Devotional Podcast #1: “Pour Out Your Heart like Water”

Devotional Text: Lamentations 2:19

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Wednesday, January 10, and today begins my new series of devotional podcasts, which I hope to bring to you two or three times each week. You’re listening to Phil Keaggy’s song, “Let Everything Else Go,” from his 1981 album, Town to Town.

During the final year of my father’s life, in 1995, when Dad was dying of terminal cancer, he experienced—praise God!—a reawakening of his Christian faith. For the first time in his life, perhaps, he was reading the Bible daily and was praying often. Or at least he was trying to pray often; he didn’t always accomplish it. He told me that because of all the medication he was on, he found it very difficult to concentrate. He said, “I begin to pray, and I lose focus. My mind wanders. What I do about that?”

I wasn’t a pastor at the time, but I reassured him with Paul’s words in Romans chapter 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

If no less a saint, I said, than the apostle Paul himself admitted that he didn’t know how to pray properly, then, well… it’s no wonder prayer can be hard… for all of us—even for those of us whose brains aren’t foggy from chemotherapy and other cancer-related drugs!

I find prayer difficult most of the time. And you probably do too.

I was listening to a sermon by a favorite pastor of mine whose church is very large and whose sermons are more intellectually demanding than my own. Unlike me, this preacher seems happily indifferent to using humor, or being “relevant,” or entertaining his audience in any way in his sermons—he just dives right into scripture week after week. So, rightly or wrongly, I perceive that his church must be more advanced in prayer and Bible study than the typical Methodist churches of which I’ve been part.

I was surprised, then, when he said that his church had recently conducted a survey on prayer in his congregation. Over half the congregation, he said, admitted that they did not pray regularly—all his theologically rich sermons on the subject notwithstanding.

The pastor said that when he read the results of the survey, he was tempted to resign on the spot.

I’m sympathetic. But prayer, as I know from painful experience, is hard. Of course, if you run in the same Christian circles that I run in, you may not know it’s hard. In my particular circles, for example, I have clergy colleagues and others who talk about praying almost all the time. They frequently post about their prayer lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… One clergy colleague, when addressing the challenges facing by my particular denomination said that she recently prayed for hours about our denomination’s problems—in anguish, in tears… And I thought, hours? How do you do that? It would take me months or more to accumulate “hours” of prayer about problems facing the institution known as the United Methodist Church.

Besides, why pray for hours about it when you can just be angry and bitter about it—like me?

But seriously, I get discouraged when I compare any aspect of my life to the lives of friends and acquaintances on social media—my prayer life included. Everyone puts their best foot forward online; everyone presents themselves in the most favorable light possible. What did someone say? On social media, we compare our insides to everyone else’s outside. It’s not a fair comparison. So let’s not do that. Let’s not worry about how we “measure up” to others when it comes to prayer. We only have one judge to worry about, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:4. Let’s just worry about ourselves only, and see if we can’t become more faithful pray-ers than we are today.

And to that end, I want to share with you something that has helped me recently: Lamentations 2:19. The prophet Jeremiah is urging his fellow Jews, who have watched the Babylonians destroy their capital city, their temple, their way of life, to repent and pray to God. He says,

Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.

I find the 19th-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon’s words on this verse very helpful here. He writes:

[W]e cannot pray too simply. Just hear how Jeremiah put it: “Pour out your heart like water before the Lord’s presence.” How does water pour out? The quickest way it can—that’s all; it never thinks much about how it runs. That is the way the Lord loves to have our prayers pour out before him.[1]

Pour out your heart like water.

Prayer—at least Christian prayer—is always a matter of the heart. When prayer becomes disconnected from our heart, that’s when it becomes boring and routine. It becomes a duty we have to perform. It becomes an empty ritual. It becomes drudgery—something to check off our list each day.

Has that happened to you?

If so, reengage your heart. Do what Jeremiah says: Pour your heart out like water.

Consider this: You’ve got something on your heart right now that is waiting to be poured out. What is it? Start your prayers today with that… And maybe you think, “Yes, but God doesn’t want to hear this trivial stuff—or this petty stuff—or this sinful stuff.” Are you kidding? He already knows all about everything that you’re thinking and feeling. Better than you do! Don’t censor yourself. Like Spurgeon says, “Water never thinks much about how it runs.”

So tell God what’s on your heart: What is worrying you today? What is making you feel afraid today? Who or what is angering you today? Why are you hurting? Who or what is causing the pain? What temptations are you facing? What sins are you struggling with? What’s making you feel guilty?

Whatever is in your heart, pour it out like water!

And then ask God for help.

Start there. Start with what’s on your heart! Our heavenly Father wants to hear from you. He wants you to pray today more than he wants you to do so “correctly,” by following a proper form or pattern of prayer.

Will you pour out your heart to him like water this week?

Almighty God, please make it so. Amen.

1. Charles Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Study Bible CSB (Nashville: Holman, 2017), 1073.

11 thoughts on “Devotional Podcast #1: “Pour Out Your Heart like Water””

  1. I have found that my most powerful prayers are short and come straight from the heart. They usually occur when I’m feeling very broken and vulnerable. In essence I am saying, “Please help me Lord, I cannot do this on my own!!” I believe that God knows what we are experiencing and wants to comfort and help us. He is not impressed by fancy words, but is moved by a broken spirit and an earnest seeking of His loving care. After such prayers, I almost always feel a trusting peace come over me.

    As Jesus said:

    “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

    “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

    And then He gave us the Lord’s Prayer in example.

    1. I agree with you, Grant. I’ve had the same experience. And the model prayer that Jesus gives us is a short one. I’m sure that means something. Prayer shouldn’t be so hard, and length doesn’t determine “quality.”

      1. When your child tells you that they love you, you don’t require and explanation. When they ask you for help, it’s much the same. Jesus said we should become like the little children.

      2. Right… And don’t you think that praying with faith means trusting that God will give us what we ask for—or not, because it’s not his will for us? But whether he does or doesn’t, it doesn’t require more “words” on our part. Neither eloquence nor wordiness on our part play any role. Neither does waiting around for God to give us some confirmation that he heard us or that he’s answered in the affirmative. Do you see what I mean?

    1. I feel strongly about this. So for my clergy colleague who prayed for “hours” about a particular problem… What on earth did that prayer consist of? What was she praying for during those “hours”? How long does it take to ask God to do something? I honestly don’t get it… Unless she was waiting to experience some warm feeling inside, or waiting to feel less troubled by it. Not that there’s anything wrong with warm feelings, but Jesus doesn’t promise that.

      1. I can’t judge motives. It might be that she experiences a closeness to God when she is in the posture of prayer. It might not all be talking to God, but rather a kind of meditation, or self examination. Or, it might be a sign of insecurity.

        I find my mind wanders if I go on too long. I also have a habit of sometimes praying in spurts as I go through my day. Just more of “continuous conversation” with God, in which He’s helping me work through something (or so it seems to me.)

        Since prayer is highly personal, I say “to each his own”. If you feel connected to God during and after, then it’s working for you.

  2. But, if she boasts about how long she prays, or suggests that others whose prayers are less long and therefore somehow deficient, then I revert the the Scripture from Matthew.

    Sort of like people who go around asking “When were you filled with the Holy Spirit?, or “Have you spoken in tongues?”

  3. Loved this Brent, sometimes we make praying so hard and it only needs to be simple like a conversation with God.

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