Being bold in prayer

“God doesn’t want wimpy prayers.”

I remember the moment clearly. Sitting on the carpet floor in the retreat space, my pen paused over my notebook as the speaker’s words settled into my mind and grabbed my soul.

“God doesn’t want wimpy prayers,” she repeated.

I was a junior in college attending a retreat about the Holy Spirit, specifically the gifts and charisms he can bestow on the faithful if only we ask. But as I was listening to the retreat speaker, I was shaken by that one sentence. If God desires us to be bold in prayer, why do we hold back?

Growing up, the Faith always came easily to me. For one reason or another, I never doubted that God was real or that he loved me, and I slowly began practicing the faith of my parents until it became my own. I did everything “right”; I was a Youth Group kid, I attended the March for Life and Steubenville Conferences, I went to a Catholic college and became involved in campus ministry, pursued a regimented prayer life and even landed a job related to my faith post-graduation.

Taking a deeper dive into my interior life, I tried to cultivate a disposition of openness to God’s will, imitating Christ’s own obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane where he uttered to the Father, “not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). Whenever I prayed about the most sensitive desires of my heart, I followed the formula: “Lord, this is the desire of my heart, but only if it is your will.” These prayers were good, but there was something missing.

Recently, I remembered the advice from the retreat speaker. “God doesn’t want wimpy prayers.” Instead, God wants us to be bold in our requests. He doesn’t want us to over-qualify them or be afraid of being honest with our hearts.

St. Teresa of Avila is known for saying, “You pay God a compliment by asking great things of him.” This means that when we don’t pray with honesty, when we don’t lay out the desires of our hearts, we are doing God a disservice. In essence, it shows that we don’t trust that he can bring about marvelous deeds in our own lives.

And that was the problem — distrust. While my prayer seemed to show an openness to God’s will, there was a part of me that whispered it in fear, afraid that this small act of openness would mean my desires would be thrust aside for something else. In my head I knew God desired good things for me, but deep down there was a wound of doubt and distrust in God’s goodness, a wound that goes back to the Garden of Eden.

So often, out of fear of getting hurt, we hide our hearts or hold back from bringing everything to God, who already knows our hearts more intimately than we know them ourselves. But if we look back over our lives, how many times has God proved to us that he is trustworthy, that he desires to give us good things? And how much more would he give us if only we would ask?

Now, rather than ending my prayers with, “But only if you will it, Lord,” I take comfort in the knowledge that he knows my heart and my desire to follow his will. Instead of adding these words with my head down, afraid they won’t be heard, I look bravely into the eyes of my loving Father, knowing I can ask without fear. Because for me, not saying those words is an act of trust. It is an act that he can — and desires to — bring about great things in my life. And so I ask great things of him and lay out my heart, raw and real and messy before the God who loves me.

Maybe you don’t need to pray those words. But maybe you do. Maybe they are the release you need, the ability to pray with trust. Sisters, whichever way leads you to deeper communion with our heavenly Father, pray that way.

But above all, be honest and bold in your prayer. He gives us desires and hopes and dreams so that we may turn to him, for, in the end, he is the only one that can fill the chronic longing of our hearts. He aches to give us glimpses of the fulfillment we will only truly find in him when we reach our heavenly home.

Dear sisters, sometimes the only thing God wants us to do is boldly ask. Yes, sometimes he may say no or ask you to wait patiently amid the delay. And these answers may sting for a time. But how can he direct us if we don’t trust him with these desires?

The new year is a great time to reevaluate where we stand with God. Are we walking in the way of trust? Are we being honest with ourselves or God in prayer? Or are we holding back out of fear?

So this year, be bold. God doesn’t want wimpy, half-hearted prayers; he wants confident, fearless requests rooted in the knowledge that he is a trustworthy, loving God. Be honest with God, and ask great things of him.

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