Today, in my sermon at Cliftonville Moravian Church, ‘Embracing Vulnerability: Honesty in Prayer’, I explored the Prophet Jeremiah’s complex relationship with God.
With Jeremiah one can feel his honesty, expressed vividly by the language used, as he vents his frustrations with God directly to God. In suffering persecution, mockery and public shame on account of his calling as a prophet, Jeremiah experiences emotional agitation that is, at times, much more than he fears he can bear. Nevertheless, there are periods, amidst the tumult, where calm descends upon him and enables him to withstand the cruel criticism and soothes his suffering. Jeremiah’s honesty with God is refreshing and at times almost brutal, and therein lies its importance. As Michael Casey, the Australian Cistercian Monk and accomplished author has written of Jeremiah’s strongly worded complaints to God:
‘There is a sense in which the very act of addressing such a complaint to God is the beginning of its solution. What we fear above all is the unnameable. Being able to speak of a terror relativises it. The possibility of reaching out to God from the depths of our affliction indicates that a skerrick of our faith survives.’
As Clement of Alexandria recognised: ‘Prayer is conversation with God’. And as a conversation, it should be open and honest. As Jeremiah vigorously reminds us, we are at our most authentic when we come to God, just as we are; when we bow our heads in prayer and open our hearts unreservedly and unconditionally. Yes, at times what we uncover is painful and perplexing, but it is at that point of realisation, where we experience an earnest communion with God, and sustain, as Martin Luther described it: ‘the fire of faith‘.
So pray with all your heart, and all your mind and all your soul; pray with a a purity of intention and an honesty that lays bare the tumult and turmoil. Name the unnameable; explore the unexplored in the light and love of God’s presence.
Every blessing, Scott