I have a confession to make. I tend to get my pronouns wrong. Lately I’ve been leading a Bible Study on Saturdays focused on Bible Study methods. I’m using a very simple method in which I get everyone to focus on observing the details first.
We observe as many details as we can. Only after we have made all of our observations, do we move on to interpretation. I have stressed in our Bible Study that there is only one true interpretation of a passage. I know that sounds bold, but bear with me. The true interpretation of any passage of Scripture is what the Author meant by it. How do we know what the Author meant? Well, by paying careful attention to the words He used – in other words, by observing the details.
Finally we make application. This is where we decide how we should respond to this passage of Scripture. There can be countless applications of a passage of Scripture.
This morning, I was meditating on the Lord’s model prayer, and two major observations stuck out to me that I would like to make mention of here.
First of all, when I asked myself what was Jesus’ main point, I looked at the verses before the prayer. In Matthew 6:8a, Jesus said, “Be not ye therefore like unto them…” Ok, so Jesus wants us to pray like this because He does not want us to be like “them.”
Who are the “them”? In verse 7a, Jesus says, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do…” Ah-hah! Jesus does not want us to pray like the heathen. In what way? How do the heathen pray? They use “vain repetitions” when they pray.
The word “vain” means worthless. What is a worthless repetition? It is a repetition of words that do not add anything.
So basically, the main point Jesus was making was that we should keep our prayers short and to the point. That fits well into the context; because if you continue to look at previous verses, Jesus is telling His disciples not to pray openly before men to impress people, but rather to pray in secret, in a private place.
So now looking at the actual prayer, there are many things to notice – but one that stood out to me this morning was the pronouns. All the way through this model prayer, Jesus uses plural pronouns. Is that just because He is talking to a crowd of people? That is what I have always assumed.
However, this morning, I considered that perhaps it fits better with the greater context of the chapter, praying with humility in secret and with few words, to conclude that the plural pronouns have a different meaning. Perhaps they too are part of the model prayer. What a novel idea. Seriously!
When I prayed this in the past, other than when I was just quoting it, I would change the pronouns to “I”, “my,” and “me.” Beyond that, the vast majority of my other prayers are filled to overflowing with first person singular pronouns. I am always praying for what I want for, for me and my situation, or for the people I love and care for.
I’m thinking, I need to get my pronouns right. Jesus said to pray “our,” “we,” and “us.” He didn’t use “I” even once in that model prayer. The person praying was only included as a part of “we,” and “our,” and “us.”
So my first application is to repent of being so selfish in my prayers. I need to pray for the concerns of the Body of Christ. I need to pray for my enemies. I need to get my pronouns right.
What about you? When you pray, have you gone on and on with many “vain repetitions”? Have many or most of those repetitions been saturated with the word “I”? Have you been praying primarily for yourself and your wants? Perhaps, like me, you need to repent of your selfishness and pray for “us” instead.
Next time you pray, and maybe you should do that right now, pay close attention to the pronouns you are using. Don’t just pray for yourself. Pray for yourself as a part of “us,” by praying for us; like Jesus did. Get your pronouns right!