“Christianese” and Monotonous Prayers

Hey TD!

In writing on “Christianese” worship and living last week in “Let’s Stop the ‘Christianese’!”, I came across a helpful, practical article by our friend, Greg Koukl, from Stand to Reason on “A Solution to Monotonous Prayers”; in other words, “Christianese” prayers; prayers with no weight, meaning, power, or access to God.

Keep working at making your Christian lives fresh, real, and dwell-able by God.  Hope this helps!

A Solution to Monotonous Prayers” by Greg Koukl

Prayer is hard. There’s no getting around it. I know there must be saints who find it easy, but I don’t know any.

Part of the problem is monotony.  How do we avoid, as one person put it, saying the same old things about the same old things?  Recently, though, I’ve discovered an approach that has helped me immensely, and I want to pass it on to you.

In the past when I spent time with God, I’d start with prayer, then read my Bible. Now, I reverse the order and combine the two into one. I start with God’s Word, then let the words in the passage guide my prayers.  There are three different ways to “pray Scripture” that I have used.  Each is easy to employ.

Here’s the first: Pray the prayers of the Bible as if they were your own.  For years, I prayed for my family using Paul’s wonderful prayer to the Colossians found in Col. 1:9b-12.  At first I had to turn to the passage each time, but soon I knew it by heart.  Here is how I paraphrased Paul’s words for my own girls:

Lord, I pray that they may be filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that they would walk in a manner worthy of You, Lord, to please You in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in their knowledge of You.  Strengthen them with all power according to Your glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to You, Lord.

Profound, satisfying, simple.

There are lots of prayers like this in the Bible and they’re perfect for those closest to you: children, spouse, friends, disciples.  Some are short, like 2 Thess. 3:16 (“May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance”) or  Ps. 19:14 (“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer”). Others are longer, but exceedingly rich, like Eph. 3:16-19, Eph. 1:17-19a, and Phil. 1:9-11.

Guard against repeating these prayers mechanically, taking the life out of them.  Rather, pray the words slowly, with meaning, putting your own emotion into them.

Choose a passage and write the verse on a 3×5 card if you like, though soon you won’t need the reminder.  The words will be hidden in your heart, faithful friends ready to serve you at any moment.  Consider Col. 2:2-3, 1 Thess. 3:12-13 or 5:23, 2 Thess. 2:16-17, or Heb. 13:20-21 (also a wonderful benediction to conclude a church service).

Second, pray the content of a passage.  Pick a Psalm or a New Testament chapter and read through it slowly, talking to God about its meaning in context.  Don’t get creative; just stick with the flow of thought.  Reflect carefully on the theology as you converse with God and apply it through prayer. Pray the words, express wonder, give thanks, offer praise, confess shortcomings, ask questions.

Often you can make the whole passage your prayer.  I frequently pray Ps. 51, using David’s words as my own confession.  Sometimes at night I’ll lie in bed, slowly and silently praying the 23rd Psalm as I drift off to sleep, thinking about its wonderful truth.  The Lord is my Shepherd.  He restores my soul. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

Finally, read through Scripture praying about whatever thoughts come to mind that are triggered by the passage, even if they have nothing to do with the text’s intended meaning.  This is the method Donald Whitney develops in his wonderful little book, Praying the Bible.  “This isn’t reading something into the text,” he writes, but rather “using the language of the text to speak to God about what has come into your mind.”  When, for example, you read Ps. 23, you might think of others who need special shepherding from the Lord or need their souls restored.  Pray for them.

These three ways of praying Scripture are incredibly simple, and have the added bonus of taking passages you visit frequently and binding them to your heart forever.  I still pray most of the same things I used to pray for (my “list”), but I pray for them differently, often incorporating my standard requests into my scriptural prayers.

Simply put, let Scripture guide your conversation with God.  Pray 1) the prayers of Scripture, 2) the content of Scripture, or 3) your thoughts as you read Scripture.  Start right away and you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.

greg

 

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Let’s Stop the “Christianese”!

christianese

Hey TD!

As I was reading Joshua 13 last week, my heart was gripped, my eyes riveted to the sentence, and my soul stunned when I reached the last verse.  This chapter is in the middle of God leading Israel’s conquering of lands, which He wants to give to them as an inheritance.  Here, He instructs Joshua, “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

The passage then proceeds to list in detail all the areas that God had given the other half of the tribe of Manasseh – “This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Gad … The territory of Jazer, all the towns of Gilead and half the Ammonite country as far as Aroer, near Rabbah; and from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpah and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir …. etc. (you get the point).  It keeps going on and on about which tribes got which lands.

