How Honest Can I Be with God in Prayer?

Do you ever wonder how honest you can be with God in prayer? 

On the surface, this question probably seems silly. After all, God knows everything. How could we hide anything from the God who knows our hearts and can read our minds?

Yet sometimes, we hold back in prayer. As if our thoughts, emotions, or words don’t really exist if we don’t speak them. Or perhaps that we won’t be held accountable for them if we don’t admit our thoughts. 

David, the shepherd-king can help us answer the question, “How honest can I be with God in prayer?” Let’s take a walk through the Psalms to eavesdrop on some of David’s prayers.

Is It Okay to Admit to God We’re Scared?

David freely expressed his fear to God when he ran from murderous King Saul, hid out in caves, and feared for his life. Listen to his words in Psalm 57:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, 
for in you my soul takes refuge; 
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, 
till the storms of destruction pass by. 
I cry out to God Most High, 
to God who fulfills his purpose for me. (vv. 1–2 ESV)

David received assurance of God’s intervention and comfort: “He will send from heaven and save me . . . God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” (v. 3).

What about When We’re Angry? 

Perhaps someone has wronged us, and we want to express our outrage and implore God to act on our behalf.

David’s prayers assure us it’s okay to express our pain when someone has betrayed our trust, wounded our spirit, or slandered our name. When we want justice—or vengeance.

He prayed with transparency and passion when political enemies threatened him and members of his own family sought his life. 

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause 
against an ungodly people, 
from the deceitful and unjust man 
deliver me! 
For you are the God in whom I take refuge. (Psalm 43:1–2 ESV)

David felt justified asking God to defend his honor and vanquish his foes because he had a clean heart before Him. He knew God, the just judge, would ultimately do what was right. We can pray with similar passion when we are wronged.

What about When Our Hearts Are Breaking? 

When our spirits are crushed within us? When we feel as though someone has amputated a limb with no anesthetic and left us in a corner to bleed out? Does God want to hear this?


David penned words with which we can all identify from one of the lowest points in his life:

I am weary with my moaning; 
every night I flood my bed with tears; 
I drench my couch with my weeping. 
My eye wastes away because of grief. (Psalm 6:6–7 ESV)

In verse 9 David assures us that God welcomes the honest expressions of our sorrow. We don’t have to put on a strong face before the Lord. “The LORD has heard my plea;” he wrote, “the LORD accepts my prayer.”

What about When We Feel As Though God Is Distant? 

That He is removed from us in our deepest time of need? Can we tell Him this too?

In Psalm 10:1 David asked, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

David’s petition affirms that God invites us to cry out to Him and that He hears our prayers—even when the heavens seem silent. 

What If God Himself Is the Source of Our Hurt and Confusion? 

What if the source of our deepest pain comes from knowing that God has allowed this trial or tragedy to enter our lives? We wonder how the God whose name is synonymous with love can allow death, sickness, poverty, or abuse. Can we freely express our heartache and disappointment, or will admitting it spark a holy lightning bolt from the sky? 

These prayers are perhaps the most gut-wrenching of all. Our trust in God wrestles with the knowledge that God, in His sovereignty, could have prevented our pain. Why didn’t He?

David felt this way, praying,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, 
and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1–2 ESV)

Jesus, the Son of God and God Himself, repeated David’s prayer from the cross. Unlike David, Jesus knew the purpose of His suffering. He quoted Psalm 22 in part to assure us God is neither immune nor displeased if we cry out to Him when we don’t understand why He has allowed hard circumstances in our lives. He knows He has a good plan to use even the painful parts for our good and His glory. One day, as Jesus did, we will understand it too.

David’s Prayers Teach Us to Pray

David composed song-prayers that modeled the type of transparent dialogue we can have with God. His words, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, assure us that we can bring our fear, anger, hurt, and heartbreak to God in prayer. We can ask questions and seek the comfort only He can give.

But we must never forget that He is God.

The God to whom we pray isn’t someone we can shake our fist at when things don’t go our way. He is the awe-inspiring Creator of the universe and the Lord of all who live. He is holy, just, and worthy of respect. While He welcomes our honest prayers, we must never forget to whom we’re speaking. God alone reigns supreme. Our prayers to Him must always be filtered with holy reverence and the honor due His name. 

As we bare our hearts to God, let us pray David’s faith-filled words of reverence from Psalm 22:23–25 (ESV):

You who fear the LORD, praise Him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred 
the affliction of the afflicted, 
and he has not hidden his face from him, 
but has heard, when he cried to him. 

From you comes my praise in the great congregation.

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