A thoughtful commenter to my post What Is Prayer? expressed his concern that he’s essentially not good enough to come to God with his problems and prayers.
“God’s focus is deserved so much more by the millions with bigger issues [than mine],” he wrote. “Can anyone recommend a good book on the topic of prayer for people with low self-esteem?”
So, a quick word on that.
It’s certainly understandable and even very touching for a person to feel that before they come before God they should in some way be more worthy than they are. But the bottom line is that if everyone waited until they were pure of spirit and/or body before they came to God in prayer, God would have so much free time on his hands he’d probably create a whole race of beings who are pure, just so he’d have someone to talk to. But until he does that, God is stuck for company with us humans. And the absolute purest amongst us (whomever that might be) is still, at their core, so craven, selfish, greedy, mean-spirited, egotistical, vain, envious, vengeful, etc., etc., that their only hope is the same as ours: to humbly come before God, beseeching him for his mercy and light.
No man is so pure of heart and spirit that he deserves to come before God. We turn to God for our salvation not because we are worth that salvation, but because God has freely offered it to us despite our being … well, us.
The point is: You can’t be “pure.” The word actually has no meaning relative to the state of the human soul or consciousness. Water can be pure. Heroin can be pure (evil). Gold can be pure. The only thing any of us can ever be is an impenetrable, undecipherable, ever-fluctuating mass of infinite contradictions.
No one achieves cleanliness; no one gains clarity. The only people whose vision never wavers are the blind.
Besides, God has no business with anyone who thinks they’re pure. (Because such a person is rarely if ever interested in God, since they find themselves in all ways satisfactory. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?) God wants those who are broken; who are lost, desperate, afraid, weak, sad, lonely. He wants deeply tweaked people to come before him, to believe in him, to present themselves to him, to finally ask him for the miraculous grace of his healing salvation. Even people who barely know anything at all about the Bible know that Jesus, the Great Healer, preferred the company of prostitutes, winos, and blood-sucking, vulture-like tax collectors over the company of those who in Jesus’ time were considered the purest people around: the righteously pious, the religiously scrupulous, the “wise” and knowing men of the church.
The self-declared guardians of the Right and Proper are the only people in the Bible toward whom Jesus ever showed out-and-out fury. Everyone else—all the normal, broken people—he loved. In fact, the less obviously lovable a person seemed to be, the more Jesus seemed to love them.
Never, ever fear that you’re too “impure” to, whenever you’re ready, fall on your knees before God. God loves everyone, at any time, exactly as they are. Period.
When the sun was setting, all those who had any sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.—Luke 4:40
A woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her living on physicians, and could not be healed by any, came behind him, and touched the fringe of his cloak, and immediately the flow of her blood stopped. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes press and jostle you, and you say, ‘Who touched me?’”But Jesus said, “Someone did touch me, for I perceived that power has gone out of me.” When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared to him in the presence of all the peoplethe reason why she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. He said to her, “Daughter, cheer up. Your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”—Luke 8:43-48
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”—Luke 5:27-31