Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pet Prayer Peeves

Pastor Phil - -

I LOVED your "It Seems to Me" article in Prayer Leader OnLine (see below). My husband and I have literally said the same thing word for word. Thank you expressing what many were already thinking but didn't want to say it. I have one to add to your that drives me nuts big time. Those that always start their greeting to God the same way as if they are saying the typical "How are you?"

(Our most gracious and loving heavenly Father) Yeah, no doubt He is the most gracious and loving person you'll ever know and He is our heavenly Father...but come on. Do you even hear what they're saying? It seems to me when someone addresses God the same way every single time it's about as un-intimate as you can get.


It Seems To Me. . . I have developed more than a few pet prayer peeves over the years. At the risk of sounding like one of the judges on "Dancing with the Stars," sometimes I want to interrupt a brother's prayer by holding up a paddle with a number on it while yelling "5!" Or follow-up a sister's praying with a "6 and please stop!"

Now, go ahead and tell me this column is personal therapy and that you've never blanched when that someone in your congregation stood to pray or that you've never silently groaned (or even prayed!) when your pastor selected that other someone to begin the class with a prayer (often ending any sense of joy or faith!). So, since this is my unique confession, I'll expect you to pray for me, that is unless less-than-completely-sincere prayer requests is one of your personal pet prayer peeves!

These never bother you, but they sure trip me up when a gathered group begins praying:

  • "Be with them Lord." If I'm bugged by this how much more so the Lord must be! What do we mean when we ask the Lord to "be with" someone who is already indwelt by the Holy Spirit? Is He not with them until someone asks Him to GPS a struggling saint and go to that location? Is our omnipresent Lord somewhere else or is He failing to express His omnipresenceship so that we need to ask Him to find our sister or brother and announce His arrival to them? Of course, we all know, every "be with them Lord" prayer request is in actuality intercession on their behalf, that they will have an increased sense of the Lord's already and always presence in their life. That they would have a realization of what it means to "pray wit out ceasing."
  • "Close in a word of prayer." I promise (well, maybe) the next time someone asks me to open or close a meeting with a word of prayer I will pray a one word prayer! Are we just beginning a meeting? "Hello!" Stuck over a decision? "Clarify!" Celebrating a new birth (biological or spiritual)? "Joy!" Are we quickened to our sin and sins? "Forgive!" or "Mercy!" How about at the close of one of those meandering sermons that never got into the text or into our lives? "Huh?"
  • "Everyone bow their head." I complained about this before (but that won't stop me now!). Bowing of one's head is a cultural expression of submission, something the Body of Christ certainly needs when we come to our Lord and King in prayer. So what's my beef? I almost always get the impression that the person directing our posture is of the opinion that the external act insures an identical internal response. Bowing our head (or for that matter, standing while we sing praise and worship songs) can become routine and worse, a substitute for the real thing.) I made the mistake of observing a congregation of several hundred standing in worship some time ago and saw so few singing--maybe the not moving their lips were praying. Oh that that were so!)
  • "Lord." How, you are wondering, can I have a problem with a praying person speaking directly to their Lord? I don't. Unless the term is dropped into the end of every phrase of a Pauline-style run-on-sentence. One of my favorite songs from the 60s ("Fun, Fun, Fun" by the Beach Boys) has three brief verses, each with two sentences. Every one of these lines ends with the word "now." What sense does that make? It is a throw-away word in the song (because the rhyming word needed actually precedes each "now" anyway). "Lord" should never be a throw-away word or a sound to just fill up space. He remembers who He is.
  • "Will you lead us in prayer?" I wish! When was the last (should I say first?) time anyone asked to lead a group in prayer actually led? We hear "lead us" as an invitation to monologue-pray; and a longer than normal one, at that. Truly leading a group into prayer would require me to cause their participation in ways other than merely listening to me. Please, would someone REALLY lead us, all of us, into the praying of the prayers of the Church gathered in that place at that time for God's unique purposes for that group.

It seems to me . . . I may have just become one of your pet prayer peeves "Lord, be with my friends as they close in a word of prayer for me . . . Help!"

Pastor Phil

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