One Thursday a few months ago, I sat curled up in the corner of my office bathroom, quietly weeping. And in that tiny, dark, holy space, with the bathroom fan turned on to mask my quiet screams and sobs, I prayed the most honest prayer I had in a long time: "Fuck it all. I can't handle this shit anymore."
At a Pentecostal revival I attended at age 17, surrounded on all sides by thousands of teens and a number of Jumbotrons, doubled over in surrender and tears, I prayed with all my might: "Take it all. I don't want anymore."
In the bathroom, I wept as thoughts of overdue bills, dead-end jobs, crappy diets, chaotic politics, and legislated hatred consumed my mind, and all I could say was, "Fuck it all."
At the revival, I wept as I thought of the strained friendship hanging by a thread, the boy I liked causing the strain, the endless anxious thoughts and lack of self-confidence, my "backsliding" faith, my absent father, my unhappy mother, and the fact that I wasn't having a "real" Pentecostal experience even as the Spirit slayed my friend beside me. I threw myself over a row of seats, surrounded by youth leaders and peers, and wailed over and over, "Take it all."
"Fuck it all" has become my new "Take it all." They're both prayers of surrender, honest acknowledgments that things aren't OK but there's only so much I can do about it. They are prayers of hopelessness, brutally truthful exclamations about the pain and bullshit so prominent in this world that I don't know how to begin to deal with it.
They are psalms, filled with pain, hopelessness, and crushing despair that drive us to finally throw the burden of trying to deal with everything off our aching shoulders. One prayer may have harsher language than the other, but both hold the pain and humanity of the psalters, prophets, judges, disciples, and Christ himself.
Surrender can be relieving, but it's not a white flag waving idly in a gentle breeze or raised hands lifted up in serenity.
It feels like slamming fists on the ground to feel a scrap of the pain you feel inside, constricting your body in tension so you can feel all of that discomfort within yourself, and finally falling flat in exhaustion, hopefully malleable again.
It feels like losing.
It's acknowledging that the war between yourself and God-like control, between you and absolute understanding, in short the greatest battles we ever wage with God, are over, and you have lost.
It sucks to lose and surrender. We are taught our whole lives, especially us Americans, that loss and surrender represent failure. We are taught to win or die trying.
But these prayers of surrender save us from being consumed by our own mad desires to be like and become God. They serve as our own internalized, self-destructing towers of Babel, so to speak.
These aren't prayers of prosperity. They're not prayers to make things better, nor prayers of trust in God's goodness and provision.
But they're honest, soul-refining prayers, and as such, they are holy.