Her Views · On Being Christian

words of prayer

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.”

9 thoughts on “words of prayer

  1. Everyone I know prays like that and I am usually thinking, “who talks like that?” If I prayed it would be more like, “Susan screwed up. Help her sort it out.” That might be offensive so I pray privately.


  2. Something that’s always stayed with me is when I heard an elder at a faith community I used to attend mention his dislike for those who use God’s name as a pausal phrase during prayer. Like addressing Him at the beginning of the prayer isn’t enough, we feel the need to say “God” again every time we make a transition into a new sentence (it occurs to me I frequently hear this combined with “just”). His take on this was a serious one, that doing so is only about one step removed from blasphemy, because we’re reducing God’s name to a punctuation mark. Perhaps we would do well to consider it in these terms.

    I completely resonate with your statement about being more concerned about your prayer sounds to the others present. I honestly avoid praying in groups or with others because I feel I can’t be authentic when I do…that, no matter how much I attempt to do otherwise, I’m phrasing things differently for flourish and performance. The only way I can talk to God honestly is alone. And I try to keep His name usage to the initial address šŸ˜‰


    1. Exactly. So Dave, I just thank you for that comment, Dave. And Dave, I just thank you for reading this post. (ok… I have to stop, it started to sound like prayer!) šŸ˜‰


  3. And what about when people seem totally confused about who they are talking to without realising it – speaking to Jesus, father, Lord, God etc all in the one prayer.

    And something I have notice twice in the last month is people seemingly not praying to God but to the listeners of the prayer e.g. “And I pray that you will grow in wisdom and understanding…” – aren’t we supposed to be praying to God?


  4. I catch myself saying weird things as well (I do this even when I’m not praying)! Something I find annoying is when a speaker ends in prayer and restates the outline of what they just said as if they need God to seal the deal by including it in a prayer.


  5. And the all-too-common “bless Jane,” which is often because we’re too lazy to ask tor anything specific.

    But a far worse bad habit than any of the words or phrases or habits above is how much of our prayers are supplication, and how little are adoration, confession, and thanksgiving.


    1. Thank you Martin, for pointing us to the real issue. Our prayers (MY prayers) are most often focused on ME – my needs, my wants for myself and others… a much needed reminder to remember who we’re talking to…


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