The right way to pray is with sincerity—that is, without hypocrisy, or without putting on a show for others and pretending to be something we are not (Matt. 6:5). There are other terms we can use to describe this kind of prayer, such as: honest, open, authentic, and transparent. When I am honest and authentic in prayer I will open up my heart and pray as I really feel. I will hold nothing back. When I am open and transparent in prayer I will not hide anything; I will not try to cover up my sins and make excuses. This kind of prayer is so important if we want to grow in our relationship with God. If we are sincere in our prayers and will open ourselves up to God, so as to hide nothing from Him, then He will open Himself up to us and be real to us.
I have put together seven ways we can practice being sincere in prayer, and have broken it down into three parts. In this first part, I want to share the first two ways to pray with sincerity.
1. Forgive Others Regularly
If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us (Matt. 6:5). And if He doesn’t forgive us, then there can be no true prayer; our prayers will be empty words.
If you are holding a grudge against someone, you won’t even want to pray; your unforgiveness will cut off your relationship with God faster than any other sin—because God loves the person you have not forgiven and He is grieved. Moreover, in addition to severing your relationship with God, unforgiveness sets in motion a process of putting up walls of denial, to further distance yourself from God (and others). Therefore, when we have unforgiveness in our heart we can’t be real with anyone, especially with God. We can’t open up in prayer with Him and be sincere. We are bitter, tight in the stomach, fighting everything. We are full of self-pity and always trying to defend ourselves and make excuses. Until we give up our sin of unforgiveness we will never be able to pray with sincerity.
2. Appropriate God’s Forgiveness
There is no reason for any Christian to be burdened down with his own sin and guilt; for God has given us the remedy for our sin in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He has suffered and died for our sins. His blood has paid the penalty of our sins.
If you have failed to forgive someone, and if you are carrying around sin (that is, if you have sin that you have not confessed and repented of), those sins will keep you from honest and true prayer. But if you come to God boldly and confess your sins, God will forgive you and clean up your heart (1 Jn. 1:9). He will wipe all your sins away so that you will feel bold to keep coming to Him—to His throne—to make any requests.
So we need boldness at two different times. First, we need boldness to come to Him with our sin and ask forgiveness. Then, after He forgives us and cleanses us, we need boldness again to pray and keep praying over other things. And at both times God helps us to be bold to come to Him. And when we come to Him we will obtain mercy and find all the grace we need (Heb. 4:16).
Now, as I see it, the boldness that He gives us to keep coming to Him in prayer is a boldness that we get by His grace when He forgives us and cleanses us of sin. Therefore, since we seem to be constantly sinning, if we want to keep receiving this prayer boldness, we must keep asking for His forgiveness and cleansing—as often as we sin.
The nature of this boldness is like a new freedom, a freedom to be transparent (open) before Him. With this new freedom we find that we have a new love for prayer—so that we want to talk about everything before Him: about the easy stuff and the hard stuff. And of course the more we open up to Him in sincere prayer the more we grow in our love for Him.