In our human relationships, even those with our most intimate friends, we carefully select how much of our selves we’re going to expose. We choose our words carefully, and we don’t give away our deepest feelings. This is how we protect ourselves from getting hurt, but it also guarantees that no one else will fully know us.
Prayer is our way of communicating with God. We should know in advance that God won’t relate with us the way others will, with mutually-agreed-upon partial self-disclosure. You can’t decide to pray from a certain part of yourself, while keeping other parts of yourself hidden away. It’s all or nothing.
Psalm 139 is a prayer in which the person praying is acknowledging this:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
There’s no use trying to hide; God’s got you surrounded.
Actually, though, some people do try to hide:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”so even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Have you ever tried to hide from God? It’s nerve-wracking. It’s exhausting. It’s futile.
In a sense, prayer is when you stop running and a stand fully exposed to him. In that moment you realize that he doesn’t need to be told what you think, how you feel, what you need and want, for he already knows all that:
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
But you pray anyway:
Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
And this is the beginning of the most open, fully accepting and affirming relationship a person can ever know.
— Pastor George Van Alstine