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“Lead, Guide, and Direct, Father God”: Church Cliches, Pt. II

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, church members, cliches, communication, prayer, worship | Posted on 30-08-2012

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"Lead, Guide, and Direct, Father God": Church Cliches, Pt. II

I’m doing this series on church cliches. This one’s about prayer. Last one was about sports. Hope you like.

When I was but a young lad in the South­ern Bap­tist Church, I used to go to the occa­sional prayer meet­ing instead of the youth activ­i­ties. It seemed that every adult who prayed would always end the prayer with, “And lead, guide and direct us, Amen.”

My own father did it when he prayed in pub­lic. I hon­estly thought it must be in Scrip­ture some­where. It’s right up there with those con­gre­gants who are caught off guard by pray­ing in pub­lic whose every other word is “Father God”, “Lord God” or “Father.”

An exam­ple, “Father God, we’re just so happy to be here Father God today Father God. It’s just great to be in your house today Father God, among your peo­ple Father God. We’re just pray­ing that we wor­ship you Father God, Father God. And we love you so much and want to be with you today Father God. And Father God, be with those who couldn’t be here today Father God. We pray for them. And we pray for our pas­tor today, Father God, as you anoint him to preach the Word that you laid upon his heart today, Father God, Father God. Amen.

You know what I’m talk­ing about if you’ve ever sat through a prayer like that. You start count­ing the ‘Father Gods.’ Even before the guy starts.

Yeah, we say a lot of cliché things when we pray. Is there a problem?

What can become the worst of it? I heard a very pop­u­lar Protes­tant pas­tor say a few years ago that when we throw in phrases like “Father,” “Father God,” or what­ever, we are bab­bling. He said that it’s to the extreme of blas­phemy. We are approach­ing a holy God who deserves our best. Not a bunch of ram­bling that we’ve heard repeated before. He wants our hearts. Espe­cially if we’re pray­ing for a congregation.

Think about this for a moment. The dis­ci­ples asked Jesus how they should pray. It’s not just some­thing you start ran­domly doing. It’s some­thing that you learn from the Master.

In John 6, Jesus said:

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gen­tiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.“
(Matthew 6:7 – 8 ESV)

We aren’t to bab­ble on before God. So what are we to do?

Why it might be wrong:

We could be throw­ing our empty, mean­ing­less phrases at God when He really wants our hearts. Lis­ten, He knows already what is on our hearts. He knows our strug­gles, our sins and our vic­to­ries. When we get called on to pray, what bet­ter moment to just wor­ship the liv­ing God?

But a lot of peo­ple have a prob­lem pray­ing in pub­lic. They really do. Pas­tors, why not lead some of your men in a study on what prayer is and how to pray for the con­gre­ga­tion? I hon­estly believe it will enrich them and it will draw you closer to them. Heck, pas­tors need all the friends they can get. You might actu­ally make a friend in the process. And what pas­tor doesn’t want stronger men in the church? If you’re really dar­ing, you might actu­ally invite some women to par­tic­i­pate. Oh my! Shud­der the thought!

Why it might be okay:

Could it be okay to use cliché after cliché in prayer? Lis­ten, if you are pray­ing in pub­lic and say, “Lead, guide and direct,” and really mean, “Sov­er­eign God, I pray that you con­tinue to lead us in the path you have led us on, guide us in your sov­er­eign wis­dom and direct us down the path you have for us,” then go for it.

And hey, if you don’t feel com­fort­able pray­ing in pub­lic, please, please, please tell the pas­tor. But don’t stop there. Ask him, “How can I pray bet­ter?” Then run to the Word and find out how. God is pleased by our prayers.

And I’ll tell you one other thing. There’s no shame in a prayer that has been writ­ten down and prepared.

You want to get on track with pray­ing? There is a fan­tas­tic lit­tle book called Val­ley of Vision.” It is a book of Puri­tan prayers and it will get your heart, mind and soul right. It will teach you to pray. Feel free to even read one of those in front of the con­gre­ga­tion. I used to. And I’d say, “Here is a lit­tle prayer I found help­ful. And I’m going to read it before I start my own prayer.”

Prayer is seri­ous busi­ness. But you know what? God just wants to hear from you. He wants your heart. He wants you. Pray what you’re think­ing. What you’re feel­ing while you’re in private.

I strongly rec­om­mend my friend Joy Wilson’s book, “Uncen­sored Prayer.” She even holds work­shops for peo­ple who want to know how to do one on one prayer with God. Check her out online as well.

The best thing is that God wants to hear from us. Always. And He just wants us as we are.

_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​

Ray Car­roll is author of “Fallen Pas­tor: Find­ing Restora­tion in a Bro­ken World.” He also writes at Pro­voke­tive Mag­a­zine online.

I’m doing this series on church cliches. This one’s about prayer. Last one was about sports. Hope you like.

