My Struggle with Formal Prayer

RayGod, Mormon, prayer, righteousness 31 Comments

NOTE: This post is a combination (with minor edits) of two posts that I wrote on my own blog this month, as I contemplated Matthew 6:5-13.  If anyone is interested in the foundation post on those verses, it is titled, “Resolved to Pray: KISS“.

I always have struggled to pray formally and daily on a personal level. For as long as I can remember, I have had a hard time kneeling alone and praying vocally. For most of my life I didn’t understand why, and, although I tried to recommit numerous times, I never could “conquer” that particular habit. My struggle continued through various church callings, including stints in a Stake Mission Presidency, as a Ward Mission Leader, in a Bishopric and to this day as a High Councilor. I still have a hard time, but now, at least, I understand why a little better.

I have struggled with “formal prayer” all my life, largely because I have not struggled with “informal prayer” at any point in my life. All my life, I have prayed regularly; it simply has not been on my knees and vocally, on a set schedule. I naturally commune with God; I just do it silently, in my own head. I understand the following passage from Amulek in Alma 34:18-27, since it resonates with my own experience:

18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.

19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.

I truly do naturally have a prayer in my heart always, and I truly do pray by actually forming words in my mind often throughout each day. I struggle, however, to vocalize those prayers and to offer them in a formal manner. I have reached a degree of peace with that conflict, since I believe it is more important THAT I pray than HOW I pray, but I still am not comfortable completely with my inability to remember and schedule formal prayers. I see it as a weakness that I still have to overcome, even as I see my tendency to pray “continually” as a great strength.

Recently, as I was contemplating this irony, it struck me that it has been easy to excuse my difficulty with formal prayer by thinking what I do (pray continually) is obeying a higher law – that if I have to choose one or the other, it is better to pray as I do than as I don’t. I actually believe that, but I have come to realize that I still don’t pray “completely, wholly and in a fully developed manner”. In other words, I don’t pray perfectly yet. That is the goal for which I am striving – not necessarily to pray “perfectly” right away, but rather to be able to learn to pray more completely by finally praying more consistently in a formal manner – at the very least in a manner than can be considered “regularly”.

I have no driving desire right now to do more than that, and, honestly, I’m not sure I ever will – since I truly am satisfied overall with the way and regularity with which I pray. All I know is that I need to learn to pray formally (and, perhaps, vocally) more easily than I currently do.

As I considered all of that this past week, I was left to ask:

Why then do I struggle so much with formal prayer? Other than what I articulated above (the fact that I really do carry a constant prayer in my mind and heart), is there some other personal characteristic that “gets in the way” of kneeling and vocalizing prayer?

First, some of the paradox behind the struggle:

I have no inhibitions whatsoever with public speaking or one-on-one conversation. I have performed in public since the days of my earliest memories. I sang a public solo for the first time when I was six years old (I think; it might have been eight, but I believe it was pre-baptism.) – “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” in Sacrament Meeting for a cousin’s missionary farewell. I gave my first public speech in First Grade, when I received an award for reading a ridiculous number of books during a contest. I sang in solo competitions and vocal groups from 4th – 12th Grade; I’ve played piano solos and accompanied others hundreds of times; I played the saxophone for eight years in school; I was the Drum Major of our High School Marching Band. I was a school teacher. More recently, I’ve been in Sales and Marketing for nearly twelve years. I don’t remember EVER being nervous or shy about speaking or performing in front of people. A shrinking violet I am not.

I also am not shy about expressing my thoughts and feelings – as anyone who knows me in the Bloggernacle can attest. When it comes to group participation, I am more likely to be highly visible and audible than quiet and invisible. Communication skills and inclination are not a problem for me.

It hit me just a couple of days ago that I simply am not a very “formal” person. I am totally comfortable interacting in formal situations, but, for me, doing so is an artificial way to concede to the need to “play the formal game”. In a past job, I walked the corridors of the Ohio Statehouse and talked about million dollar funding projects with executive directors of major philanthropies, but my actions in those discussions were “artificially” formal for me. I would have been much more “at home” and “natural” in jeans and a t-shirt, sitting outside on the grass and just having a heart-to-heart chat. I’ve conducted formal interviews for years, but I’d rather sit and rap with someone than grill them in a formal manner.

