When I hear men pray in public, I like to hear the usual requests put into different terms. It is more thought-provoking to me if I am a bit surprised by the way something is said than if I can stay three seconds ahead of the “pray-er” as he treads down the ever-trodden path of “guardguide’n’direct,” “keepusuntilthenextappointedhour,” “happyrecollectionofthethingshehasprepared,” “keepusinthehollowofthyhand,” etc. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with those phrases. They can be just as genuine as a newer, more creative arrangement of words, but I confess that I find myself being judgmental when I hear the “standard” phrases because I tend to use them when I have not been especially attentive to my own prayer life. God forgive me for thinking that way.
What made me think of this was either hearing someone begin a prayer recently or beginning a prayer myself with “Dear Lord, thank You for this day.” I sometimes give myself an internal kick when I begin a public prayer this way, because it rolls off my tongue unconsciously if I am underprepared. But it struck me a few days ago that I am silly for thinking that way. Just because that phrase has been overused a bit doesn’t mean that it has to be meaningless. After all, what more are we promised than this moment? We can’t thank God for tomorrow–Christ might return at midnight, or 30 seconds from now. When people are assembled with their heads bowed in prayer, it means God has granted them an opportunity to be together fellowshipping, studying, edifying, exhorting, encouraging, and basking in God’s lovingkindness with each other one more time. It means there is yet one more opportunity for those who have not obeyed the gospel to soften their hearts and make that decision. It means the Lord yet has some work He’d like to accomplish in each one of us, and He’s not done with us yet. Yes, come to think of it, “Thank You for this day” is no shameful way to begin a prayer. Perhaps there is a reason it has become one of our “standard” phrases. God help us not to let the rich meaning of those syllables be lost on us the next time we hear them uttered.
You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
Lord, thank You for this day. Help us use it to lift up the name of Jesus Christ.