The human capacity for self-deception is great. It is arguably even stronger than our capacity to be dishonest with others. Within the safety of our self-deception we can justify all kinds of vices. The problem is that sooner or later we have to face the truth of where we actually stand on certain issues. Obviously, God is the first to know when we start going down the road of self-deception. Often times, we have to admit the truth to him before we can even admit it to ourselves. Or, to put it more accurately, we admit it to ourselves in the act of finally admitting it to God.
The “strange thoughts” that Rabbi Natan is referring to are tools of self-deception and distraction, drawing our attention away from what is really going on. For me, the act of saying a prayer I do not really believe to be true is one of the most distasteful experiences ever. The strange thoughts are at their work for as long as I feel like the words that are coming out of my mouth are mere breath without substance. If, however, I cut through the deception through being completely honest with where I am, then all of the sudden the situation becomes very different.
Truthful words spoken to God are the knives that cut through all of the shabby armor we try to don to keep ourselves safe from ourselves. May all of us be encouraged to go beyond just not telling a lie to our fellow people. May it be that we affirm to speak truth to God through prayer and know what it is like to be near Him always.