Have you ever had an idea that was totally great in your mind, but then when you actually verbalized it out loud you realized it was completely dumb? I was once in a creative team meeting to talk about interesting ways to illustrate the affects of anger in our lives. We were focusing on the idea of a grill – how it’s hot and burns all the time, how it’s heat can either be used to cook a delicious burger or burn your face off. I was trying to bridge the gap between the negative impact of our anger and the flames on a grill.
“I think I have it,” I said. “We have this grill that’s got flames shooting up, and we can get video of someone talking about how our anger is like flames that burn people, damaging our relationships with others. Then they can talk about how our anger can also burn up our relationship with God, and while they are talking the camera should pan down to a Bible burning on the grill to drive the point home. Our anger is literally like burning the Bible in our lives!”
Someone across the table paused, tilted their head, looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, “We can’t burn a Bible.”
In my mind, it was the best idea in the world. Burn a Bible to show people how destructive their anger is to their relationship with God. What I missed was the obvious fact that it’s not good practice for the pastor of a church to burn Bibles, and especially not to document the act on film. In my mind it was brilliant. Once it passed my lips it was immediately evident what a stupid idea it was.
Our minds can be a cluttered mess of ideas, anxieties, memories, to-do lists and useless trivia. Very rarely does a person have complete clarity in their thought processes because our brains can move so fast and process so much information. It is estimated that the human brain can handle 10 quadrillion instructions per second. That is massive amount of data flowing through the millions of cells in our heads, and sorting through them is not always easy, which is why it is difficult to always have a clear head.
For me, this fact is played out best when I pray in my head. You know, those silent prayers that we offer up to God…the ones where you are halfway through asking God to move on behalf of your sick aunt before you realize you are going through your grocery list. The prayers where you are telling God how much you love him in your head only to realize a few minutes later that you are mentally reciting the lyrics to a song you heard on the radio earlier. Silent prayers are okay in a pinch, but they rarely keep me connected. It’s no surprise to find out that there are only two real mentions of silent prayer in the Bible (1 Samuel 1:13 and Nehemiah 2:4-5). Those were both powerful prayers, but I think it’s important to realize that they appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Prayer in the Bible is typically understood to be out loud.
He said to them, “When you pray, say…
The disciples have just asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and he begins teaching them the Lord’s Prayer with this statement, “When you pray, say…” Say it. Say it out loud. Speak it. Not think to yourself, but say it out loud. It’s amazing how much this principle has changed my prayer life. When I talk to God as if he is a person in the room rather than the imaginary friend in my mind, I am much more deliberate about what I’m saying. My prayers go from being loose and free-flow, guided by whatever is going on in my mind (shopping lists, what I need to record on my DVR, does my hair look good, what if bigfoot really is real?), to thoughtful and rooted in my relationship with God.
For some of us it’s scary to pray out loud. We are afraid we will look or sound stupid, and we worry that we will run out of things to say. But God loves hearing your voice. He loves it because he loves you! Nothing you have to say is unimportant to him, and there’s no way you could say anything in a way that sounds dumb to his ears. The next time you pray, find a quite place all by yourself and say it. It has the power to change your life.