“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.” And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” ‘

Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’ ”

—Luke 18:1-8 (NKJV)

God has bigger fish to fry—I know that. I actually say that, too, when I’m praying in my sort of flimsy, apologetic manner.

“I know You have bigger fish to fry, God, but could I just ask about this…again?”

Sometimes I feel like a little kid who is  bugging God. Like I’m bothering Him. Even like I’m wasting His time with my repeated requests that seem—let’s face it—trivial in light of all the bigger fish He’s got to fry. The big fish of world-size problems, like wars and starving children, pure evil running wild, disease and devastation, Satan’s latest tactics, and about a million other urgent situations.

Then here I come…Hello, God? Umm, I know I’ve mentioned this before, and I know I’m totally unworthy, not as obedient as I should be, actually, I’m sorry for wasting Your time on this issue. I see You have a lot going on, and it’s not a huge thing, but could You just __________.

Somehow this doesn’t seem like the “powerful and effective prayer” we read about in James 5:16b. But all too often it is my prayer. And after I say it, I berate myself. I think again of James (chapter 1, verse 6) and of doubting when you pray and how he says that is not going to work. What a jumble of thoughts flood me as I pray and try to sort things out!

I wonder, Is it wrong to approach God in this manner?

Obviously I am not a theologian, just an ordinary pray-er. I’d even say I am a less polished pray-er than most, but still! I am one of His children, and I am speaking honesty and sincerely, so I know He hears me. And forgives the imperfect way in which I sometimes engage Him. Maybe He even smiles.

So, yes, I do need to work on my prayer life. But I’m a firm believer in pouring out our hearts to God in real and imperfect ways. The psalms confirm this is the way to go (although they are much more poetic than the messes I sometimes pray).

But it’s the heart cry. David knew it, and so did Job, so we’ve got good company here.

And when Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow (above), His message clearly was to have faith and continue in our asking. We are not bugging God. He desires to hear from us. He cares about big and small matters.

Back to James 5:16b and his verse on  prayer. It reads:

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV).

Are you righteous? Meaning in right standing with God through Christ? This is where the power comes from, not from our ability to find just the right words.

If you have trusted in Christ, your prayer (and mine) is powerful and effective. What a relief when our prayers don’t feel strong, orderly, or cohesive.They are still acceptable to God.

Our marching orders, then, are to pray on! Pray frequently, pray imperfectly, pray honestly, and pray so that when Jesus comes again, He will find faith on the earth.