Emotional Prayer – Teaching Your Children to Pray What They Feel

Hands held, praying together - emotional prayer blog

I recently took a three-day retreat. During this time, I stayed at a spiritual retreat house that included a small library with many Christian books. Among the books, I found Tom Holladay’s The Relationship Principles of Jesus (2008). I was completely struck by Tom’s second exercise on relationship which included David’s model of Emotional Prayer, based on the Psalms.

In the Psalms, we see hearts, exposed and raw. The Psalms of David, in particular, demonstrate His desire to do God’s will and to open the innermost part of his heart to Him. Acts 13: 22 states, “He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’” We see in the Psalms that David did not hide from God in prayer and relegate the realm of prayer to just his cognitive processing, but David openly and honestly exposed his emotions to God.

Words for Positive Feelings
Words for Negative Feelings
elated

thrilled

joyous

thankful

grateful

overwhelmed (in a good sense)

happy

safe

secure

encouraged

trusting

overwhelmed (in a negative sense)

regretful

in agony

broken

sorrowful

dismayed

afflicted

persecuted

abandoned

angry

fearful

Emotional Words

Prayer is opening your heart to God and trusting God who sees and knows it all. Consider the love between a husband and wife, or a parent and child, as you share your most intimate thoughts, joys, hopes, and shattered dreams. Similarly, David learned to open his emotions to God, to seek to do His will even in challenging circumstances, and his heart was knit to God’s. David would confess his sin with tears, heartache, and regret; he would describe his weariness; he would express his fears. Similarly, as we grow closer to God, we open our heart and emotions to the Lord, not just our minds, and lay bare the raw landscape of our souls.

As homeschool parents, we experience joys and heartaches, triumphs and sadness. Only a home educator comprehends the highs and lows that any one day in the homeschool setting can bring. The model for Emotional Prayer provides a structured prayer exercise after an intense day. As you pray, reach into the inner recesses of your soul and find words that describe how you are feeling. Incorporate emotions into your prayer as David did.

Emotional Prayer

Directions: After reading each principle and Psalm, pray aloud from your heart, withholding nothing from the God who hears and knows your heart. Express your emotions as you pray.**

Principle
Psalm
Your Prayer
Talk to God about your feelings. I am worn out from groaning;

all night long I flood my bed with weeping

and drench my couch with tears.

Psalm 6:6

Talk to God about your weaknesses. Turn to me, Lord, and be merciful to me,

because I am lonely and weak.

Psalm 25:16 TEV

Talk to God about His strengths. Who is this King of glory?

The Lord strong and mighty,

The Lord mighty in battle.

Psalm 24:8

Tell God your fears. Fear and trembling overwhelm me.

I can’t stop shaking.

Psalm 55:5 NLT

Pour out to God the desires of your heart. You, Lord, know every one

Of my deepest desires,

And my noisy groans

Are no secret to You.

Psalm 38:9 CEV

Openly and emotionally admit your sins to God. I am on the verge of collapse,

Facing constant pain.

But I confess my sins:

I am deeply sorry for what I have done.

Psalm 38:17-18 NLT

Say out loud what you know to be true. [David] sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul.

 

I love you, Lord; you are my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;

My God is my rock, in whom I find protection.

He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold.

Psalm 18:1-2 NLT

Example of the Emotional Prayer

Directions: This example prayer illustrates how you can open your heart and emotions to God as you pray aloud for your children with whom are struggling.**

Principle
Psalm
Example Prayer
Talk to God about your feelings. I am worn out from groaning;

all night long I flood my bed with weeping

and drench my couch with tears.

Psalm 6:6

Lord, I am struggling to meet the needs of my children. I am exhausted. At times, I am brought to tears. My body, mind, and emotions are exhausted.
Talk to God about your weaknesses. Turn to me, Lord, and be merciful to me,

because I am lonely and weak.

Psalm 25:16 TEV

Lord, I do not know how to meet my children’s needs. I am unfamiliar with all that they need. I do not have the understanding in myself. I feel so helpless and weak.
Talk to God about His strengths. Who is this King of glory?

The Lord strong and mighty,

The Lord mighty in battle.

Psalm 24:8

Lord, you are the mighty one, Maker of heaven and earth. There is no situation too big for You. You have all wisdom, power, and might.
Tell God your fears. Fear and trembling overwhelm me.

I can’t stop shaking.

Psalm 55:5 NLT

I am afraid that I will fail my family. I am afraid that I do not have the resources, wisdom, and patience. I am trembling with fear and completely overwhelmed at times by this responsibility to homeschool.
Pour out to God the desires of your heart. You, Lord, know every one

Of my deepest desires,

And my noisy groans

Are no secret to You.

Psalm 38:9 CEV

I want to love my children and meet their needs. It is my heart’s desire. Help me Lord. Their needs and my lack are no secret to You. You know it all.
Openly and emotionally admit your sins to God. I am on the verge of collapse,

Facing constant pain.

But I confess my sins:

I am deeply sorry for what I have done.

Psalm 38:17-18 NLT

Lord, forgive me for my impatience. Forgive me when I don’t trust You. I confess to you my shortcomings and ask that you give me a heart of love and mercy.
Say out loud what you know to be true. [David] sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul.

 

I love you, Lord; you are my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;

My God is my rock, in whom I find protection.

He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold.

Psalm 18:1-2 NLT

I love you Lord. You are my strength. You are the Creator of children and You are my Rock, Fortress, and Savior. I will cling to You and You will not fail me. You are my Strength, Shield, and Tower.

 

I turn to You for help. You are my Helper. Help me faithful, strong, and mighty Lord who has uniquely designed each of my children. Help me be confident in your equipping me for every good work. I trust you for wisdom. I am not alone; You abide with me, Lord, in this homeschooling journey, and You will not fail me.

Now it’s your turn! Take a few moments this week to pray a heartfelt, emotional prayer.

 


*Calvin, John. Commentary on the Book of Psalms (1963 reprint). Translated by James Anderson. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

**Adapted by June Hetzel, Ph.D., from pp. 45-46 of: Holladay, Tom (2008). The Relationship Principles of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Columns 1 & 2 are exact quotes. The application to the homeschool setting, the three-column chart, the directions, and the emotional prayer model in column 3 are written by June Hetzel.