Growing up, I was scared to talk to God because I didn’t know how to pray. I saw the pastor pray long, eloquent prayers that were professional and beautiful. But I didn’t know the verses or theology, and to be honest, I sinned a lot. I only prayed before meals and whenever I needed to repent of my sins.
As I got older and realized that God wanted a relationship, I tried to talk to Him more. But it was still awkward because I did not know what I was allowed to say or not.
Which brought up the question we all wonder. Is it okay to pray for bad negative things? Should my prayers always be positive?
I’ve learned that the answer is a loud no! They do not have to be positive. But I have also learned that sometimes the answer is yes; God does require them to be positive. Let me explain which is which.
I believe our first step in developing a real relationship with God is by talking to him about how we feel. How we actually, really feel — unfiltered. He is all-knowing, right? He knows our every thought already, so we might as well talk to Him about them.
In Acts 13:22, God says, “‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’”
This is the only man that God ever says, “He has my heart,” so looking at David’s prayer life with God will reveal a lot about how to have a good relationship with God. This is how David describes his own prayer life.
With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice, I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him (Psalm 142:1-2, ESV).
Wow. Crying, pleading, pouring out every single complaint, and talking about every trouble? That is a very emotional and seemingly negative prayer life! And yet God said, “This man has my heart. He gets it!”
This tells me that God loves to be the one we speak to about everything negative going on in life!
David understood that the human heart needs someone to vent to and process our pain. He also understood that no human would be able to carry or heal the burdens and wounds in our souls.
Only God Himself is strong enough to relieve our spirits, take off the weights, and carry the burden. This is why David writes,
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22, ESV).
Notice that being unmovable only comes after we cast our burdens onto God! Do you want to be more stable in life? Then pray every burden you have to God. God wants to have a real, genuine relationship with us. He compels us,
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand (Philippians 4:6-7).
Everything means everything. Every pain, trouble, fear, negative thought, or emotion is all free game and encouraged to come out in prayer.
Tell Him how you feel, and then thank Him for listening. Only when we pray everything to God will His peace come upon us.
Venting to another human won’t heal your heart. Holding it inside and not talking about it won’t help. The only answer to the peace you are looking for is praying out every negative emotion and feeling unto the Lord.
He is the only one who can handle it and the only one who can bring you the peace you desire.
So, should prayers always be positive? No way! Negative prayers to God are essential. It is how we cast our burdens, cries, and troubles onto God. If you want to be like King David, pray all your negative prayers to God.
Are there any off-limits areas? I would argue yes, there are some areas that God says we are not to pray negative prayers about. Here are two.
1. Your enemies. Jesus Himself says, “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44, NLT).
Not only does Jesus say, don’t pray negative prayers about your enemies, but He requires us to pray a blessing over them!
What if they genuinely hurt you and are doing wrong? If I can’t pray negative things about them to God, who do I talk to about what they did to me?
Still talk to God. Tell God about the person and how they make you feel. Pour out your burden and pains about them to God. But, in the end, after you pour out about them, choose to pray for them.
Pray for their redemption, forgiveness, and restoration. Remind yourself that you are not battling against flesh and blood but spiritual darkness and authorities in the spiritual realms. (Ephesians 6:12).
2. Thankfulness. Another area God commands us always to pray positively is in thankfulness. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
If God’s will is to always be thankful, how do we express how we feel? Believe it or not, we can do both, even during the same prayer.
God does not want us to be fake. Still vent out your heart to God, tell Him all your burdens, but like David, end by reminding yourself of all that He has done for you.
Look how King David did it,
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you (Psalm 42:6).
He admits that he is discouraged and sad to the Lord, but he chooses to remember all that God has done. He decides to give God praise anyway and walk-in with thankfulness for all that he does have.
I always pour my heart out to God, but I end by reminding myself of all he has done and thanking Him. I find that the more I thank Him, the more my heart bounces back.
Thankfulness is like a reset button for our souls. It reminds us of all we have in Him, and it pulls our minds out of lack and into the abundance we have in Jesus.
This is why God commands it. Not because He wants us to be quiet and be thankful, but because He knows it will actually help us tap into remembering and feeling His love.
What a Good God We Have
He tells us to vent our every trouble and burden to Him. However, He also cares about every person so much that He commands us to pray for our enemies.
So, should prayers always be positive? No way, often they are negative, and that is okay. But there are times when the Bible commands us to be positive, and that too is for our good.
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Drazen Zigic
Taylor Jensen is a missionary, pastor, and world traveler. His passion is to help equip believers with practical ways to ignite their faith and bring Jesus into the world around them. That is the goal of his personal blog Fireplace Faith. Subscribe here to get his Free Ebook “Choosing Hope,” about his time as a missionary in Cambodia. Reach out to him any time through his blog or through his social media accounts @taylorcjensen.