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"WHEN YE PRAY, USE NOT VAIN REPETITIONS!"--Mat.6:7.1/94--By Maria       Maria #216       DO 2914

       (Mama's talk to some of the leadership & staff members, 11/92:)
       1. WHAT I'm about to bring to your attention is a small point that may not seem very important to us, but can be quite a turn-off for outsiders. Many of you do it & it seems to be a bad habit, which, however, can be broken with some effort & prayer.
       2. Many of you have gotten into the habit in your prayers of repeating the name "Jesus" or "Lord" as a filler, to fill up the space between phrases & sentences when you're pausing to think about what you're going to say next. Instead of just pausing & not saying anything, you repeat "Jesus" or "Lord," & it can almost become a "vain repetition."--Mat.6:7.
       3. For outsiders it can seem overdone & strange, & it's something that we should try to eliminate. If we're "persecuted for righteousness' sake"--for witnessing & standing up for our convictions--that's one thing. But if we're looked upon as strange & fanatical for things that are our own fault & of our own making, that's not good.
       4. We should try to get out of that bad habit & try to limit ourselves & really think about why we use "Jesus" & "Lord" so many times when we're praying. Do we actually need to address Him by name that often?--Or are we just doing it to fill up space? Regardless of how we say them & what words we use, most of our prayers are heartfelt & sincere, & when we pray with outsiders, often they feel God's Spirit & are touched. However, it is very possible that some may be more turned off than turned on, focusing more on the "strange way" you address the Lord, which, God forbid, might give some the impression of a mindless robotic chant.
       5. For the sake of showing you how it would sound, let me give you an example. If I were talking to Peter & were to use his name in the conversation as often as some of you use the Lord's name when talking to Him, it would sound a little like this: "Peter, I'm going to tell you what I want you to do, Peter. And I know you'll do it well, Peter, because I know you love the Lord & you try to do your best, Peter. So please don't worry that you'll make mistakes, Peter. All of us make mistakes, Peter. But you really don't need to worry about it, Peter, because the Lord will help you, Peter," etc.! We don't talk to others like this, & we should try to break the bad habit of talking to the Lord in this manner.
       6. Now I suppose that all of a sudden you'll all start feeling self-conscious when you pray & think that everybody is going to be counting the times you use the Name "Jesus" or "Lord," & you may be right!--But this is something you'll have to endure for a while in order to overcome this habit. The self-consciousness will probably go away soon, as you get the hang of praying without so much repetition. A normal amount is fine, & we don't want you to go to the opposite extreme & not use His Name at all in speaking to Him. Some of you do just fine & don't need any change. However, I think you can tell when it starts getting to be so much that it distracts from the prayer.
       7. We need to be a bit more aware of what we say in our public prayers & try to use the Lord's name meaningfully, & not just to fill in a pause. Many of us are guilty of this or have been in the past, & those not guilty of this are guilty of other things, so don't anybody point the finger at anybody else. Let's just try to make sure that we're not using the Lord's name in vain, & let's try to teach our children the same.
* * *

(Message to Peter & Gary at Summit '93:)
       8. Peter & Gary, your opening meeting was beautiful! I listened to the whole thing! Your talks were well expressed! I could sense that they were inspired. Your prayers were beautiful too, & I noticed that you did not overuse the words "Jesus" & "Lord." Good for you!
       9. By contrast, the magazine interview that one of our Members recently gave included a prayer that was full of the names "Jesus" & "Lord," which may have been one thing that this reporter was turned off by. It's amazing how things that seem small to us may have a significant negative effect on others.--Little habits, little gestures, little words, little idiosyncracies. This dear Family Member repeated "Jesus" & "Lord" so many times that it sounded almost robotic!--Even to me. It made me cringe. It sounds almost meaningless, a little like a hypnotic chant. To outsiders it must sound very strange.
       10. This is an area where outsiders can have a legitimate criticism of us, & I believe the Family should work hard on breaking that habit of filling every little space at the end of a phrase with the word "Lord" or "Jesus" just because there's a pause there & they don't have anything else to say while they're thinking of the next phrase. Therefore, I was very happy to hear your prayers, & happy not to be too distracted by constant unnecessary repetition.
* * *

