body language, commandment, faith, god, jesus, just, language, mathew, pray, prayer, subtext, words
Whenever I go to church, inevitably one or more leaders or lay people rip my soul with their language: “Lord, I just want you to [insert your plea here].” It makes me want to stand up and walk out, run even. Why am I investing time in a church, a whole group of churches really, that send me a message of faithlessness? I guess I’m speaking protestant churches, at least the Canadian chapters. I’ve not visited every church, so I just can’t call this a blanket observation. I’ve never not heard this abuse outside a Catholic church. I’ve never heard it used inside a Catholic church, but the Catholics fall under a whole different category of faithlessness. *grin* I can say this because I are a Catholic.
This is a use of just as an adverb, and as an adverb, just has a few meanings. Let’s review:
9.within a brief preceding time; but a moment before: The sun just came out.
10.exactly or precisely: This is just what I mean.
11.by a narrow margin; barely: The arrow just missed the mark.
12.only or merely: He was just a clerk until he became ambitious.
13.actually; really; positively: The weather is just glorious.
So the question is, which of these meanings are being used. #9 is out as are #10, and #11. I hesitate with #13, but I rule it out too. These statements are not said with enthusiasm. They are restrained. The speakers act like they are subordinating to the target, Jesus/God. That leaves #12: only or merely. “Lord, I merely want you to listen to us today.”
Technically there’s nothing wrong with this usage. It says “God, stop doing whatever you are doing, stop paying attention to all my other needs, and listen to this one.” So, what’s my problem? I think it’s body language and tone. Whenever these phrases are issued, the speaker sounds as if he or she is submitting and pleading: “Oh please God, listen to this poor little lost insignificant soul today.” It feels like they are begging for an audience. And it’s sometimes it’s accompanied by a long drawn out whine: “Ohhh, pleeease Gaaaawd …” Sometimes it makes me want to trash the whole sanctuary: it’s a house of prayer not a whine-fest.
Let me ask you something: does God demand fealty? Did Jesus tell his followers to get down on their knees and beg? Last week we learned his greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” [Mathew 22:37] Praying that God will “just” do something is not putting all your heart, soul, and mind into it. It just isn’t. It’s diminishing your prayer. It’s saying you have no faith in God. At least that’s what it says to me.
Language is powerful. A single word like “just” can carry immeasurable meaning, and words are modified by your body language and tone. Do your words match your actions? Do your actions modify the meanings of your words? Do as I say, not as I do is a deep and true idiom. Pay attention to your actions and your words. Do they really relay the message you want to deliver? Just think about it.
Pray as Jesus prayed. Did the big JC bow down before anybody? Did he plea for his life when he knew he was in for it? Did he ever wail and fret over not being heard? Did Jesus whine and beg? Jesus prayed directly and deliberately. He did not bow down and he did not stand above:
John 17:24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Jesus never used the word just. He said “Father, I want.” He didn’t say “Father, I just want.” Pray as Jesus prayed, not as your unworthy human soul tells you to.
If you really have faith in God, stop whining to Him, stop pleading, stop subordinating yourself, stop belittling God. Stand up with full confidence and say “Lord, listen to me today.” Say it like you mean it. Say it like you have faith.
p.s.: Friday Funny: God Tells Prayer-Warriors to Stop Saying “Just”