buried that no one would ever dream how important certain things are to us—no one except God.

God knows you inside and out. He never misunderstands what your priorities are based on how you speak to Him. You don’t have to get all blubbery and choked up to convince God that you are sincerely sorry for disobeying Him. You don’t have to kneel down and clench your fists together when you pray in order to alert Him that you’re communicating something extra important. God knows you. If He’s created you to be the even-tempered, stone-faced sort, then your quiet prayer of, “I want to please You with my life,” means just as much as the dramatic soul’s emphatic pleading. And when you quietly confess, “I’m sorry I disobeyed You,” your repentance isn’t less pleasing to God just because there aren’t large tears rolling down your face.

As a human, you have two sets of emotions: spiritual and carnal. Carnal emotions originate in your flesh, whereas spiritual emotions originate in your soul. These two systems of emotions are often out of alignment with each other. Your flesh can be fuming over the way some person cheated you while your soul is calmly insisting that it’s no big deal. Often the struggle we feel over sin is amplified by these two systems colliding. While your flesh delights in some juicy bit of gossip, your soul groans in repulsion. We run into similar friction when we’re trying to carry out some difficult assignment from God: your soul is joyful at the thought of pleasing Him while your flesh groans in repulsion over the thought of being inconvenienced. With these two systems conflicting so often, it’s quite unrealistic to expect someone’s flesh to accurately reflect what is happening in their soul. And yet we do this all the time.

We think people aren’t truly repentant in their hearts if they aren’t acting emotional in their flesh. We worry that they didn’t have a true conversion to Christ if we don’t see some visible signs of joy. And yet for some of us, the emotional channel between soul and flesh has been deliberately barricaded. Some of us put conscious effort into keeping the feelings of our souls hidden, for these are very private things which we do not wish to be flaunted in public. When we feel joyful in our souls, we intentionally keep a somber expression on our faces. When we feel deeply moved, we try hard to hide all visible evidence of it. But for others of us, our carnal emotions serve as a handy microphone through which we intentionally broadcast to the world what is happening in our souls. When our souls are elated with joy during our worship with God, we want everyone to know it. Our eyes sparkle, broad smiles appear on our faces, and we raise our hands up to the sky. When we pray in earnest, we clench our fists, and we intentionally try to channel the emotions of our souls out of our lips. We get all choked up with emotion, our eyes brim with tears, and we find the whole experience quite satisfying, for we feel that we have been very authentic by unifying flesh and soul.

So what about God? Is He moved by our tearful entreaties? Only when they are sincere. When we’re just putting on some showy act, He is not at all impressed. God wants honesty first and foremost. He knows who He made you to be, and trying to whip up extra emotions isn’t going to make God pay closer attention to you. If He created you to be a calm, solemn type, then be that. If He created you to be highly emotive in your communication style, then go with that. Don’t try to be someone else just to fit some silly stereotype. God wants variety—we’re not supposed to be clones of each other. If you can’t pray without getting all teary, then keep a box of tissues handy. If you feel emotionally flat when you pray, don’t let your lack of adrenaline faze you. God wants honesty from you, in whatever form it comes.

There are certain times in life when even the most passionate among us become completely fried. When you’ve been trekking through some spiritual desert so long that your soul feels numb and you can barely mumble, “Have Your will in my life,” does it mean your prayer is lacking? Not at all. Some of the most powerful and effective prayers we pray are those we state in the midst of spiritual burnout. Let’s remember that the true purpose of prayer is to invite God to align us with Himself. Prayer is an act of submission, and it is hardest to submit to God when we are experiencing Him to be cruel, indifferent, silent, or distant. When our souls feel like they’re running on empty and we’re too drained to whip up any kind of emotion, muttering some mechanical sounding prayer can be the best we’ve got. And yet when we ask God to have His way with us in such flat moments, we are changing the course of our whole lives. It’s when we don’t feel anything in our emotions that the cost of our choices becomes glaringly clear to us. Without the distracting sheen of warm and fuzzy feelings, we think more soberly about the choices we’re making and our resulting prayers become far more meaningful than when we’re just following the pack in the middle of some hyped up worship session.

When the disciples James and John were angling for extra honors in Heaven and Jesus challenged them, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” they both bobbed their heads eagerly and said “We are able” (Mt. 20:22). Able to what? What exactly was in the cup that Jesus was referring to? James and John didn’t know and they didn’t care. In that moment, they were emotionally high on the thought of being superstars in Heaven. The commitment coming out their lips sounded much deeper than it actually was in their soul. But now let’s take a soul who is grinding through the trenches of refinement today with God ripping his world apart and his future looking devoid of hope. When such a soul numbly mutters, “Have Your way in my life”, his prayer is resounding through the spiritual realms like a deafening roll of thunder and catching the attention of all who hear it. Our greatest moments of triumph in the faith often do not feel heart-wrenching or deeply moving. Often we’re too tired or flat to really appreciate the significance of what has just transpired between our souls and God. Yet we will reap the rewards of such moments, and those rewards will be great.

It is soul sincerity that God is after. Those who express a sincere desire to please Him in life are greatly pleasing in His sight—regardless of what form their expressions take. God always looks past our presentation and examines the true desires of our hearts. When we love Him deeply, He knows it. We never have to try and convince Him. God never feels unloved by us because we don’t say the right things with our lips or because we aren’t emphatic enough to suit other people. He hears the cries of our souls, and He knows how much He means to each of us. Don’t let anyone sell you the lie that God might misunderstand you if you don’t pray the “right” way. God never misunderstands you. He knows you inside and out.

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