"Lord, would you just come down and meet us here? Just touch us in a fresh and powerful way. We just need to learn how to pray, so we just ask You right now, would you just teach us how to pray?"

The word "just" is to the prayers of Contemporary Church-goers, as the word "like" is to the conversations of California valley girls. Has anyone else noticed this?

I really don't have that much of a bone to pick (heck, I'm glad to see people praying at all), but it has made me aware of the shortage of thoughtful, intentional prayers among Contemporary Church people. In one sense, we can't blame ourselves for leaving behind the common for the spontaneous. In another sense, however, I think we are missing out on some well-thought-through and rich prayers from history. (Here comes a plug for the Book of Common Prayer.)

Allow me to recommend a solution to your new annoyance. (Believe you me, you will be annoyed the next time someone is praying the "Just" Prayer). There is a little black book called the Book of Common Prayer (see my recommended books in the left margin). It is filled with common prayers written by people in history who labored sometimes for days over two-sentence prayers. Not only did they weave their words together with great intricacy, each prayer was written for a specific Church Calendar season or sacerdotal occasion, among other things.

I have often opened the Book up to page 137 in the morning, and prayed through the "In the Morning Daily Devotion" with my wife, "just" to kick off our day. I have also used the "Collects" beginning on page 211 during our church worship services. Their profound simplicity always makes for a beautiful transition between songs, not to mention, a perfect opportunity to change your capo position. Here is the Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

So, the next time you're at a loss for words, tap into the well of resources outside of your own brain. And the next time you hear someone (including yourself) praying the "Just" Prayer, don't make fun of them...unless it's you...then you can make...fun...

...I'm going Christmas shopping.

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