These days it seems that more and more things we consume or use are filtered or need to be. From our water to our coffee, our air to our oil, and beyond and more, we use filters of every size, shape, and design. When I order coffee beans to take home at one of our local roasters, I am always asked what kind of filter I have so the beans are ground to match that filter. This was certainly not the case when my husband and I were first married and used an electric percolator to make our coffee.
We have filters for our digital cameras (if we use them much). There are filters for sound on nearly any device where it is needed as well. We seem to be on a quest for purity and yet most of us find our culture to be moving away from purity on every level of society.
Why use filters? Because we believe we need a porous device for removing impurities or solid particles from nearly any liquid or gas passed through it. But do we wonder if those impurities are just increasing in recent years or if we never noticed them in the past and they were just as numerous as they are now? Maybe there are some we notice the need of more than others such as having good gas, air, and oil filters means our cars run more smoothly and for longer periods of time.
Are there other filters that you can think of? Do we filter our speech?
The answer to that last one about our speech might be “yes” or “no” depending on who we are, where we live, our personality, and more. Sometimes it seems our speech hurls through the air or onto a page without much thought about who is hit by it or how is impacts them. Days of being careful with our words seem to be out of fashion except on subjects that are currently taboo or too controversial to voice without fear of reprisal or censorship. The days where we considered the impact of our words on others has somehow slipped away in recent decades as we have fallen in love with the idea that freedom means we can say or do anything we please no matter the consequences to others.
We seem to have forgotten this axiom written some time ago by someone with more wisdom than we sometimes use. But have we turned this whole idea around in another context and used a filter where we perhaps should not have tried to make everything sound polished and more perfected?
Do we have the habit of filtering our words in religious or spiritual contexts to present a picture that we may be better than we are? Are we open and honest when we should be about our struggles?
Moving from Palm Sunday to Good Friday or celebrating Passover is a time we are encouraged to reflect on our own sins and confess them to God as the only One who can redeem us and help us to be better than we are.
Are our prayers filtered?
Most of us are familiar with many of the Psalms and recognize the ones written by David, that earthy man who faltered and failed and yet became a king and was called “a man after God’s own heart.” What were his prayers like?
“Most of us in suffering stop praying or put up a brief petition for help. Here the psalmist nearly shouts his pain, frustration and even anger to God, but the significance is that he does so before God, processing his grief in sustained prayer. God understands us so well that he permits, even encourages, us to speak to him with uncensored hearts.”Tim Keller
Do our prayers sound like the psalmist who lays out his whole heart and mind over and over again in psalm after psalm or have we fallen into more ritualistic patterns and language that fails to acknowledge the condition of our own hearts, thoughts, and struggles praying with filtered words?
What might be different about us and the condition of our hearts if we prayed unfiltered prayers?
Do we forget that what is going on within us is something God already knows but He wants us to see it and acknowledge it to Him so He can work in us what only He can do?
Our lives are a story unfolding day by day. Stories are made up of more than one theme (especially the good ones we enjoy.)
“But we’re in a story in which everything eventually comes together, a narrative in which all the puzzling parts finally fit, about which years later we exclaim, ‘Oh, so that’s what that meant!’ But being in a story means we mustn’t attempt to get ahead of the plot – skip the hard parts, erase the painful parts, detour the disappointment.”Eugene Peterson
And guess what? David wasn’t the only model for unfiltered prayers.
This Holy Week reminds us of how Jesus knew He was in the midst of his story not only on Palm Sunday but each day before that and each day after that as He approached the cross and the agonizing death, He knew was waiting for Him. And the night before He was to be crucified, scripture shows us He is kneeling in agonizing prayer, unfiltered prayer before Father God.
“Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”
Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”Matthew 26:36-39 (MSG)
“He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.”Matthew 26:42 (MSG)