We ought be a tad skeptical about our methods if we wouldn’t be able to tell our own prayers out of a crowd of people. I’m not talking about tone or truth, and I’m not talking about a southern drawl or a yankee brogue. I’m talking about whether the words and the sentence structures coming out of your mouth sound like they actually belong there.
Prayer will never be the intimate type of communication that it was meant to be until we can begin interacting with God in our native tongue. I say this not to impugn the prayers of those who have grown up reading the King James Bible and so then have transferred that language into their prayer life. They were heavily influenced by that vernacular and it makes perfect sense as to why they would pray in such a way. But for those of us that have grown up in a generation favoring Biblical translations in modern English, I can’t fathom this. And even for those who did grow up with the “King’s English”, the prayers that are prayed in moments of desperation are rarely offered with “thee’s” and “thou’s”, and more often are simply cries for help and mercy.
I had read the following prayers, translated by the Hatian missionary Eleanor Turnbull, and I was immediately convicted. I have a tendency to run through some of my prayers using words that I understand, but that at times don’t capture the essence of what’s in my heart. I can all too easily turn my prayer time into a systematic theology review. And while there are times when I should come to God with the scholastic ideas that I’ve learned, and ask Him to graciously help me understand the enormity of who He is, there are many times when I should set aside those complexities and pray in words and images that I don’t have to figure out because they flow naturally out of my soul. I offer these short prayers as a reminder that God hears us in our native tongue, whatever that may be:
Lord, In Christ, we are a grain of corn in a clear bottle. Satan comes like a chicken and pecks for the corn, but never reaches it.
Lord, How glad we are that we don’t hold you, you hold us.
Lord, Don’t let us put our load of trouble in a basket on our head. Help us put them on Jesus’ head. Then we won’t have headaches
We are all hungry baby birds this morning. Our heart-mouths are gaping wide, waiting for you to fill us.
Father, A cold wind seems to have chilled us. Wrap us in the blanket of your Word and warm us up.
Lord, We find your Word like cabbage. As we pull down the leaves, we get closer to the heart. And as we get closer to the heart, it is sweeter
– Wally and Eleanor Turnbull, “God is no Stranger”