Praying in the Victorian Language

To expand on what I wrote in the previous post about the special language used in the meetings; “Thee’s & Thou’s, Thou mayest & Thy Will”.  I recalled hearing about an overseer talking to his staff right before convention and telling them he didn’t want to hear any “You and Your” language from their prayers in the convention.  Oh my!

It’s laughable now from my perspective.  Almost like being in a time warp!  By osmosis we were taught the special prayer language.  Why did we do that? Tradition? Was it more respectful or reverent? God looks at the heart and hears heartfelt prayers; not poetically correct prayers. So many (if not all) of the traditions of the fellowship over the years became doctrine.  Most of them were about what the people could or should do or in this case, say.  So little about what God could or would do;  or has already done.

Speaking in the old language certainly does nothing to draw others to the group; just the opposite.  It only makes the group more odd than real.  In fact, listening to other Christians pray was one of the most moving experiences I had in those early days.  They talked to God.  It was real, it was honest, it was heartfelt.  I wanted that.

When I started praying in my real life language, it immediately made a significant difference in my prayer life.  God was suddenly so approachable and so near.  I wanted to talk to Him.  I have a feeling that He was happy about that!

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5 thoughts on “Praying in the Victorian Language

  1. Long before I had any thoughts about this fellowship not being the “only way”, I brought a friend home from college to hunt for the weekend. After sunday morning meeting his immediate comment to me was, “that was the weirdest thing I have ever heard in my life.” I was taken by surprise by his comment because I had expected him to enjoy our nice little gathering. He went on to explain that he was just so shocked when this bunch of midwest farmers started just randomly praying in thou, thee and thine. I’ll never forget his quote, “farmers don’t talk like that.” I made a concerted effort from then on to use our modern language because I wanted to be able to reach people who were visiting. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be and eventually I gave up trying and went back to the pattern etched into my brain from years of listening and praying in meeting. Fast forward about fifteen years to when I had children and started praying with them. That is when it became real to me. If I where to pray like we were taught to pray, the would have looked at me and thought or said, “what are you talking about dad.” It just became very real to me then and there that God wants me to be as a little child. I appreciated what you said about hearing other Christians pray, because I felt the same thing. Their prayers are so real, open, honest, and seeking. It has changed the way I pray. I feel like I am seeking and drawing closer to God in my childlike prayers, and I believe that that is what he desires of us.
    Oddly enough twice within the last year or two, I have gotten into a friendly discussion with two separate groups of people about whether or not it is disrespectful to use the work you instead of Thou when speaking to God. One woman even said she cringes when she hears someone say “you” when talking to God. It is so strange and subtle how the ways of man can become as doctrine.
    I realize that I am a little behind on your blog, but after reading them randomly based on the title of the post, I have decided to start reading from the beginning. Your thoughts so often hit right to something that has been speaking to my heart. I am just seeking to work out the mind struggle that comes when fighting against the indoctrination that we all knew so well. I am also seeking for the right way to handle this transition. I love and care about all that I meet with, so I desire to leave as amicably as I can, so that my influence would be to draw them closer to God and not harden them against the possibility of getting outside the box in seeking God. If you have the time, I would appreciate some private email conversation with you.

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  2. Hi, It’s actually praying in Elizabethan English. Not a separate language, and not Victorian. Although I’m sure people know what you mean, the custom, as it exists, is to pray in the English of Shakespeare and the KJV Bible.

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