       11. (1/94:) Dear Family, if you were to hear conversations where somebody repeats the person's name to whom they're talking over & over & over, it would sound quite strange. And while you like to have people say your name in conversation, if it's as constant as some of us say "Jesus" & "Lord" in our prayers, it would get to be too much & turn you off!
       12. I've been reluctant to bring this to your attention because I know that this is such a habit with many of us, & I know it's going to be hard to break. Also, I know that if we caution you about it, you're all going to be self-conscious about your prayers, & those of you who can break the habit more easily & quickly may become critical of those who can't. However, since we are having much greater contact with those outside our communities, it has become much more important now for us to set a good example in all that we do, & not be lazy or negligent when dealing with the precious hearts & minds of those the Lord brings to us. We want to do everything we can to "make it easy for them to be good" by showing them that dedicated Christians are not weird, are not sloppy in their speech habits, & are good samples in their communication with the Lord & with others.
       13. Moreover, we want to help them to feel comfortable with us & not like they have landed in a strange Eastern religion with unusual prayer rituals that cause them to focus more on the "vain repetitions" than our sincere communication with our loving Heavenly Father. There are certainly many things about the Family that they may already consider strange & "foreign"--things that are very different from what they are used to. Where this is unavoidable & a necessary part of our lifestyle & beliefs, such as continual open prayer & praise in all that we do, the Lord can help them overcome these differences. However, we should make an effort to eliminate any strange or different habits or customs that are not necessary & only make it difficult for folks to relate to us & feel comfortable around us.

Improving Our Speech Habits!
       14. Another one that comes to mind is answering everything with "Amen!" Most folks outside our Homes have only heard "Amen" used as an ending to a prayer, not a substitute for the word "yes." So I suggest that we try to eliminate this usage of "Amen!" from our speech also. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way we use "Amen!" amongst ourselves. However, if this causes folks to stumble, would it not be much better to try to eliminate this habit?
       15. In religious meetings or church services, it is perfectly acceptable to "Amen!" the speaker or preacher or a person who is publicly praying. This is commonly accepted terminology for religious affirmations. However, in normal everyday speech about non-religious things, when you agree with statements or questions being asked, you should respond with a "Yes" instead of an "Amen!" For example, if Auntie Mary asks you if you got your Get-Out today, you should answer her with a "Yes, ma'am," not an "Amen!"
       16. You might want to discuss other word usages or wordings that are not necessary & would be best to purge from our conversation. In no way should we water down our convictions or compromise things that are commandments of the Lord or cornerstones of our faith. But it's amazing, when we examine ourselves closely, what "extra baggage" of bad speech habits or Family slang we can come up with that is just an added weight & not a good sample to others.
       17. For example, there are certain favourite words or phrases which we use repeatedly in our daily conversation which are non-essential & which clutter up our speech & distract from the point we are trying to make. Most of them could be omitted entirely without replacement, & some could be replaced with a more interesting & more precise word. Check yourself to see if you overuse any of the following: Really (that one's a favourite!), super, just, like, well, so, I think, I mean, uhh, actually, okay, you know.
       18. There is nothing wrong with using these words once in a while. However, it's when you start overusing them that you give the impression that your vocabulary is inadequate, or what you have to say is not important & needs to be propped up with all kinds of superfluous wordings. Start watching out for the word "really." When you write a letter, go back & see how many of those you could eliminate without changing the meaning one iota.
       19. We use "really" as a verbal exclamation mark, when the words we are modifying are powerful enough in their own right. Something "huge" doesn't need to be described as "really huge."--It can't get any "huger"! "Huge," by definition, means "really big." Something magnificent is just as great as you can imagine. And "really" can't make it more "magnificent." "Wonderful" can't get any better; it doesn't need "really" to enhance its meaning. "Tremendous" already means "really great," therefore you do not need to say "really tremendous."
       20. I'll confess, I'm guilty of many of these superfluities too, & I know you could go through my Letters & find plenty of examples! But please don't do it because I don't want to reinforce the negative. I'm trying to clean up my speech, too, along with you!
       21. There are times when we use words that we would like modified to show the degree either of size or intensity or weight or feeling. Sometimes it's not enough to say, "It's cold," you want to show how cold, & then it would be perfectly legitimate to say, "It's really cold," or, "It's very cold," or, "It's extremely cold." Or, when it's not enough to say, "I feel sick," then you need to say, "I feel really sick," or, "I feel very sick." Or, "I feel quite sick." You may want to say more than, "You're pretty." So you say, "You're really pretty." But even here, how about putting a little variety in your speech by saying, "You're very pretty!" If you are going to say, "It's really a tough situation to be in," instead say, "It's certainly a tough situation to be in." Or, "It is definitely a tough situation to be in." Or, "It's surely a tough situation to be in," or, "It's an extremely tough situation to be in."

