"Lord, help my unbelief" - Mark 9:23
I think those four words are one of the most real prayers in the Bible.
I have been thinking recently about how we so often put up pretenses in our relationship with God. We quote well-rehearsed feel-good verses and go through routine prayers hoping that somehow if we say just the right words it'll make Him happy and He'll do what we want. We like to pretend that God is fooled by all our charades or that He doesn't actually see the depths of our heart.
But I love the realness of this prayer, "Lord, help my unbelief." I think if we are honest with ourselves, more often than not, when we face a difficult situation, what we feel in our hearts is very far from the prayers that we pray with our mouths. We've gotten so used to the kind of politically correct prayers to pray in each situation - the healing prayers, the finance prayers, the relationship prayers, the strength prayers, etc. We know all the right words that we must say in each situation and we churn them out like our own little protestant rosary. But how often are we really real with God? How often do we admit to him our anger, our hurt, our frustration, our disappointment with the circumstances that we are facing? How often do we admit our lack of faith, our unbelief?
Just before the man prays this prayer, Jesus says to Him, "Everything is possible for one who believes." And then and there the man admits that he is struggling. Do you notice, that Jesus doesn't say, "Too bad, buddy. Come back to me when you believe. Then I'll see what I can do for you." He doesn't say, "Oh what a pathetic excuse for a Christian. And right in front of the disciples?!" but instead he goes right on and does miracles for him.
Some of my favorite examples of realness are the story of Jacob and how he wrestled with God and the story of Job arguing with God. I love that the Bible records stories like that - how they didn't just quietly gloss over their emotions. Instead they bore their hearts before Him and wrestled with Him over the difficult issues until He finally spoke to them.
This generation that we live in has a strange fascination with "reality". It is something we crave and yet run from at the same time. We love to watch reality shows and exposes about people we know nothing about. We love to rant and rave about our own favorite pet-peeves and social issues under the guise of "being real." We follow our friends reality (or at least their version of reality) through unending news feeds on facebook and twitter. We want realness in every area of our lives except when it comes to God.
But if there is one thing we ought to be real about, friends, it is our relationship with Him. Let's stop kidding ourselves that we can pray some predictable prayer, like a catchy status update, and cover over the reality of the struggles going on inside our heart.
Now, I know that we still need to rejoice in every situation and we need to be able to bless the Lord no matter what. But if our conversations with God are as impersonal as the ones we have with the grocery store clerk or a random waiter, then I have to wonder if we really know Him at all! Let's stop pretending, and sometimes have the strength to pray, like that man, "Lord, help my unbelief." Let's have the courage to admit to God that we just don't have faith, that we need help. I'm pretty sure He already knows.