Have you ever had that feeling where you know there are lots of words, emotions, pictures, and sensations rolling around inside you, but you’re not sure how to get them out? I have that feeling often. I know I have something to say, I know I want to say it, I’m looking for the right words, and sometimes I think I know what those words are; but when the rubber meets the road, I’m not sure how to get it out. The words I have feel all wrong and I can’t find the right ones. The words that are there feel scary and angry. They feel too steeped in selfishness to be spoken aloud, so I don’t say anything. And when all of those words, emotions, pictures, and sensations stay inside, unspoken, I feel this incredible weight of disappointment. My neck muscles tense up and I go on with my day, restless and on edge.
“God, if I could only say it all to you, things would be better!” I express with exasperation.
“Why can’t you?” He replies, usually with a knowing smile and a twinkle in his eye.
I look at Him with even greater exasperation. “Because! I can’t find the right words!” I say as if I were a child explaining to my obviously clueless parent why I can’t eat my vegetables.
“Don’t worry about finding the right words,” He says gently, “just speak the words that are there.”
“Well… How do I do that?” I reply with genuine curiosity.
“Just start talking. Tell me what’s on your heart, and we’ll figure it out as we go along.”
So, I try. What follows as I open my heart is less coherent words, but rather a groaning babble. Sometimes I’m not even sure of what I said, or if I said anything at all. But I’m always aware of His smile and how happy he is to hear my thoughts. Happy that they’re out in the open for us to look at together. I didn’t have to say anything right, or try to find the right words. If I had, the “right words” I’d found would have been wrong. And that is part of the beauty of prayer: it’s honesty.
The Psalms do this well, I think. Sure, they’re poetic and beautiful; but they are wrought with wailing, emotion, and pain! When I read the Psalms, I have images of people laughing, singing, crying, groaning; simply letting all that is inside come out! God invites us to do the same.
I like the way Eugene Peterson begins Psalm 5 in The Message. He writes, “Listen, God! Please, pay attention! Can you make sense of these ramblings, my groans and cries?” I’m taken by the audacity of the words. They feel arrogant and wrong. Yet, it’s that audacity, that unpolished yearning we are invited to honestly recognize in ourselves and offer to God. He’ll help us figure out the rest as we go along…together. But it all starts with being honest, and that starts with prayer.
 The Message, Psalm 5:1.