“The law of prayer is the law of belief”
I’m learning how to pray. This latin phrase above says that the way we pray in public is both shaped by and will shape our theology. What does it say about our concept of God when we pray with ambiguous phrases such as “Lord, if it is your will…” or “we come to you asking if you would…”? These phrases point to a deficiency in our concept of God. Laurence Stookey, in his book Let the Whole Church Say Amen!, claims that “many of the filler phrases act as distancing devices.”
Surely I am guilty of this religious mumbling in attempt to buy time and sort out my thoughts while praying publicly, but now that I am aware of it, I am focusing on eliminating it from my prayers. Notice Jesus does not pray this way in the Lord’s prayer of Matthew 6:7. He does not say, “our Father, who is in Heaven, may your name be hallowed … Lord, if it is your will, may your kingdom come … etc …” He talks to God directly, with short salient phrases. Notice his verbs: “GIVE us this day… / FORGIVE us … / LEAD US NOT into … / DELIVER us from … ”
It is these aggressive verbs that shape prayer that believes in a powerful, influential God. I hope that in my own personal prayer and the occasions which I pray in public can be shaped by this idea. If we cannot earnestly demand something of God, perhaps we are demanding the wrong thing.