Thoughts on the Words of Our Prayers

All that we do in word or deed (prayer involves both) must be that which the Lord authorizes (Colossians 3:17). Those who lead such prayers in our assemblies at times use expressions they apparently have not thought about very carefully. Faithful brethren will ever seek to conform their prayers to wording that conveys only Scriptural concepts. With these factors in mind, as one who at times misspeaks, I humbly suggest reappraisal (and abandonment) of some of the prayer terminology I hear on occasion. Please consider the following:

Godhead Confusion: Prayers at the Lord’s table often mix the respective identities of the Father and the Son. When one, in giving thanks to the Father for the elements of the supper says, “We thank thee for this bread, which symbolizes thy body” or “We thank thee for this fruit of the vine, which represents thy blood,” the confusion is unmistakable. The Father never had a body or blood to offer. Rather, His Son made the ultimate offering of body and blood for our sins (Matthew 26:26–28), and we err when we confuse this Scriptural distinction.

This confusion is also evident when a brother, in a prayer addressed to the Father (there is no authority for thus addressing Jesus or the Holy Spirit), closes his prayer with, “In thy name we pray.” I mean no unkindness, but it is nonsensical to pray to the Father in the name of the Father. We are to pray to the Father in the name of His Son (John 16:23–26).

Worshiping the Word: Liberals have long hurled Bibliolaters (Bible worshipers) at those of us who dare insist on Scriptural authority for all that we do. (They apparently do not believe that contempt for the Lord’s Word equals contempt for Him [John 12:48]). No, we do not worship the Bible; we worship the God who speaks through the Bible—and by no other means. I have, however, heard otherwise knowledgeable brethren pray: “We are thankful we can come together to worship thy Word.” Such unfortunate (and unauthorized) wording plays right into the hands of liberal accusers. If one does not believe in “worshiping the Bible,” he should never say so in his prayer. If he believes in “worshiping the Bible, “he needs additional teaching before further leading public prayers.   

“Just” Prayers: “Father, we just pray that…, and we just thank thee for…, and we just ask for forgiveness…,” have become all too common prayer expressions in recent years. Just in such contexts conveys the idea of “merely” or “only” (viz., “I have just [merely, only] five minutes to speak.”). Is it fitting to “merely” ask God to forgive us when we sin, knowing the cost of our redemption (Acts 20:28)? And how can it make sense to ask for just (i.e., “only”) one more thing repeatedly (this is about as rational as to claim that one is saved both by faith “only” and by grace “only”). Over the years I have heard many denominational preachers offer prayers filled with “just” this and “just” that. I suspect that brethren have, wittingly or unwittingly, adopted this practice from them. The Truth will be better served if they leave it where they found it—with the denominations.

Worship or Learn About? Some apparently confuse these two activities by stating that we have gathered “to worship about God.” No, we assemble to worship God and His Son (John 4:23–24). In the process of studying the Bible and singing spiritual songs, we learn about God and His Son, but this does not constitute “worshiping about God.” Such an expression is foreign both to Scriptural concept and terminology, as well as to grammatical sense.

I do not believe that brethren who thus speak in their prayers intend to make unauthorized statements. I think such untoward expressions them mostly from thoughtlessness, along with ignorance of grammar and/or of Scripture. Let us be more conscious of our words and of their implications. Let us be concerned in our assemblies with representing the Truth of God’s Word in our prayers, even as we must be with our sermons and our songs.

Dub McClish