Thursday, May 10, 2012

Writing and Prayer: What Doesn't Impress Your English Teachers or God

I started a new job a few weeks ago: I'm a writing center coordinator at a local college.  Part of my job requires tutoring students (which I love).  This last week I had a session that made me think of the way we pray.

Now I know you may be thinking, "Writing? Praying?  I just don't see the connection, Holly."  Well, wait just a minute and I think you'll get where I'm headed here.

When I sat down to tutor this week with the student who had come in to see me, I thought it was going to be a fairly normal session. And in many ways it was.  However, when I asked the student to point out his thesis statement, I was a bit confused with what he pointed out.  It wasn't that I doubted that this was what the student thought his thesis statement was; it was more along the lines of I couldn't understand what he was trying to say.  Usually when that's the case I tend to think it might have to do with some grammar errors or an idea that I'm not familiar with, but this time was different.

This time there were so many "big" words in the sentence that the sentence had lost meaning.

When I asked the student what his main point was, he was able to articulate it.  But when I told him to use what he had just said as his thesis statement, he claimed that it didn't sound academic enough.

Oftentimes, we feel the same way with prayer.

We think our prayers have to have all these big words that no one understands anymore.  Thees and thous have to be included and the more it sounds like it came right out of the King James Version of the Bible the better it reaches God's ears.

Well.  That's just not true.

There's a story that Jesus tells in the Bible about two men praying.  One very "religious" man stood in front of everyone and prayed a fairly pretentious prayer: "I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!  I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income." (Luke 18:11b-12)

The other man, a despised tax collector, was a different story.  His prayer went something like this: "O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner." (Luke 18:13b)  He wouldn't even lift his head to look toward the heavens and beat his chest.  He didn't come close, but instead stood at a difference.

And Jesus says that this second prayer of the second man caused him to live justified before God.

A humble heart.  Simple words.  Repentance.  Conversation.  Honesty.  

These are what prayer is about.

What this student I was tutoring reminded me is that English teachers aren't impressed by your big, fancy, pretentious words.

And, frankly, they don't impress God either.

He already sees your heart.  He knows what you're thinking.  Stop trying to impress him and just communicate with him.  That's what makes his heart happy.

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