Making manners matter when you petition the Lord
Posted in , Jul 28, 2021
Saying “please” and “thank you” is among the earliest habits we teach our children. It’s Courtesy 101. Basic manners.
For many of us, however, those manners seldom seem to creep into our prayer lives. When we’re desperate, of course, we may plead (perhaps even repeatedly), “Please, God, please.” And we do say “thank you” every so often—and not just on Sundays or national holidays.
But “please-and-thank-you prayers” ought to be a staple of our prayer lives, even when others give expression to our deepest and most fervent thoughts.
For example, I have long prayed nightly Compline prayers from the Daily Office (I posted about it here). One of those prayers, drawn from Psalm 31:5 and Psalm 17:8, is, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit; For you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth. Keep me as the apple of your eye, and hide me under the shadow of your wings.”
But I long ago turned it into a “please-and-thank-you prayer,” changing it just slightly and praying it so many times that it’s engraved in my heart and mind as, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit; For you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth. Please keep me as the apple of your eye and thank you for hiding me under the shadow of your wings.”
That common courtesy even infiltrates my frequent repetition of the Lord’s Prayer (when I’m not praying it in unison with others, that is). I’ll typically say, “Please give us this day our daily bread,” and “please forgive us our trespasses,” etc.
I’ve come to apply “please-and-thank-you” to more than set prayers. In my personal prayers of petition, I often employ that pattern, saying things such as, “Lord, please restore Amos to health and wholeness, and thank you for the miracles you’ve already performed for him.”
“Please-and-thank-you” even works in reverse, so to speak, as I occasionally pray something like, “Thank you for this good morning of worship; please let it expand and continue through this day and beyond.”
“Please-and-thank-you prayers” have become such a habit and a blessing to me that I notice their relative absence in corporate settings and worship liturgies. I know that it can often be attributed to changing social mores and shifting language patterns, but I nonetheless frequently add my own silent or whispered “please-and-thank-you” when praying with others. “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, please make haste to help me,” or “please grant that we may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your name, amen.”
I’ve been saying “please” and “thank you” to God for so long and so often that it’s a habit now; I like to think it’s a habit that not only enriches me but also blesses Him.