How do you Pray?

Dear Reader,

If you have attended different kinds of churches in your life, you may have noticed as I have that there are styles of prayer. In a given church it seems that people begin to pray alike and certain words and phrases are heard over and over. Now I think this is a natural thing. Just like it has been shown that people will mimic the body positioning of someone they are talking too, I think we unconsciously mimic the phrasing of others we hear as well. So for instance in one of our previous churches I still remember that most people who prayed during service seemed to say “Lord God” a lot. Not only is this how they addressed God but they seemed to repeat the vocative with every request as in “Lord God please heal so and so. Lord God please help whozzit” and so on. I am not criticizing here. I am just observing.

Now I wonder what these word choices tell about our theology. Admittedly, for  a lot of people, their word choice may not tell anything. It may be that they are repeating phrases they hear and there is not a lot of thought involved. But on the other hand, I am the sort to believe that what we say may influence what we believe too. So maybe it is better to apply some thought to what we say in prayer (hence this post).

Now if we refer to God as “she” or “divine mother” in our prayer, we are clearly communicating something about what we believe. But usually I think most of us use more mundane, mainstream titles. But do you address God as “Father” or “Lord” or “Lord Jesus”? What do all of these say? I have had discussions in the past about who we should pray to, which member of the Trinity that is. Do we pray to the Holy Spirit? Do we pray to Jesus? Or only to the Father? It is hard for me to say any of these options is wrong. But I do think my default is God the Father. He’s the head, right? The Son is in submission to Him. Even the Holy Spirit seems to pray to the Father on our behalf (see Romans 8:26).

But even if we all pray to the Father (as opposed to the Son or Spirit), we still have a lot of choices in how to address Him. Is He “Lord”? “Master”? “Almighty God”? What do these different titles say about how we are thinking of Him? And what about some of the other titles we might find in the Bible but be less likely to use ourselves? Do you ever address God as “Lord of Hosts” (hosts means armies by the way)? In the Psalms He is called “God of vengeance.” I bet we don’t use that one very often. Do we pick which title to use based on how we are praying? I suspect lost of us have one standard from of address we use and rarely vary it. But maybe we should. God is pretty vast. Why always concentrate on one attribute?

And then there is how we end. At one point I consciously started saying “in Christ’s name” or “in Jesus’ name” before my “amen.” I noticed other people doing this and decided it was good policy. Because it is only through the intercession of Jesus Christ that we have access to the Father. Now it is not that I think my prayers are any less effective if I don’t say this. It is more of a reminder to me that this is how we approach God, only through the blood of Jesus.

How about you? What phrases do you use in prayer? And why?



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