Let’s just admit right now that, over time, clichés start to creep into the conversation of active Christians. Just a few.
The early Christian Rock musician Larry Norman had a great little schtick on this. He has the zealous Christian trying to share his faith with a friend. They guy has no clue what “washed in the blood” or “born again” or “saved” mean. So the Christian sums up:
“I’m trying to, trying to find out if you ever… if you ever deeply experienced a kind of personal revelation, you know a… a… like a sanctific… you know, like being born… you know, washed in the… consecrate… I’m trying to tell you the Good News.”
“The good news? What’s that?”
“You’re going to hell.”
“What’s the bad news?”
It is probably a natural thing. If we are growing into a new faith, beginning to look at all of life through the lens of biblical teaching, we have to develop a language. The people we are growing with will be the people who share that language.
It even happens when we talk to God. (Sadly I’ve been unable to locate an old comic from The Wittenburg Door in which a college student prayed “Dear Lord, I just really pray that you’d just really help me stop saying ‘just really’ when I pray.” Maybe people don’t say “just really” any more. I just really hope not.)
Sometimes, though, even the words Scripture teaches us to pray become meaningless. Take “Amen,” the last word of almost every prayer. It is so universal that it even got tacked onto the Lord’s Prayer in later biblical manuscripts, and it remains there most of the time when Christians pray it.
We lose something crucial when “Amen” become’s the Christian equivalent of
“’Nuff said!” or
“So long for now!”
The Heidelberg Catechism does a lovely job of helping us really pray this crucial word.
“What does that little word ‘Amen’ express?”
“This shall truly and surely be!”
It is not just a closing. It is a declaration of faith. It is like Jean-Luc Picard commanding the Enterprise:
“Make it so!”
We don’t command God, of course. Maybe it is better to say we have the confidence that God can and will make it so.
The Catechism backs off a bit from the mere confidence that God will do our bidding.
“It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer
than that I really desire what I pray for.”
In a relationship of reverent faith that honors God as God, this is a better hope. Better to rejoice that the God of the universe is willing to listen to my cries, that I am truly heard by someone who loves me to the depth of my being, than to think I can call the shots.
This discussion of the last word of the Lord’s Prayer, and of all our prayers, comes in the last question of the Catechism, number 129. So we’ll have to let that be our last word on the topic as well.
My little rant on the phrase “in Jesus’ name we pray” will have to wait for another occasion.
What clichés do you hear the most often as Christians speak and pray?
What can we do to move beyond clichés in our praying and living?
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