Hooking Up Prayers to the Polygraph

The auger spun its way beneath the city street. Red Oklahoma dirt churned at its end. Danny eyed its progress. He had kissed his wife and their two lovely daughters that morning, and drove off to work. "I'll see you tonight, girls. Love y'all."

And the auger spun on.

Danny had misspent his younger days in boozing and partying and passing out. But those days were over. He was a new man. He and his family were in church every Sunday, filling up the very back pew. He had a good job. He was happy. Everyone was happy.

And the auger spun on.

He said a prayer of thanks for the blessings he now enjoyed. His life couldn’t be better. Every time I was around him, he talked of learning more about the Bible. He told me about the bad days from before. How grateful he was for a second chance at life.

And the auger spun on.

Danny got distracted for a moment.
He miscalculated.
He got too close.
The biting end of the auger hooked in his clothes.
And as he screamed for help, it spun on and on and on.

I was Danny's pastor. I looked down at Danny in the hospital bed that night in Edmond, OK. Skin had been ripped away from several parts of his body. He would father no more children. Over the coming months, he would undergo surgery after surgery.

The auger had spun on, but his life--the life he knew and loved--came to a screeching halt.

What do you say to Danny? What kind of prayer do you offer up? How do you advise this young man, maimed for life, to speak to God?

Some of our greatest lies begin with the words, “Heavenly Father.” If our true thoughts were voiced, we’d call him a Hellish Torturer. Or a Deadbeat Dad. Or a Sadistic Tyrant. Anything but a father.

The lies pile up. We pray what we ought to believe, but don’t. We pray what we wish were true, but isn’t. We fake a gratitude that we don’t have. If honesty ruled our prayers, how often would they sound like this:

The Lord is my Wolf. I am in want. He makes me lie down in green slime. He shoves me into roaring waters. He rejects my soul. He pushes me down paths of suffering for sufferings’ sake. Yea, when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear every evil, for I am all alone....

There are prayers in the Bible that every prim-and-proper Christian would shrink from uttering. 

  • Psalm 88, where the believer describes the friendless, wrathful, death-infested, wasted life he leads while waiting on a deaf, loveless Lord to answer him.
  • Psalm 44, where, despite the fidelity of Israel, God snores away in heaven as the wolfish enemies of his people devour them like sheep, scoff, deride, laugh, and otherwise make their lives a living hell.
  • Psalm 137, where Israel mourns in exile, praying that God would raze the cities of their enemies and blessing those who would take the infants of their foes and dash their heads against the rock.

@@These R-rated prayers may be horrific and almost blasphemous, but at least they’re honest.@@

The Psalms do not gild lies with a golden Amen. Out of the depths they cry to God, with no pious pretense of everything being sweetness and light because they know God loves them and will make everything better. No, the language is raw because their lives are raw. @@Bloody suffering makes for bloody prayers.@@ And that’s the way it should be.

I’m not advocating that we damn God. I’m not saying a sufferer is lying when she prays Psalm 23. But I do believe in being honest with the God. He knows our innermost thoughts before we speak them anyway. He cannot be deceived, so we had just as well tell him exactly how we feel, what we’re going through, and call upon him to be true to his own promises, true to himself.

Jesus did not say from the cross, “My God, my God, I’m thankful to be bleeding to death,” but, “My God, my God, who hast Thou forsaken me?”

As the auger spins on, and rips your life, or the life of your loved ones, to shreds, how do you pray? Try praying honestly. Pray the Psalms. God will hear and God will answer. It may not be the answer you want. And that answer may come after waiting what seems an eternity. But when it comes, you’ll know that the God to whom you prayed truly is a heavenly Father.

He holds you tight and loves you even as you weep and fight in his arms. His Son suffers alongside you as your brother in the flesh. His scars betoken his own sufferings to save you and make you his own. His Spirit intercedes within you with groanings too deep for words.

As you pray, the Spirit talks to the Son who speaks to the Father. God prays to God within you.

As we cry,
"Where the hell are you, God?"
"When will this end?"
"Have you forgotten me?"
God is there, fully present, hidden in our wounds, silent in our screams, loving and forgiving and saving us.