Self-Honesty as a Solvent

Tim: As our Lenten conversations with Howard Thurman continue, he keeps returning to prayer.

Shea: In this week’s readings (Days 19-24 in the 40-Day Journey with Howard Thurman) he ties truthfulness to prayer.

Tim: It’s an essential connection, as prayer’s efficacy relies entirely on our honesty.

Shea: We should be honest and real in all we do. But especially when we deal with God, we should go into our prayer times with every intention of being truthful.

Tim: That makes perfect sense. Some would go so far as to suggest self-honesty before God is the default position, since God—being in all and knowing all—is already aware of our needs and weaknesses and desires. That’s what some folks would say.

Shea: Why do I suspect there’s a big “however” coming?

Tim: However, our honesty is neither virtuous nor beneficial to God. That premise turns on an internal contradiction: if God already knows everything about us, why should our candor matter? Self-honesty in prayer doesn’t bless God. It blesses us.

Shea: Thurman says when we pray honestly, we come away with “a sense of being totally understood, completely dealt with, thoroughly experienced, and utterly healed.” We determine how satisfactory our prayer lives are. It’s one of those classic Thurman moments when the reader says, “Of course I know this. It makes perfect sense—so why am I not being 100% honest in my prayer life?”

Tim: There are all kinds of reasons why we hold back in prayer. Some of us are still stuck with this idea that prayer should be approached with exalted language and polite deference. Hard to be candid when you’re trying to write love poetry on the fly! More of us, I think, haven’t learned to be honest with God because we’ve not learned to be honest with ourselves. We don’t want to tell God the truth, because that requires us to admit truths we’d prefer to ignore. I think that’s what Thurman pushes us to overcome, our self-deception.

Shea: That calls us to confess our sins and we’re not cool with that. So much easier to pray for other sinners than to tell God how messed up we are! Yet Thurman gives us an arresting image: he says honest prayer works like solvent that dissolves sin “and the virus begins to be checked in its breeding place.” How can you not love that?

Tim: From there, he summons us to be people of prayer, prayerfully moving through the world, in the self-honesty that comes from prayer, and in the peaceful order that prayerfulness brings.

Shea: Honest prayer settles everything down—our inner selves and our surroundings. The solvent clears up the fogginess and cobwebs that get in our way.

Tim: We’re going to do some honest, prayerful spring-cleaning this week. I’m looking forward to it!

Shea: Amen and ashé! It is so!

Join us each Thursday in Lent as we delve more deeply into our spiritual lives with the help of the great 20th century pastor, activist, and mystic Howard Thurman. We meet each week at 7:30pm in the Resource Room of Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street, Oak Park or online at FB Live. See you this week!

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.