Also, I am a natural tease, and I tend to take lots of things less seriously than many others. For example, I’m not sure the member of the Stake Presidency who heard my talk last Sunday expected the quote from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (on charity: “Be excellent to each other.”) or the description of listening to someone learn to play the bagpipes as similar to hearing someone kill a cat – in context of being charitable as people learn to play their souls (although I did mention in the talk that I probably shouldn’t say “kill a cat” in Sacrament Meeting). I’m a country boy at heart, and the sociality that exists in a small town tends to be a bit less formal than at a country club or in a middle-upper class suburb.

I’ve known all of that about myself for a long time, but it never really registered in the context of formal prayer. Simply opening up my mind and heart and talking with God works for me. It’s who I am. I’ve had some incredible spiritual experiences in my life, but I’m having a hard time thinking of one that occurred during a formal, vocal, personal prayer. (Priesthood blessings are a different story, but I’m distinguishing them as “ritual prayer” from “personal prayer”.)

What struck me is that the most powerful experiences I have had in my life that are associated with prayer have come when I was being most “true” to myself – when I wasn’t engaged in an activity that was “foreign” or “unnatural” to me, but rather when I was doing what I do best. Those experiences all have come either when I simply was chatting with God (talking with him informally in my head and/or heart) or when I was involved in a ritual of some kind – like a Priesthood blessing or an ordinance.

This insight has been a revelation to me, and I am contemplating the implications. At the very least, it has reinforced the need to be careful of requiring all God’s children to speak with him in the exact same way – of over-simplifying and communalizing something that might be better left complex and personal. Sometimes, unity of purpose and result might be better than total unity of form and function. At the very least, it’s given me more to ponder – and it’s made me even less inclined to judge others with regard to how they pray and how/if they feel they get their own answers.

Comments 31

  1. I completely understand. What about the language of prayer? My side of the family is several generations deep in the church, but my wife’s parents were converts and all of the family get-togethers we have incorporate a variety of approaches to prayer. Whereas I was raised to use very formal language (the usual ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s and then some) and taught the same thing for years as a missionary and EQ/Gospel Doctrine teacher, some of the most sincere, grateful, heartfelt prayers I have ever heard came from my in-laws.

    Maybe it’s me, but even in spite of this, when I pray I feel silly using the less formal language but I also feel more detached when I keep things “by the book”. I have an easier time feeling sincere and close to God when I pray silently, similar to what you describe. And my guess is that when I pray aloud it comes out more mechanical and separated than I feel or intend.

    And BTW, (almost) any talk/lesson that quotes Bill & Ted gets a thumbs-up from me 🙂

  2. For me, the ‘formal language’ of thee and thou changed when I learned French in high school. They are decendants of the tu and toi, which in French is the form of ‘you’ used only for family and close friends. In fact, especially with older people, you should always use vous (the formal ‘you’) until they ‘tu’ you first, as a sign of respect. So my point is that once I learned that, it became much easier to use thee & thou as if I were talking to my friend and Father. Granted I don’t use thee in conversation with my wife, but I can better use it in prayers. — Andrew D.

  3. For some reason if we couldn’t attend church as we’d like I’m sure things would be fine. Church is important, but we can get along without it when necessary. However, it is different with prayer. For a follower of Christ prayer is essential. It is our touch stone with Heavenly Father and all that is important to us flows from prayer.

    There are many kinds of prayer, even the Savior prayed more earnestly when He was nearing the atonement. Each of us can experience a variety of kinds of prayer. I hope all of us when a crisis comes will have had enough experience with prayer that we will be able to approach the Lord in mighty prayer instead of relying on other means to get us through. If we can’t sustain prayer in a crisis then that is an indication that our prayers up to that point have been insufficient.