When I was but a young lad in the Southern Baptist Church, I used to go to the occasional prayer meeting instead of the youth activities. It seemed that every adult who prayed would always end the prayer with, “And lead, guide and direct us, Amen.”

My own father did it when he prayed in public. I honestly thought it must be in Scripture somewhere. It’s right up there with those congregants who are caught off guard by praying in public whose every other word is “Father God”, “Lord God” or “Father.”

An example, “Father God, we’re just so happy to be here Father God today Father God. It’s just great to be in your house today Father God, among your people Father God. We’re just praying that we worship you Father God, Father God. And we love you so much and want to be with you today Father God. And Father God, be with those who couldn’t be here today Father God. We pray for them. And we pray for our pastor today, Father God, as you anoint him to preach the Word that you laid upon his heart today, Father God, Father God. Amen.

You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever sat through a prayer like that. You start counting the ‘Father Gods.’ Even before the guy starts.

Yeah, we say a lot of cliche things when we pray. Is there a problem?

What can become the worst of it? I heard a very popular Protestant pastor say a few years ago that when we throw in phrases like “Father,” “Father God,” or whatever, we are babbling. He said that it’s to the extreme of blasphemy. We are approaching a holy God who deserves our best. Not a bunch of rambling that we’ve heard repeated before. He wants our hearts. Especially if we’re praying for a congregation.

Think about this for a moment. The disciples asked Jesus how they should pray. It’s not just something you start randomly doing. It’s something that you learn from the Master.

In John 6, Jesus said:

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
(Matthew 6:7-8 ESV)

We aren’t to babble on before God. So what are we to do?

Why it might be wrong:

We could be throwing our empty, meaningless phrases at God when He really wants our hearts. Listen, He knows already what is on our hearts. He knows our struggles, our sins and our victories. When we get called on to pray, what better moment to just worship the living God?

But a lot of people have a problem praying in public. They really do. Pastors, why not lead some of your men in a study on what prayer is and how to pray for the congregation? I honestly believe it will enrich them and it will draw you closer to them. Heck, pastors need all the friends they can get. You might actually make a friend in the process. And what pastor doesn’t want stronger men in the church? If you’re really daring, you might actually invite some women to participate. Oh my! Shudder the thought!

Why it might be okay:

Could it be okay to use cliche after cliche in prayer? Listen, if you are praying in public and say, “Lead, guide and direct,” and really mean, “Sovereign God, I pray that you continue to lead us in the path you have led us on, guide us in your sovereign wisdom and direct us down the path you have for us,” then go for it.

And hey, if you don’t feel comfortable praying in public, please, please, please tell the pastor. But don’t stop there. Ask him, “How can I pray better?” Then run to the Word and find out how. God is pleased by our prayers.

And I’ll tell you one other thing. There’s no shame in a prayer that has been written down and prepared.

You want to get on track with praying? There is a fantastic little book called Valley of Vision.” It is a book of Puritan prayers and it will get your heart, mind and soul right. It will teach you to pray. Feel free to even read one of those in front of the congregation. I used to. And I’d say, “Here is a little prayer I found helpful. And I’m going to read it before I start my own prayer.”

Prayer is serious business. But you know what? God just wants to hear from you. He wants your heart. He wants you. Pray what you’re thinking. What you’re feeling while you’re in private.

I strongly recommend my friend Joy Wilson’s book, “Uncensored Prayer.” She even holds workshops for people who want to know how to do one on one prayer with God. Check her out online as well.

The best thing is that God wants to hear from us. Always. And He just wants us as we are.

__________________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” He also writes at Provoketive Magazine online.

Comments (2)

Good points – all. I’ve had the privilege of being in a few different denominations through the years before and since full time ministry with Greg. The AG have their “phrases” as well as the Methodists and Baptists. They become so common that we forget about the new person walking in for the first time – or when we share our personal faith. When Greg was a lead pastor in a small AG church years ago in Northern California – there were a few older gentlemen and one senior lady who liked those “babbling phrases” especially in prayer and testimony time. It was amusing – but also so repetitive, I was bored and would count how many times they said things over and over. One such phrase was used in testimony time “bless the name of the Lord” – so that no one would interrupt him and take the mic away from him. It was done like someone else would have a natural pause in a sentence – or a breath. Funny.

I think most of that is a result of nervous habits when public speaking. The vain repetiton Christ warned about was thinking that unless you said it a certain number of times it would not be heard. Repeating the Lord’s Prayer is not vain repetion unless you think, “If I say this 100 times a day then God will bless me.” I appreciate hearing prayers from the heart, and so does God. I’ve been guilty of judging people’s prayers when I should have been praying with them.

Saddest part is that there are almost no prayer meetings anymore, and many have left prayer up to the “professionals.”

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