Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Praying The {Fill in the Blank} Way

Monday, Jan in her blog, The View From Her posted on prayer. I told her how that brought back so many memories of all the goofy things I've heard people say over the years while talking to God.
There were the odd dinner time prayer phrases like, "we pray for the nourishing and strengthening of our bodies and us to Thy service," or "grant journey mercies." (Yet some of these same people thought "Now I lay me down to sleep" or "God is great, God is good..." were prayers of meaningless repetition.

In high school, I heard the daughter of a pastor pray, "Hey God it's me, [her nickname for herself]. How's it goin'?" The only problem with her informal prayer was that she didn't have much in the way of a relationship with Christ and was probably trying to tweak her listeners, including the One it was addressed to.

Last year, I blogged on the subject of prayer and included in the post a prayer that an Associate Pastor of ours prayed during a televised Thanksgiving service- "'Thy throne, Oh God is so great and powerful that should all the armies of the world should assail against Thee , Oh God, it should have as much effect as the faint mist on the distant Rock of Gilbraltar.' While the prayer was true, it did not reflect the way the man normally spoke or lived."

But I never really began analyzing prayers until I was involved in a nationally known student Christian campus group while I was in college. In our group, we had both brand new Christians and those who grew up in the church; there were liturigicals as well as charismatics. Each brought their own culturally-shaped style of conversing with God to the group. Favorites were the "just prayers" -"we just want to thank You", we just ask...". Sometimes these were modified by "really" - "we just really want to thank You." My pet peeve was the people who used Jesus' name as a punctuation mark - "we thank You Jesus for being here,Jesus and we ask You, Jesus that You'd be with Sally, Jesus." Yikes!

Unfortunately, there was also a great deal of unspoken pressure to tailor one's public prayers to style of the majority -those that didn't pray like the rest of us weren't asked to pray out loud again until their prayer style conformed. Some of it was far more subtle -you'd hear all the girls in a particular discipleship chain using the same tone and phrases.

For example, I was in an introductory Bible Study led by a young lady who had gone on a Summer Short Term Mission to South Carolina. She came back with a Southern drawl that surfaced when she prayed out loud (she was a SoCal native, not someone with any accent normally). Soon, all the women in her advanced Bible Study also developed drawls when they prayed as well as her phrases she had picked up in the Carolinas. (I won't even go into the strange mannerisms they began to adopt.) Lord knows what they would've adopted if she had gone to Africa or Asia.

My take on all this was that people have a tendency to be more concerned with what others think and pray for their approval, rather than actually praying to and conversing with God. I'm so glad that He is not impressed (or even repulsed) by our words or lack of words.


  • At Thu Dec 14, 08:27:00 PM PST , Blogger Jeff said...

    I agree. That is one of the reasons I am fond of silent prayer with others.

  • At Thu Jan 11, 01:22:00 PM PST , Anonymous ilona said...

    Much of what you said rang with all too much familiarity.
    I think some of the cause is within the general prayerless-ness of the daily lives. When one spends much private time, ones own conversation with God is the natural style that comes forth in public meetings.

    Generally, I would say the more verbose the public prayer the more lag time between personal prayer times. I find that is true for me anyway! If I have been lately in touch with God, my prayers are so much more focused and faith filled... and thus shorter and more succinct :)

    We do tend to pick up each others mannerism,etc. It's a viral thing ;) I think it is related to mirroring, but don't know.


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