True Prayer Blows Off Fig Leaves

We all attempt to cover our nakedness with Adam and Eve’s leafy aprons (Genesis 3). Deep within is the realisation that something is horribly wrong, something is amiss. Our lives are filled with frenzied attempts to silence this realisation. We build superficial defence mechanisms to hide ourselves from the world. Behind many an enraged bully’s fierce demeanour is a whimpering little boy or girl afraid that the whole world sees their vulnerability. Many comedians laugh to mask hearts heavy with depression. Numerous so called gestures of kindness are really meant to ease the givers’ discomfort at the sight of suffering rather than ease the receivers’ suffering.

Thus we have buried our real selves in fake identities, hiding from ourselves, from others and from God. No wonder we are surprised when our true selves escape and break free, dancing around before we catch our breath and stuff them back inside. Relationships fall apart as sly selfish strategies disguised as romance lose their lustre and fade away, leaving dark passions swirling around fallen masks and withered leafy aprons. Acting is, after all, an exhausting job. Most tragically though, our prayers are superficial, feeble attempts at swindling God.

That insidious deep realisation that something is desperately wrong makes us shrink from God with fear. How can God see me as I am and still love me? This question fills the mind with dread. So we pelt God with silly requests. These requests are silly, not necessarily because they are bad but silly because they are red herrings meant to throw God off course. Husbands who really need to be more loving, pray for good wives while wives who really need the courage to resuscitate their individuality, pray for loving husbands instead. Youth who need the courage to build the castles they dream about, plead for jobs instead. Day and night, we pray for God to polish our flimsy leafy aprons when we really need to learn to be naked and unashamed.

On the cross, God in the person of Jesus pleads, “How can I see you as you are and not love you?” The realisation that all is not right, guilt, calls not for shame but repentance and confession; not for superficiality but for transparency before God. This is true prayer. Innocence is not ignorance but calm transparency and is there anything more transparent than opening up to God in honest trusting prayer?

God’s trustworthiness is abundantly evident in the record of His interaction with humanity, the Bible. He calls us not to believe mere claims but has opened Himself to scrutiny. He even became flesh so we could examine Him with eyes unblinded by His glory. In the desert, He refused to use His infinite power for selfish gain, choosing to reveal His identity through hardship, proving that He could be trusted not to misuse His power. His foreknowledge can be trusted for He washed His betrayer’s feet. At Jacob’s well, He showed that His intimate knowledge of a sinner didn’t repel Him but filled His heart with compassion, compelling Him to treat the sinner graciously. 

What excuse have we for our fearful superficiality? What reason have we to cower behind leafy aprons in the face of a God yearning to restore our innocence? Prayer is the opportunity to open ourselves to not a distant God, but to Him close by in the person of the Holy Spirit. God walks with each one of us, eager to engage in open discussion. Prayer is the privilege of candour with God as revealed in the Bible. 

It is only insofar as we are willing to be open with a God who is open to us that we can truly experience the joy of being known as we are and loved. This is the deepest desire in each one of us, a desire that mirrors God’s, in whose image we are created, for as the Bible reveals, He too seeks to be known as He is and loved. He has taken the first step, will you reply in kind?  

photo credit: Ted’s photos – For Me & You 2015 – Budapest – People – 8 of 16 via photopin (license)