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Seeing the Would for the Thees

By Hedgehog.

Can anyone tell my why it is that some Christians, who in most other respects seem capable of speaking normal English, seem to lapse into a repetitive and/or meaningless gobbledegook when they start talking to the Almighty?

Before anyone decides to cancel their subscription to this august journal, let me explain that I'm not saying that we should not address our Lord in terms of proper reverence. I'm as uncomfortable with the 'my mate Jesus' style of praying as anyone. Nor am I saying that it is necessarily wrong to have a special language for our conversations with the Creator.

But I can't be doing with the kind of meaningless mannerisms exhibited by some Christians when they lead me in prayer. For example, there are the 'just' pray-ers. These are the people who 'just pray' that the Lord will just heal or just come in power or just stretch out his arm to just save.

Then there are the people who "would pray that the Lord would heal, etc". This overuse of the subjunctive mood in prayer makes me wonder whether they are actually praying at all! The prayer begins by saying, "Lord, we would pray that you would ...", and something inside me wants to say, "Well, why don't you pray that then?"!

Then there are those who insert a divine name or title every two or three words. For example, "Lord, we pray, Father, that you would heal so and so, Jesus, and, Lord, that you would help, O Father, our minister, Lord, to preach better, Holy Spirit, next Sunday, Lord". The fact is, we just (oops!) don't talk like that in normal speech. Can you imagine talking to your friend about last Saturday's match like this: "John, I was in the stand, John, behind the goal, John, when the striker, John, headed the cross, John, from the winger, John, right into the corner, John, of the net, John". John, I suspect, would immediately go and change his name by deed poll!

What's worse, some of these dear folks often appear terminally confused as to which member of the Trinity they are actually addressing! You know the sort of thing: "Father, we thank you for dying on the cross for us, etc."

Now of course I know that all these things are the product of nervousness. They are ways of stalling for time while the person praying figures out what to say next. They are not necessarily expressions of unbelief, but of simple discomfort.

Maybe we should be thankful that the Lord, apart from being a wonderfully gentle and indulgent Father, has a divine copy editor, who takes our prayers and reinterprets them for the divine ears. His name is the Holy Spirit and that description of his ministry is in Romans 8.26-27. Thank God that he is not offended by our stumblings in prayer.

In my last church, Fred, aged 50-something, became a follower of Christ, but could not quite remove the profane language from his speech, nor, sometimes, from his prayers. So he would pray, in public meetings, "Lord, please help my mate, 'cos 'e's 'aving a @$%^*! hard time". And I dare to believe that God, far from being offended, heard his heart rather than the words. Perhaps we need to do the same - simply talk to God in normal English.


A lovable, but sometimes prickly fellow

Ministry Today

You are reading Seeing the Would for the Thees by Hedgehog, part of Issue 15 of Ministry Today, published in February 1999.

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