I have spent some time lately writing prayers for use in worship services across Canada. These will be going to all the churches of the Presbyterian Church of Canada as a part of the Time For Justice bulletin inserts. When I work on these I have to work for a balance of spirituality and staying in line with the information given on an aspect of climate change. I need to keep it from being too formal but it has to be good for use in worship. I hope people will buy into the message of the report, but need to remain mindful of not assuming everyone is totally on-board. As my husband pointed out, they need to be prayers not preaching and can’t be too strident. There have been many deletions and substitutions and the last two prayers are still not quite done.
Luckily, no one but God ever needs to know what I have to say in my nightly prayers. If I am having trouble coming up with the words for what I am feeling or wanting to ask, I know that God really already knows my heart. No matter what I say God will still love me. Look at some of the prayers of Job if you don’t believe that it is ok to rail against God. He can take it!
I think we sometimes get hung up on what to say. Our early experience of prayer often comes from public worship where we may all be repeating the same words, like the Lord’s Prayer. We hear the prayers of thanksgiving and intercession from the minister and marvel at the passion, organization and language he or she uses. If we think that our prayers have to live up to those standards it is easy to see why people might say that they don’t know how to pray!
When Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) spent her first night at Green Gables after the decision was made to keep her, Marilla asked her to say her prayers.
“Anne knelt at Marilla’s knee and looked up gravely.
“Why must people kneel down to pray?” If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I’d look up into the sky–up–up–up–into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just FEEL a prayer. Well, I’m ready. What am I to say?”
“You’re old enough to pray for yourself, Anne,” she said finally. “Just thank God for your blessings and ask Him humbly for the things you want.”
“Well, I’ll do my best,” promised Anne, burying her face in Marilla’s lap. “Gracious heavenly Father–that’s the way the ministers say it in church, so I suppose it’s all right in private prayer, isn’t it?” she interjected, lifting her head for a moment.
“Gracious heavenly Father, I thank Thee for the White Way of Delight and the Lake of Shining Waters and Bonny and the Snow Queen. I’m really extremely grateful for them. And that’s all the blessings I can think of just now to thank Thee for. As for the things I want, they’re so numerous that it would take a great deal of time to name them all so I will only mention the two most important. Please let me stay at Green Gables; and please let me be good-looking when I grow up. I remain,
“Yours respectfully, Anne Shirley.
“There, did I do all right?” she asked eagerly, getting up. “I could have made it much more flowery if I’d had a little more time to think it over.”
I don’t believe that God cares what sort of language we use in our prayers. What is important is that we pray at all.
Go ahead…no one will be correcting your language.