This is inspired by the late Kyle Lake’s [Re]Understanding Prayer.
When you think of scripts, what comes to mind? For me, I think of actors memorizing lines for the purpose of taking on a role of someone else. They read a script to get a clear understanding of what they should say, how they should act, how they can best represent their character.
Our Christian subculture has created its own scripts –its own means of instructing others on how to do things we as Christians do– and Christians always seem to be searching for it. They’re looking for a formula to best do everything. Whether it’s how to dress, worship, read the bible, care for others, forgive enemies, or in this case, how we pray.
How do you worship? Do you stand up? Do you sing songs of praise? How about close your eyes? Do you raise your hands? In some churches and denominations, whole levels off spirituality are derived from the placement or extension of the hands.
What is your first impression of Christian music? When I was in high school, I would share my music with friends and they often loved it. When I told them it was ‘Christian,’ they were so surprised because it didn’t match what they originally perceived as Christian music. They understood a script for Christian music, and what I shared stepped beyond those boundaries and they couldn’t believe it. They were blown away by this new concept.
How do you read the bible? Do you read it one book at a time? A chapter at a time? Maybe you take a small passage and spend weeks meditating on it? Why do you read the bible? Just so you can dissect it and reword it in order to better apply it to today’s world and your current situations?
How do you offer advice or support to a hurting friend? Establish eye contact, ask them questions about their well-being, repeat what they just said in a more sympathetic tone, read a scripture verse pertaining to their situation?
These are just a few examples of the formulas that we search for. And they have become readily available to us especially through thousands of self-help books found in the Christian book stores. And they are pretty simple formula’s to remember, but when they’re used, you can easily lose the genuine realness that should never be faked.
Now here are some examples of the scripts that are offered to us regarding prayer:
-Address God as ‘Father God’
-Thank Him for 5-7 things or people around you before anything else
-Use the word ‘Just’ a minimum of twenty-five times
-Address God at the beginning of each new phrase or sentence in case He forgot you were talking to Him
-Finish every time with ‘In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen’
And for some bonus points be sure to:-use more words, bigger words, quote God’s own scripture to Himself, increase your volume, add more emotion for best results of promotion of self and for the purest and most free connection with God
I often spend long periods of time where I won’t pray out loud. I’m not certain, but I pretty sure that the bible never says that you have to pray out loud –it merely refers to people praying together, or in groups. When I open my mouth and begin to pray aloud, I find it very difficult to not think about what the people around me think of my prayers. I can’t stutter, I have to have my thoughts all figured out first, I can’t repeat what’s already been said in a prayer circle. These are all scripts I am afraid of breaking.
When I worked for a youth group I found myself having to pray one-to-one with the youth. They would tell me generally what they needed prayer for and then I would pray for them. But my prayer became advice for the youth. “God remind him to wake up early to pray, help him to listen to his parents better, help him to see you in nature and think of you during his day when he’s walking down the street, brushing his teeth, etc.” All of this I could have just said to him before praying in order to make my prayer a more direct conversation with God. Instead my entire prayer ended up having the sole purpose of making sure the youth heard what I was saying.
From this point on I learned that I could verbally give my advice and support to someone first and then follow that with silent prayer. Tell him “I'm going to pray for you now silently, but know that I am praying for x, y, and z for you.” Often someone likes to feel supported through prayer, but this doesn’t mean they have to hear your prayers. Prayer is to be an intimate conversation between you and God –not necessarily for others to listen in on. If you’re past this point of caring what others think of your prayers, good for you, but if not, I’d encourage you to take time to really think through your motives and why you’re praying out loud. Maybe you need to take a few steps back and pray silently until you’ve humbled yourself enough to pray out loud.
Jesus associated the Pharisees with the word Upokriseus, which translates to Hypocrite. But when Jesus was using this word, it actually meant two-faced and people would often think of an actor –someone who plays a part on a stage, someone following a script.
The Pharisees had mastered their religion so well that it became more about methods, skills, and techniques rather than a change of their heart. Much like an actor, their lines were unattached from their person.
There are many special groups who share a common language that is largely unknown to those outside of the group. Take televisions for example. Did you know that a DLP DNIe 720p is jargon for Digital Light Processor chip and a Digital Natural Imagine engine and delivers 720 lines vertically scanned in a progressive fashion? Or if you are a true golfer, you would know what Grow Teeth, Backdoor, Four-Jack, In the Leather, Kick, Knee-Knocker, Run, and Thin all mean.
I often use to begin praying and then catching myself quickly, realizing the clichéd vibe of my conversation with God. And asking myself, ‘what did I even mean by that?’ I would then go back to the beginning and try to think about what I meant by the words I said before. We need to be ready to locate and uncover the scripts that have been handed down to us for generations in regards to what and how we pray. Consider the following common scripts of prayer:
Jesus said ‘I am with you always.’ Do we have to ask Him to do something He’s already always doing? What we are usually asking for is God to help us identify His presence and involvement in the present situation. So why don’t we just say that?
When else do we ever use this word in our normal vocabulary? We say it so often in prayer, but other than to excuse someone who sneezes, we rarely ever say it. It must be great for God to hear our generic conversation with Him. What we are usually asking is for God to give us or someone else something. Why don’t we stop trying to sugar coat our selfishness and say it like it is?
“Lead, Guide, and Direct”
Three words that all mean the same thing.
“I pray for the best for him”
This doesn’t even make sense. Do we think that God doesn’t already have our best interests in mind, and has us facing what we’re facing for a reason? Whatever we’re going through might be difficult and hard, it might be a sin, but God’s got us right where He wants us every moment of every day. God always has our best interests in mind; we don’t need to ask Him for that. What we should be saying to God is thanking Him for the situation, asking for His guidance and thanking Him for whatever the result of the situation or decision may be.
So the next time you pray, try not to use any of these words or phrases, it will be very difficult. The next time you pray, if you can’t use other normal words to articulate what you’re saying, there’s a good chance you don’t really know what you mean or what you’re praying. The following are more great words that are in our prayer vocabulary, that should be reconsidered. Read through them and see if you can think of what you really mean when you say it… then try using that alternative next time you pray:
Fellowship? Confess? Born Again? Have a Burden? The Lost? Anointed? Raise Up? Prosper? We call on You to…? We ask this only if it be Your Will? Go before us and…?
Prayer is a conversation with God. Someone told me they will sit a chair down in front of them and picture God as a man sitting there in the chair and then they will talk to the chair. It makes Him feel real to them.
We don’t need to impress God with our fancy words taken from scripts passed down through the ages, and we definitely don’t need to try to impress others with our words.
Prayer is a response, prayer is talking to God. He’s asking us ‘How’s your day going” and prayer is our answer to that question. Let’s respond.
“The point is to gain simple conversation with God where tired, vacant language is abandoned and replaced with truthful speech.” –Kyle Lake
This is inspired by the late Kyle Lake’s [Re]Understanding Prayer.