I’m relatively new to the “world of prayer”. It’s only in the last year that I’ve made a point of trying to spend time in prayer every day. I’ve read a few books on prayer but when I pray and when I listen to others praying I’ve noticed something that none of the books seem to mention. There’s this little word that weasels its way into our conversations with God. A recent blog post called “What Words Need to be in the Christian Dictionary” from Jon Acuff’s, “Stuff Christians Like” blog caught my eye and set my brain whirring with curiosity. Towards the end of the blog he mentions the word, “just”. It’s a word that I’ve noticed over and over and over again in prayer – mine and other people’s, and now here’s someone else singling it out, so perhaps I’m not the only word nerd out there wondering what’s up with the use of this word in prayer.
What does it mean? Well, for the grammar geeks out there (of which I’m one) it can be an adjective or adverb and actually has thirteen different definitions listed in the dictionary. But what does it mean when we use it in prayer? Does it add anything to the meaning of our prayers? When I think back over times I’ve heard it used and times it’s slipped unheeded out of my own mouth, typically it’s in the adverb form meaning “only” or “merely”. So what are we really saying when we say “Heavenly Father I just ask you to ...” or “I pray that you would just...”. Try substituting the words “only” or “merely” for “just” and see what meaning you end up with.
In his book “Too Busy Not To Pray” Bill Hybels makes a thought provoking comment. He asks if we really think about what we say to God. He goes on to point out a great example – asking God to bless the food we’re about to eat. How frequently do we ask God to use a plate of food swimming in artery clogging grease to strengthen and nourish our bodies. What are we asking? Does it make any sense? Do we think carefully about what we say when we talk to God? Bill Hybel’s point is well taken...is God going to take a plate full of eggs, bacon and hash browns that have been sauteed in bacon grease (my favourite Saturday morning breakfast) and prevent it from damaging our arteries?
Do we really think about what we are saying when we absent-mindedly toss in the “just” word? Are we actually limiting God by using this word? Perhaps I’m making too much out of this but I’ve been noticing the word more and more in my prayer time and in churches. Like the cat that playfully tortures the mouse my brain is fixated on this word. What do you think? Does the word “just” have any significance in the life of our prayers or has it simply become the “um” of prayer time; filler while we think about what to say next? Please feel free to post your thoughts and comments below.