I attended a banquet tonight. It wasn't a religious-themed banquet, but one of those present was asked to offer an invocation and blessing for the meal. I'm sure he was a well-meaning man with a well-meaning prayer, but he had one of those habits that tends to annoy me just a little. And I don't mean to pick on him or anyone else with this habit. Hey, I even find myself doing it too on occasion.
But the speaker began his prayer, "Heavenly Father..." and then proceded to use the words "Heavenly Father" no fewer than 468 times during the 60 second prayer.
Why do we do this? Are we afraid that God will forget that we're talking to Him? Or are we reminding ourselves that we're praying so we don't forget?
I've noticed that I tend to do this more often when I'm praying aloud than silently. Perhaps that means that I'm trying to keep everybody with me in the attitude of prayer also. But I really don't know.
I've heard people keep mentioning"oh, Lord" or "precious Lord" or "Almighty God" or "dear Jesus" again and again. You know how it goes...
"Dear Jesus, I thank you for all you have done, dear Jesus. And dear Jesus I ask you to please bless the missionaries, dear Jesus, and the people at church, dear Jesus... I pray dear Jesus that You would be with them, dear Jesus. And dear Jesus..."
Imagine if someone was talking to you and repeating your name at least twice in each sentence. How long would it be before you would reach out, grab him by the throat and fling him against the nearest wall? While the speaker was mentioning "Heavenly Father" this evening, I admit that my mind started to wonder if our heavenly Father was yelling back "I know, I know, you're talking to Me... get on with it, would ya'?" Sorry for not being too spiritual.
It's amazing how habits take over even the most meaningful things that we do. Beautiful ceremonies can become mere rote repetition if we are not careful. When simply "doing" becomes more important than "what we are doing", we have problems. When the main reason we worship in a certain way is because "that's the way we've always done it" we just may have sucked all the meaning and heart out of worship.
"Lord, may my prayers, my worship, my Bible study, my walk never become mere repetition. Instead, let me experience You anew with each step and each word."