I like to see what’s in my fridge and my freezer. See-through containers, plastic storage bags and plastic wrap are my favorites because once I put something in an opaque container, I can’t see it and I don’t think about it anymore. Sometimes I’ll freeze something in foil to prevent freezer burn, but in my stupider moments, I won’t label it. Then I end up tossing it two years later. Fail.
There’s a lot to be said for transparent containers because they let you see what’s on the inside – and, better yet, the state of what’s on the inside. If it’s rotten, I’d really rather know up front, before I get psyched about a great lunch find. (And don’t turn up your nose as if you’ve never done that.)
Transparency is a great notion in our relationships with the Lord too. A lot of us cloak ourselves like a foil-tented turkey when we come before the Lord. We come to Him with our insulated words and our insulated thoughts. We keep it safe, and we maintain that heatproof barrier between us and Him.
We do that for different reasons: We prettify our prayers out of reverence, we mask our true struggles out of pride, or we hide altogether behind our protective shield of empty words just for the ceremony of it all. Regardless of motive, lack of transparency in our prayer life demonstrates a flawed understanding of who God is and is an affront to His very nature.
In Psalm 139, David – who at one point went a whole year without confessing his sins of murder and adultery – wrote, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”
So think about this. God, who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs and knows even the number of hairs on our heads, has searched us and knows us. No big shock there. Nor should it surprise us that He perceives our thoughts from afar and knows when we’re about to come down with an acute case of foot-in-mouth disease. Yet we still manage to be surprised by His omniscience and sovereignty.
Maybe hiding is the answer. But, oh wait, Psalm 139 goes on: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”
If God is all-knowing and all-seeing, then we see that the barriers we erect in our prayers are not only pointless but insulting. David expressed transparency and reverence in Psalm 51, where he comes clean before God. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”
It’s okay to say, “God, I’m hurting, and I’m not liking this person (or this situation) right now.” He already knows, and He wants to help. When you are honest before Him, you acknowledge His power, His wisdom and His love. After all, only a loving Father would want to intervene on His child’s behalf.
Masking our troubles or, worse yet, hiding from God deflects the effectiveness of our prayers. It also encourages us to continue to cultivate our sin like bacteria in a petri dish. Or month-old leftover chicken wrapped in foil. Or old bread hidden in the bottom of the bread box. But I think you’re starting to get the picture, and it’s not a nice one.
So my advice to you is simple: Wrap yourself in plastic wrap, not foil, before you come before the Lord. He already knows, and He stands poised to act on your behalf. The only one you’re fooling is yourself.