How to Start!
       22. So here's a new assignment: See how many words you can eliminate from your conversations that are unneeded, & how many words you use frequently that you could replace with other words. Why not get a thesaurus & learn some substitutes--some synonyms? Have a challenging time working on your language skills, cleaning up the clutter & making what you say more precise & interesting. You don't have to be complicated, you don't have to use big words. Your speech can be simple, yet clear & interesting. Look at how simply Jesus spoke, yet with what power He moved the World! No excess material there, just enough.--Simple but beautiful. Why not try it? Communication is our job, let's do it well.
       23. Folks you hear on TV may not speak any better than you do, but they don't have the important job that you do. Other Christians' prayers may leave much to be desired also, but most of them are not trying to reach the World like you are. Regardless of what other Christians do, our prayers need to be good examples of clear, confident communication that highlights our link to Heaven rather than emphasising strange speech habits. We pray a lot with outsiders who are not churchy & not Christians. It bothers me & it grates on me when I hear so much repetition, so I'm sure it certainly must bother people who aren't used to prayer at all. Prayer itself is foreign to the unsaved, & if they hear prayer with so much repetition, it may turn them off more than it may help them. They may end up focusing on that & being critical of that & feeling it's strange, & may not get the benefit that they need to get from the prayer.
       24. I'm sorry that I didn't say something about this earlier. I've been a little discouraged about trying to change things that have been habits for so many years. We've tried with a few things, like attempting to teach some of our people the proper usage of "lay & lie" & "bring & take," but it hasn't always been successful. (More on correct usage coming in a Hope mag, God willing.)
       25. So trying to eliminate some "Lord's" & "Jesus's" from our prayers may be very difficult, because it's become such a habit, & in order to break that habit we will have to initially think about every sentence we say in our prayers.--And that's too bad, because it may take away from the Spirit or spontaneity a bit, at first. You can't just abandon yourself to the Lord & think about Him & pour out your heart to Him if you're having to think about consciously overcoming your bad habit!
       26. It doesn't matter a bit to the Lord or to us what you say or how you say it, if you love Jesus & are sincerely trying to communicate with Him. But your prayers aren't just for the Lord & the Family, the Lord wants them to be a help to outsiders also. In order to do that effectively, you are going to have to ask the Lord to help you to overcome this. I hate to put people on the spot, but sometimes positive peer pressure is the only thing that will help in breaking bad habits & establishing good ones.
       27. You may have to seek the help of others, too. Sometimes people can have a very bad habit of excessive use of "Lord" & "Jesus" in their prayers, not even realising it. For example, I recently heard of a situation where one Home was trying to hint to a newcomer about the many times he used "Lord" & "Jesus" in his prayers. They made general announcements to the Home, saying, "Okay, everyone, let's watch the number of Jesus's or Lord's in our prayers. Let's not be so repetitious." However, this brother continued on unchanged with his repetition. Finally, after he used "Lord" over 70 times during a united prayer session, someone went to him & told him directly that he had a very bad habit of repeating "Lord" in his prayers. He was shocked!--He hadn't even realised it! He'd had no idea that the announcements about not using "Lord" too much when praying were directed to him.
       28. So beware!--You too may be guilty of such repetition, without even realising it. And in order to break such a habit, you may need to have someone lovingly point this out to you. Even after you're aware of this weakness & you begin working to overcome it, you may need occasional reminders to stay on the attack. (You'll be happy to know that since this problem was pointed out to the brother mentioned above, he has made tremendous progress! His prayers now sound more meaningful & it's much easier to pray along with him, without distraction.)
       29. May the Lord help each one of us to make an effort to be a good sample to those to whom we witness & to each other. And may He help us to make our communication with Him attractive & appealing so that others will want to have the same close, intimate communication with a loving Father through His Son, Jesus.

Copyright © 1998 by The Family


Copyright (c) 1998 by The Family