I find it interesting how people pray – particularly some of our wording and phraseology. It occurred to me that we talk differently to God than we do anyone else. I say things like, “God, we just ask you to just show us what to do.” I would never say to a friend, “Susan, I just ask you to make a salad for dinner.” Why do we do that?
I’ve heard a lot of people ask God “to work supernaturally.” That’s kind of stating the obvious, since He’s a supernatural being. Though I understand the intent to be that he would work to such a degree in a given situation that the outcome would be beyond attributing to human effort.
Some people ask God to place “a hedge of protection” around someone. This probably comes from the book of Job, when God comments that Job is a blameless man, and Satan points out: “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” But it makes me wonder, why not ask for a wall of protection? Or a bubble of protection? A hedge doesn’t seem like all that great of a barrier. Unless maybe, it’s a supernatural hedge.
We also ask God to “just be with us.” Or, to “just be with Susan.” (I am totally guilty of this one.) The Holy Spirit lives in us, so he is always with us. What, exactly do we expect him to do? I suppose it’s probably more of a request to make his presence known, or felt somehow.
And of course, many of us have noted the use of the word “just.” As in, “God, we just thank you for just your awesomeness.” What’s that about? Fred Sanders at Middlebrow thinks that “When you consider that the word ‘just’ is a minimizing word, meaning ‘merely’ or ‘nothing more than,’ it makes no sense for it to be the seasoning word sprinkled throughout our prayers.” But read the entire post to discover how Dr. Sanders ultimately arrives at the opposite conclusion about that little word, “just.”
I sometimes wonder if I’m falling into the trap of “vain repetition,” meaning, I’m not really thinking about what I’m saying, or worse – I’m thinking about how it sounds to whoever else is there. One of my most heartfelt prayers was after a terrible argument at work, which I had not handled well. That night I just blurted out, “well…You were there. You saw what happened.” Sometimes I think remembering God is here with us can help us speak to him in a less formal way.
What about you? Are there phrases you find yourself repeating? Or some that vaguely annoy when used by others? Perhaps we are simply prone to lapse into formality upon entering the throne room. Completely understandable. And all the more amazing to remember he asks us to call him, “Abba. Daddy.”
But I still feel better always closing with “Injesusnameiprayamen.”