Praying Like You Aren’t Perfect

This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.


English: 2 men pray next to a camel in the mid...

I guess it’s a bold thing to pray as an imperfect person, for imperfect people.  I understand this so well, in fact, that I often find myself cleaning up my act before I hold conference with the Almighty.

I know I haven’t been doing very good by You, but I swear I’ll change if you listen.

“The Teacher” in Ecclesiastes was so convinced of the distance between God and himself that he put it this way;

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools… Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few (Ecc 5:1-2).

God is perfect and I am not.

Like really not perfect.

God loves enemies, whereas I tend to hate on them.  God listens to people, I hear the things I want to hear.  God created me and is mindful of me, but I don’t reciprocate.

How, then, can I presume to pray?

Because of the first part of the equation.

Daniel 9 sets out a prayer for Israel in its captivity;  the Israelites had sinned and were taken away from their land by a hostile foreign nation.

AKA they weren’t perfect.

And yet the prophet prays.  Here are a few highlights:

Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love…

Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us…

Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you.

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness…

Indeed, the Lord our God is right in all that he has done; for we have disobeyed his voice.

And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt… in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray turn away from your city Jerusalem…

Listen to the prayer of your servant and to his supplication, and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon you desolated sanctuary…

We do not present our supplication before you on the ground of our righteousness, but on the ground of your great mercies.

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people bear your name!

I don’t ask for things because I’m a good person, I ask because God is merciful and willing to listen.

I don’t pray because I’ve got everything together, I pray because God does.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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