Why prayer isn’t about being nice before God

This week Eugene Peterson died, he was an incredible man famous for The Message translation of the Bible. But apparently Peterson never set out with the intention to publish a book that’s sold over 50 million copies, instead his work of translating the Bible into contemporary language began as a tool to help members of his congregation pray when they were struggling. The Message started with the psalms because according to Peterson the psalms demonstrate that ‘praying isn’t about being nice before God.’

This is why I love Eugene Peterson and why I love the psalms because when you spend time reading them you realise the psalms aren’t pretty, or smooth, or nice, but they’re honest and I think need to find ways to help us be more honest, which is very hard in our culture. The pressure to be polite or fake it when you walk into church can feel very real, but this pressure is not from God, He’s not interested in you pretending you’re okay, He longs to be in a relationship with you and this starts with honesty.

Worship was never meant to be an escape from reality and the Psalms demonstrate this by expressing both sides of this conversation of faith; there is nothing out of bounds, nothing inappropriate. Prayer and worship are supposed to be a conversation of the heart, so start with where your heart’s at and sit there for a while, but don’t stay there. This dialogue is between our honesty and the truths about who God is, His faithfulness, power and promises, like tiny lights, flickering in the darkness guiding you out of the pit.
‘According to the psalms the primary use for prayer is not for expressing ourselves, but of becoming ourselves – and we cannot do that alone.’ Eugene Peterson
Lizzie Lowrie