A few years back, I dropped in on a church service in suburban Toronto. The “church” was a small dilapidated building (a converted cottage, I think) and only a few people were in attendance. The service was short, but at the end of the official proceedings, the minister asked if anyone had any prayer petitions they’d like to present. There was an awkward silence, and then a middle-aged woman sitting a few rows behind me slowly got to her feet. She nervously cleared her throat, cupped her hands palms upward in classic Muslim prayer style, and started to recite a litany of words.
A lot of words.
A litany of a lot of words, punctuated with a lot of thee’s and thou’s.
It was so tedious to listen to that after about five minutes I got up and left.
She wasn’t praying. That wasn’t a prayer. That was just a jumble of words that people, out of politeness, felt constrained to let her speak. But what it did was reinforce the lie that prayer is boring, unbearably long, something you should be nervous about, and something you should do in public, holding your hands just so.
That is the opposite of prayer; that is anti-prayer.
God hears cries from the heart, not a barrage of words from the mouth. Maybe underneath all that babble there was something the woman wanted to say to God, but it got buried under so many words that it would have been better left unspoken, at least that night and in front of those tired restless people.
God is never “thee” and “thou” to born-again believers. He’s our dad. Would you address your Earthly dad as “thee” and “thou”? I don’t think so. Just as we should be keeping it real when we preach the Word, we should also – even more so – be keeping it real when we talk to God.
If we couch our words just so in order to impress God, it’s a form of lying. Did you know that when we stand before God on Judgment Day, either as his child or his enemy, we will be unable to lie? That capacity will no longer be part of us. It will be entirely removed. Even now, as born agains, we may find that our former ability to “bend the truth” to our benefit has been greatly reduced. But on Judgment Day, it will be non-existent.
So when God asks us on that Day of Days why he should let us into Heaven or why he should condemn us to the Lake of Fire, we will have no choice but to speak the truth, either to our eternal benefit or to our eternal detriment. This is how we will affirm our place in Heaven or condemn ourselves to perdition – by our own words issuing from our own mouths. Unable to lie anymore, we will speak the truth plainly and simply and without hedging.
This is also how we should be speaking to God now – plainly, simply, and without hedging. Hanging with God is the best thing in the world. There’s nothing better. And what makes it so pleasurable is that God loves us so much and we can just be ourselves with him. We don’t have to wear special clothing or assume a certain position or wait for a certain time of day or specific opportunity; we don’t have to punctuate our conversation with thee’s and thou’s; we don’t even have to put our hands in a “prayer pose” – we can just be us, as we are, anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance and for whatever reason. Because God is with us all the time, whether we’re conscious of it or not, and hanging with him is just as easy as saying “hi, dad” or “help me” or “thank you”.
It’s really that simple, and it’s really that real.