Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dept. of Redundancy Dept.

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."


Stephen said...

Boy, that habit really bugs me!

Kim said...

I know our prayer are not to be rote in any way, but sometimes, thinking ahead when we know we're going to pray publicly is a good idea. I think it cuts down on that repetition thing. Once, a summer student did that. He kept repeating: "Father God" at the end of every sentence; it was also punctuated with a lot of "ums" and "ahs."

Stamp out and abolish redundancy.

Quotidian Grace said...

Don't you just hate it when someone keeps adding "just" to a prayer, as in: "Dear Lord, we just ask that you...we just praise your name...we just thank you..."etc?

Kristen said...

I think it's a product of nervousness. It's scary to pray in front of a group--most of us do little to no public speaking.

At least, that's why I say "uh" and "Lord" a lot when praying aloud. There's a big difference between the way you talk to a friend when alone, and the way you speak before a crowd. Prayer isn't SUPPOSED to be a "speech," but many people just aren't comfortable enough to start talking to Abba in front of a bunch of people.

I've noticed once in a while, though, that the "Heavenly Father" thing can be an officious, Pharisee-like thing wherein the speaker thinks he sounds holy by the repetition (I can only suppose). Now THAT is annoying.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kristen; I think a big part of it is nervousness. When you can't think of anything to say, "Father" is a good filler. :)

What's really annoying to me is the occasional person who throws in the 'thys' for good measure. :)

Callmeteem said...

I'm bothered by all the "justs" I hear and sometimes say myself. I mean as in Lord, just heal my brother or sister from terminal cancer.

Anonymous said...

Yeah! I thought I was the only one that noticed this, especially the "just" habit. It's odd that its such a widespread habit, but it probably is "just" a nervous twitch.