And then the chapter ends with this, “But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.”  I’ve read this before, of course, but I didn’t see this coming this time.  I was stunned and  floored afresh.  They got no inheritance.  God was their inheritance.  Wow.

I’ve read this before, of course, but I didn’t see this coming this time.  I was stunned and  floored afresh.

As a worship leader at MBCLA since the ’80’s, I have poured through and sung decades’ worth of worship songs (formerly known as praise songs).  I have experienced their textual, musical, and stylistic evolution.  At any given time in a day, Sandra or I (sometimes Sandra AND I) will spontaneously break out some chorus of some song from the 5 decades of Christian worship music we’re familiar with.

One thing that I always wrestle with is this: Is this true?  In my life and in the lives of those I’m leading to sing these songs, is this true?  God warns us to let our yes be yes and our no be no, and that every word that proceeds from our mouths will be judged.  In dealing with the upstanding good church goers in His day, Jesus commented, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship Me in vain …” (Matt. 15) O, Lord, is this me?

So, when I sing certain lyrics, I begin to tighten up inside and cringe, struggling with whether I can actually and honestly sing these words:

“Rich or poor, God I want You more

Than anything that glitters in this world

Be my all, all consuming fire

You can have all my hands can hold

My heart, mind, strength and soul

Be my all, all consuming fire

 

We have all we need in You

And all we need is You

All we need is You”

 

Or,

“You are my strength when I am weak

You are the treasure that I seek

You are my All in all.”

 

Or,

“All of You is more than enough for

All of me, for every thirst and every need

You satisfy me with your love

And all I have in You is more than enough

 

More than all I want, more than all I need

You are more than enough for me”

 

If I’m going to sing these words, then I MUST honor them and live them out.  They MUST become reality in my heart, “for from the heart flow the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23)  They MUST for you too.  May it NOT be said of us, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are (actually) far from me.”

Unfortunately, what all too often emerges, when we’ve gone to church for a long time without really letting God do the hard heart work in our lives, is that we end up developing a church culture of our own that we feel comfortable in – with church friends, doing “clean” things, etc.  We go to church together, go to fellowship and SS together, give the right answers, confess our struggles, share “honestly” and “vulnerably,” pray with one another, study Scripture together, and … sing worship songs together … songs that challenge, declare, and promise things to the Lord that most of us have never declared and promised in our regular speech; because we can’t.  We’d be lying.

It’s as if music changes our ethics and gives us permission to lie and make false promises

It’s as if music changes our ethics and gives us permission to lie and make false promises that we not only break immediately, but that we plan to break in a few hours.  And because our “good Christian friends” also do it, we rationalize that it’s ok, that we’re ok.  Or … we know it’s not ok, but we continue on anyway.  That’s what I call “churchianity.”  It’s playing church, speaking churchy language that I call “Christianese” – a language that has all the correct form, correct doctrine, and even correct biblical language … but is missing the creative, active, thoughtful, action-invoking life, timing, work,  integrity, and spirit of God.

Are You Ready to Take Action?

Are you fluent in speaking “Christianese”?  What do you think God hears from you when you sing

Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me

Everything I need is in You, Everything I need

 

I have decided to follow Jesus,

No turning back, no turning back”?

Is it a declaration that you will do everything in your power to bring your life in alignment with?  Or is it “Christianese”?  Will you surrender your dreams, desires, plans, and future to Him and give Him a chance to actually fulfill His dreams for you?  The reasons for which He made you?  Will you let your yes be yes?  Will you pledge to work with the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes for Him to be your All in all? To begin the business of transferring full control over your life and future to Him?  And to take the necessary steps (as tough as they may be) to make that a reality?

Can you dare to dream with me?  What would your life look like if the Holy Spirit was in control of it?  How would it look different?  What if honoring Him was your actual desire and passion each moment of each day?  How would things change daily for you?

I encourage you to carve out some time to soberly and honestly weigh these questions out before God.  Everything depends on it.  Then take action and begin making the necessary adjustments in each area of your life to be consistent with the Truth.  I recommend asking a trusted mentor-type to come walk along side you in support and accountability.

“But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.”  Amen and amen. You are everything, Lord.

– Arthur