I cannot tell you with any accuracy where I picked up some of the strange things that were inserted into my Christian vocabulary as I grew up in the church. These words, thankfully, were not implanted into my belief system because, truth be told and to my shame, I didn’t really think about them and therefore they didn’t take root. They just became inattentive ChristianSpeak. I didn’t pause to consider whether some of the things I prayed and said were actually biblically true. However, as I have (hopefully) matured a bit over the years, I look back on some of these statements, sayings, and proclamations and wonder, “Where on earth (or anywhere else) did they come from?”

Let’s start with one that came late enough in my life that I was able to question it from the start. Numerous times when I have prayed with Christians the last few years, I hear this: “Lord, be with so-and-so as he or she does this and that.” I’m not sure what this request to the Lord means. I don’t know what the pray-er is asking of the Lord, because all Christians know and agree that Jesus is Emmanuel, God With Us. He told us He would never leave us (Hebrews 13:5), which echoes what He announced to His people Israel: “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). In addition, we are instructed that the Holy Spirit actually indwells believers: “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14). If the Lord is with us, will never leave us and even lives in us, why are we praying that He will “be with” a believer? He is already present and in-dwelling. I am dozy and ignorant if I lend credence to a non-biblical prayer by adding my I-agree amen.

The second puzzling prayer request is one that has been around for quite a few years: “I plead the blood of Jesus over so-and-so.” Again, I don’t know what this actually means. We know that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin, redeems, ransoms, and purifies us. So, then, to what purpose is this “pleading the blood of Christ” over a fellow believer? So they will be forgiven? Redeemed? Ransomed? Purified? This cannot be, because all of that is accomplished in the Lord’s work of salvation. So, I just don’t understand why we are praying for Jesus’ blood to be at work this way, and I don’t know why we are “pleading” it. So, Christian brother or sister, if we are praying together, you won’t hear my affirming “amen” when and if you plead the blood of Jesus over someone. I really don’t know what you are asking the Lord to do.

I also refrain from singing certain lyrics when I am worshiping with the church, for the same reason. For instance, when a song says that we are dancing before the Lord, I’m not dancing, and no one is dancing, I feel I am being insincere before the Lord and the church by singing that I’m dancing when my feet are embedded in concrete, which, in my Western worship experience, they usually are. It’s just the way it is, and the way I am. Even in Papua New Guinea, where they joyfully danced in worship, the best Laurie and I could come up with was a “holy sway.” Boy, did we feel white, foreign, and Western. Or worshipfully poverty-stricken. Or something. Thankfully, the gracious nationals did not care.

Thus, if a song says, “We lift up our hands,” I lift my hands. If I don’t lift up my hands, I remain silent, because then my worship would become untruthful and dishonest before God and the church. People in gatherings should know that our worship and theirs is marked by godly integrity. Otherwise, we may as well be singing “la, la, la” from Hey Jude.

There have been many examples in my experience as a Christian where praise/worship songs contained lyrics that I didn’t understand but sang anyway. For instance, what does it mean to “Shout to the north” or “Sing to the east and the west”? I’m not sure, but I confess that I sang these words anyway, completely careless about what I was proclaiming. I looked recently in my concordance for passages in Scripture where God’s people were exhorted to shout, and the only One whom we are told to shout to is the Lord. There are none that instruct us to shout to a direction on the compass.

It is not wise to pray or sing lyrics that we do not understand or give thought to. It is a lazy, religious, churchy way of prayer and worship, one that lacks sincerity and truthfulness.

All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thanks to Joe Watson for the photo.