Stop Praying Just Prayers

There are a few things I believe we just need to stop doing. The NFL just needs to stop with the throwback jerseys. They’re ugly. No one likes them. The airline industry just needs to stop with the stunt pilot airshows. Planes crash. Pilots die. And the church just needs to stop praying just prayers.

It’s not what you think. Obviously we shouldn’t stop praying for justice. Justice is part of God’s immutable, unchangeable image. Justice is a good thing Christians should strive for and pray for. What I mean is we just need to stop praying prayers with the word “just” in them. I know, God knows what we mean when we pray, so if we use the word “just”, he’s ok with it. It’s just a pet peeve of mine.

Man-Praying-folding-handsBut it’s easier said than done. In the first two paragraphs of this post, I intentionally used the word “just” several times. We’ve gotten so used to it, we hardly notice anymore. But the word “just” minimizes what we are saying, and praying. It’s sloppy language that dilutes the meaning of what we say. Here’s an example.

“When you’re praying in public, at your church or in your small group, just say what you mean.” Now let’s try this. “When you’re praying in public, at your church or in your small, say what you mean.” The second example is stronger than the first. It’s more to the point.

Now, you may be thinking, “So what? What’s the big deal?” That’s a good question. Often when we pray, we pray in public, and our prayers can encourage (or discourage) those who hear them. So if I pray a prayer like, “Dear Lord, we just want to praise you for who you are. We just thank you for the many blessings you’ve given us. And we just lift up Joe Smith, with his moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. We just pray for a miracle in his life. And we just give you all the glory. Amen”, it seems as if we’re not praying with much faith. But, if we simply eliminate the word “just,” the prayer seems much more powerful, and encouraging.

Again, God hears us and knows what we mean. But as we think about how we pray, consider the timeless wisdom of Horton, (the elephant who heard the “who”.) “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.” Or better yet, consider Jesus’ directive , “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’, ‘No.’” (Matthew 5:37).

Words matter. Prayer matters. So as we pray, let’s mean what we say. Let’s say what we mean. And let’s just (oops) stop using unnecessary words that minimize what we say. The specific wording probably doesn’t matter to God, so let’s pray prayers of faith to our Heavenly Father. And let’s pray clear, specific, faith-filled prayers to encourage those who might be listening.