Our prayers can betray us through the language we often use, or perhaps, default on. Sometimes it might just be a habit we’ve adopted without thinking about- and with all sincerity, we think it’s ok. But let’s unpack an interaction between two close friends, Ben and John. Ben finds himself in the awkward position of having to tell John that he has just crashed John’s car…
Ben: “Hey, John. Here I am. I stand before you to tell you something.”
Who is Ben really talking to… or more importantly, who is Ben talking for? That’s not really how friends talk to each other. They are both present in the conversation so Ben doesn’t really need to describe what he’s doing. Unless of course, John is blind and needs some context. Which in itself is equally interesting…
So when we pray, why do so many of us describe where we are and what we are doing to an omniscient God?
Us: “Lord, Here I stand before Your throne to ask for Your forgiveness…”
Do we think that He is blind to where we are and what we are doing? What are we trying to say and for whose benefit? It seems a little bit wishy-washy but maybe you think it’s respectful, polite or politically correct? It doesn’t really matter. Simply put, we don’t really talk that way. It’s just a little weird.
I feel we take our cue though from popular songs and, or from attending to and listening to too many prayers- not actually saying as many for ourselves. For example, when a leader prays, he prays for those gathered and almost tells a story and describes a lot of context. That is always for the benefit of those there that are, in context, slightly anonymous. In the same way you might over-elaborate a dinner at story time for the benefit of an invited guest who isn’t intimate with the details of the conversations.
A real conversation has a far more natural flow. And that’s where we betray ourselves; in the reality of the conversation we’re having.
Ben: “Hey, John. I’m sorry, I crashed your car.”
Us: “Lord, forgive me”
Simpler. And there’s a lot more we try and describe, add flowery images to and wax eloquently with prepared phrases and time-honoured sentences we’ve heard probably far too often. We can probably do a little better than that. Step into a real conversation with a real person.
Other phrases like: “… I kneel before you …” when we’re actually just sitting or standing. Which, we are quick to point out in a defence is a condition of the heart, and that we’re actually metaphorically kneeling when we say that. Well, sure but however you feel about that, why do we even feel the need to say that? Does it make us sound more pious and holy? Do we feel the need to impress whomever is hearing (besides God)?
There’s a couple more, but it’s not about picking on any of them really. It’s more about encouragement and pushing into having more meaningful and deeper conversations in prayer; without the burden of trying too hard and being overly PC. Just talk.