Devotion in Motion: God loves imperfect prayers

17 ¶ How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. Psalm 139:17-18 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

When I was a little boy, I didn’t kneel down beside the bed when I said my prayers at night. Instead, I just prayed to the Almighty while I was cozily tucked in between the blankets. I believed that the Lord would hear and answer my prayers anyway. And I believe He did.

Usually I would ask God to bless individuals, and I listed each one by name. I wanted to be sure to “God bless” all the people who needed blessing, and that was an incredibly long list. And the list seemed to get longer every day.

boy in bed 250Now, when you’re in kindergarten, there is a real “occupational hazard” to doing this. Often the length of my prayer list exceeded my ability to stay awake. Many, many nights I would fall sound asleep in mid-sentence as I was talking to the Lord.

I always felt a little worried when I woke up in the morning. When you fall asleep in the middle of your prayers, is that the spiritual equivalent of “leaving your phone off the hook”? Had God been on “the other end of the line holding the receiver” waiting for you to say “Amen”? It wasn’t something I often thought about.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the Bible actually addresses this topic in a roundabout way. Look what the Psalmist says in today’s Scripture lesson (at the top). David says he loves the thoughts of God because they are wonderful. When he tries to count all the wonderful things God does, it takes so long that he falls asleep. But when he wakes up, the Lord is still with him. In my book, that’s a good thing to know—that the Lord is still with you.

A lot of us were born (or brought up) to have perfectionist tendencies. It can be a blessing because it makes us strive to do quality work. But if we’re not careful, perfectionism can backfire on us. We avoid doing things that need to be done, all because we’re afraid we can’t do them perfectly.

Because we can’t accept our imperfections, the world goes without the (imperfect-but-entirely-good-enough) blessings we could provide. And believe me, the world needs all the help that each of us can provide right now. The help you provide doesn’t have to be perfect.

Sometimes I’ve felt overwhelmed when I pray. Because I can’t pray an appropriate prayer that expresses the kind of gratitude God ought to receive. After all, it is impossible to finish the list of all the things for which God deserves to be thanked. And there is just no possible way to thank God ENOUGH for all He has given and for all He has done. It makes me want to shy away from even trying.

But this holiday season (and every night) let’s strive to give thanks that is fitting to the Creator of all good things. We are imperfect, but He is our loving Saviour; isn’t that the message of the Gospel?

And don’t worry if you fall asleep trying to thank Him. When you wake up, He’ll still be with you.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 32 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He recently retired after 28 years as a Mississippi public schoolteacher, and is now a stay-at-home-grandpa with his new grandson, Landon Cash. He and his lovely wife, Susan, recently moved to a brick house in town (where Miss Susan is busy planning the Thanksgiving brunch.) Their kids include Spencer (age 26), his wife Madeline (age 26), and Seth (age 23), and his wife Leanne (age 22). You can send him a note at