Friday, December 13, 2013
The language of prayer
When praying in English members are encouraged to use the "language of prayer", which simply means invoking God correctly, closing in Christ's name, using the proper Renaissance English pronouns when referring to God, and sometimes including an archaic English verb form in there if you're really good.
Those pronouns insisted upon belong to the second person singular. You have "thou" as the subject, "thee" as the object pronoun, "thy" as the possessive adjective, "thine" as the possessive pronoun, and "thyself" as the reflexive pronoun. Second person verb forms typically end in a "-est", "-st", or "-t" for verbs in the present indicative.
So a Mormon prayer should look something like this: Our dear Father Who Art in Heaven, we love Thee and thank Thee for our many blessings. We ask Thee to continue to bless us with moisture according to Thy wisdom and mercy. Thou knowest the desires of our heart (for we have just told Thee we desire moisture). We also thank Thee for Thy son Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent as a blood sacrifice for Thy fallen children. We're sorry we're so awful. In the sacred and holy name of our Everlasting and Eternal Savior, Thy very Son, The Holy Anointed Of Israel, even Jesus... the Christ, amen.
We're told to pray like this because it shows respect, especially when you capitalize titles and pronouns. Besides, it's great to have a special language to use between you and your father in heaven, isn't it? That's what we're taught anyway.
The problem is that praying like that tends to be more of a hindrance and distraction from prayer because you're constantly assessing the language you're using, but the worst part about using the archaic English pronouns is that, quite contrary to showing respect for God, it's addressing him as an equal or as someone below you on the social ladder. (Ironically enough, the Church encourages non-English speakers to address God in the informal if their language has such a distinction.) Why would the Church even bother imposing rules on how to pray in the first place?
Even as a preteen my friends and I sensed that there was something up with this language of prayer thing. We couldn't take it seriously. Then I learned a tiny bit of outdated English and started to doubt that I should take it seriously.
UPDATE: Listen to this Infants on Thrones episode.