Thursday, December 10, 2009



I. Umm, God, ummm, I umm, was, like, wondering...

If you move in certain circles, you've heard the "just" prayer: "Lord, we just want to thank you and we just praise your name and we just know that you are with us, and we just come to you praying for you to just be with us, and...."

This form of prayer is (almost literally) mindless: The "just" is simply a placeholder when someone doesn't know what to say.

My analysis of this form of utterance is not original with me, and it's not rocket science, but I think the origin of the "just" prayer has three strands: 1) Some proto-pray-er used the word as an expression of pious earnestness, meaning, "simply," or "all we ask is...." This was picked up by others in the prayer circle and 2) it eventually came to be identified in the prayer lexicon as expressive of truly heartfelt communication with God, but finally, 3) it has become a mere place holder. It is a spiritual form of "umm..., errr...." It is dithering prayer.

I believe the antidote to a plethora of justs is the same technique my high school speech teacher taught us as a way to overcome stammering in a public address: Instead of "umm," just pause. A micro-pause. It works. It's a form of silence, which the Apostle Paul advises as a very basic and extremely intimate approach to prayer:

...We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. ~ Romans 8:26

I'm not necessarily suggesting that when one is subjected to a "just" prayer that one should say, "Be quiet!" But that, too, is an invitation to prayer.

II. How About an "A" For Effort?

It was the end-of-term exam: an essay test in English Literature. My friend, Jim, as usual, had read none of the assignments. (He did read the Classics Comic Book version of "The Forsyte Saga.") He sat in the exam room for an impressively long time, writing page after page until the Blue Book was completely filled. A few days later we entered the classroom apprehensively -- the test results were to be returned. Jim opened his essay book to the front page. There, at the top, the professor had written, "Jim, you write very well. F."

1 comment:

Joel Martyn said...

Don't forget about the "Really, really..." prayer.