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Phrase Dictionary

 gold stickman gesturing an explanationPrayer
n. (1) a devout petition to or any form of spiritual communication with God. Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary

Tired of prayer cliches? Confused by a stuffy "spiritual' vocabulary? I make an effort to keep my communication with God fresh and honest. I avoid cliches when ever possible. If cliches annoy you, of course don't use them. But if they puzzle you, here is our best shot at explaining what people are trying to say and the Biblical origin of these phrases.

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What different kind of prayers are there? There are prayers of thanksgiving, confession, petition, intercession (asking for things for other people), imprecatory (cursing an enemy), adoration, restitution, unity, faith, submission, forgiveness, and praise.

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"I know that you hear me always..." John 11:42

A good prayer is in part the result of caring passionately about what you are communicating.

A Fresh Look at Prayer Cliches

Be With [person's name]

This is asking for the person named to feel God's presence. It can also imply that we are asking for the Holy Spirit to calm their fears and increase their faith. It is not a contradiction to the verse "Lo, I am with you always". We know that if we are saved, Christ is in us. But sometimes, when fear rises up, we don't feel His presence or see Him working. If you have ever prayed for or visited someone who is dying, it can be awkward to pray for the right things. Asking for God's presence to be a comfort to them is always appropriate. Even an unsaved person can sense the presence of God.

Put a Hedge of Protection around [person's name/country]

This is asking for the person named to be protected from evil. The reference is from Job 1:10, where God is telling Satan of Job's righteousness. A hedge of protection is also mentioned in Isaiah 5:5 where God compares Israel to a vineyard he lovingly cared for and surrounded with a hedge to keep the cattle and sheep from trampling it. God says in verse 5 that he will punish Israel for her unfaithfulness by removing the hedge that was protecting it so it will be completely ruined by livestock, weeds, thorns, and a drought. So the idea is that God puts hedges around things or people He wants to protect.

Keep Us in the Word

This means we are asking for motivation to spend time reading the Bible. The Word usually refers to the written Word of God, the Bible. But it can also mean Christ's message, and Christ Himself. See John 1:1-5 (a very heavy passage which is almost like a recursive algorithm that calls itself as a subroutine). See also John 17:17 Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.

Lead, Guide, and Direct [person's name/country/leaders]

I'm sure you heard of this one. This is asking for the named party to be brought into a knowledge of God's will as to what course to take next, followed by more guidance as to what to do when they go in that direction. One could just as well ask for God to be our shepherd. John 10:14 says "I am the good shepherd, I know my own sheep and they know me." (NEB) As our good shepherd, he can guide us efficiently because he knows us. Need help with anything? Ask God to guide you and give you wisdom.

Show us your will

What does God want us to do? How do we decide what God's will is in a 21st century culture? What results does God wants out of a particular situation? Where should we work? What should we do today? Where should we live and how much should it cost? The list goes on and on. Should we ask God to bless our plans or should we ask Him what His plans are and do that? Just how much planning is up to us?

Hint: We should also pray that we stop deceiving ourselves about what God says is right or wrong. For example, no amount of loose interpretation is going to change sexual sin into something that God accepts. You just have to go with His rules. You just can't get away with the cultural bias excuse either. God is not a postmodernist - you can't invent a culture where you are exempt from His laws. But people try to do this all the time anyway. God expects you to mature into someone who is willing to be responsible. God's will is not determined by how good we feel about something we are doing. We are to trust God and do what he says with out complaining. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), so He won't make an exception to His law just for us.

Time of Fellowship

Usually one hears prayers asking God to bless a time of fellowship. Fellowship is hard to pin down for many people. But really it is spending time sharing how we experience God in our lives. This can be done through singing hymns, listening to a sermon, praying, having a Bible study, etc. To discuss how we: 1. experience Christ, 2. seek His will, and 3. how we actually live it out, is the essence of time spent in fellowship. How we follow Christ is called our Christian walk. The strong need to encourage the weak. We should share what God is doing in our lives and what God is teaching us. If you are growing and maturing in Christ, you should be learning things about what the Christian walk is supposed to be. Therefore you should have something to share about what God was teaching you list last week, be it a question, a realization, or even a puzzling dryness of spirit. Whatever you are going through, you are not alone. If you feel alone, read some Psalms. There is a Psalm for every mood.

The common ground of what we share in the Holy Spirit needs to be found. See Philippians 2:1-5 for a discussion of the common ground shared by every believer of every age and century.  I John 1:3 says "That which we have seen and heard we declare to you so that you may also fellowship with us" (share a common life).

Traveling Mercies

I don't know the origin of this phrase. What it means is that one is asking for a trip with out incidents, accidents, or any other kind of dents. Anybody have a clue about where this came from?

The opinions expressed here are those of the author. This information is not intended to take the place of the advice of a pastor. Copyright © 2005 - 2009 Privacy Policy Terms Of Use