A few months ago, my doctor gave me a drug called Topamax to address some migraine-like symptoms I was having. Although it helped with the symptoms, it also left me with a perpetual sense of drunkenness, an inability to pronounce simple words, and an overall lack of discretion.
If I thought it, I said it; and I was proud of it. With all the awkwardness of a socially inept 14-year-old, I bumbled my way through conversations, yielding profoundly embarrassing results. I was off the drug in less than a week.
The most embarrassing part was that I couldn’t blame the drug for making me a different person – I could only apologize that it had loosened my tongue and revealed what I was really like under the surface, behind the facade.
My week on Topamax gave me painful insight into what life would be like if we all went around like happy drunks, bluntly sharing all our thoughts with whomever would listen. It wouldn’t be pretty, and the unfiltered openness would inevitably lead to offense and broken relationships.
But what if there were a place where we could be our worst, 14-year-old, awkward selves and be accepted anyway? — a place where we could have Topamax-like openness and have no fear of being rejected? I’m beginning to see prayer as that place.
When I pray, I often find myself interacting with God like He’s a gracious – but highly judgmental – therapist. I edit myself as I speak, believing I can shield Him from the broken, complicated, unvarnished me.
When I look inside and find hatred, selfishness, rage, lust, or childishness, I often try to hide it from Him by praying in fluent Christianese. I use phrases like “help me as I struggle to love this person,” rather than admit – quite frankly – I sort of hate their guts. But God doesn’t want to hear that, right?
So I stick with safe prayers, prayers that won’t embarrass fainthearted Yahweh or cause Him to reject me. And in doing so, I run the risk of turning my prayers into vain repetitions to a god I’ve fashioned in my own image – a god who has little tolerance for the real me.
And in sticking with those safe – but insincere – prayers, I don’t actually bring myself before God. I present a false image of myself to a false image of Him, and there’s no real exchange between us. It’s an exercise in faux spirituality.
However, I’ve lately been finding the courage to take a spiritual Topamax and bring my broken, unfiltered, awkward self before God in prayer. And as I approach Him with the faith that He’s strong enough to hear the truth about me, I’m beginning to realize He knew it already – and He loves me just the same.
Therefore, “when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:7-8.