    President Harold B. Lee said, “The fundamental and soul-satisfying step in our eternal quest is to come in a day when each does know, for himself, that God answers his prayers. This will come only after ‘our soul hungers,’ and after mighty prayer and supplication”. Conference Report, April 1969, p. 133.

    I don’t believe that mighty prayer and supplication can be achieved without being on our knees pleading with the Lord. This kind of prayer can be recognized by the fact we can’t stop praying. Prayer pours out of our heart and soul with power and we know that we are in two way communication with our Father. The results of this kind of prayer can be obtaining a remission of sins.

    It may be that this kind of prayer will only occur once, maybe twice in a life time, but it is life changing.

  4. I know that formally praying (though I use “you” instead of “thou”) is really helpful for me. Just as it does for Ray, it helps me actually think things through all the way and I think I get more out of the process. I have also found that rituals really do create more meaning for me than leaving things open-ended. Great post Ray!

  5. I tend to use the more formal wording, but I’ve been using it so long that it’s not foreign to me. It really doesn’t even feel all that formal, since it’s what I’ve heard all my life.

    Jared, I agree with your comment generally, and I know you didn’t specify praying vocally as necessary (only kneeling), but I find it fascinating that the word “vocally” is found in our entire canon only 5 times – all in the D&C. The actual command is to pray “vocally and in secret” and “vocally and in thy heart” and “vocally and in thy heart, in public and in private”. Every single case appears to be specifying at least the possibility that the command is to pray vocally when praying publicly (for or representing a group) and not necessarily vocally in private (“in thy heart”). I only felt impressed to search for that word as I read your comment, but the result it intriguing.

    The most interesting aspect is that in all five passages there is a clear distinction drawn between praying vocally and praying “in thy heart”. I’m going to have to read some more to figure out if it is presented this same way with different words elsewhere or if this is strictly a D&C phrasing.

  6. The results of some of my searching:

    The canon uses the phrase “aloud” 24 times, with 19 of those being in the Bible. Only one of those verses (Psalms 55:17) deals with prayer, and it says “will I pray, and cry aloud” – apparently distinguishing the two from each other.

    “Kneel” (or “kneeling”) is found in our canon only 7 times – and each time that kneeling is part of a communal activity, not a personal, private prayer.

    Understand, I am NOT saying that we shouldn’t kneel for formal, personal prayers. I’m just saying that perhaps it is more of a cultural expression of humility than an eternal law. Perhaps if the heart is right, exactly how the body is positioned is less relevant than we tend to assume. I still kneel whenever I pray “formally”, but it can be taken to an extreme – for example, by believing that a bed bound person or someone without legs or someone in a wheelchair somehow can’t have the same experience as someone who can kneel. Also, it could be argued that if kneeling shows humility, then it is even better to prostrate one’s self fully on the ground – since that position is even more humble than kneeling.

    The take away from all of this for me is that, while I still like kneeling, and while I certainly AM NOT advocating not kneeling for those in our culture who can do so, I’m even more open to the idea that others can pray without kneeling and have every bit as strong an experience as someone else can on their knees.

  7. Ray–Your point is valid.

    The purpose of prayer is to obtain the Lord’s ear and then learn to tune our ear so we can discern His will. The Book of Mormon gives us examples of individuals who have drawn very near to the Lord so we can be like them. We are each invited to be like Nephi, Alma, Enos, Helaman and others. We can be born again, receiving a remission of our sins, and be recipients of the gifts of the Spirit if we will follow the teachings in the Book of Mormon. I know by my own experience this is true. We can start from wherever we are and move along a well defined path until we return to the Lord’s presence (2nd comforter). In my opinion, prayer is the key, and answers to our prayers are our evidence we’re progressing on the path.

  8. I tend to talk to the Lord a lot during the day while I am going about my daily acitivites and I too, like Ray, struggle to be more formal when I pray. Some of the significant answers I have received in my life didn’t come while I was on my knees but they came when my heart was deeply sincere and when I was in deep need of help. One of these times was when I was lying next to my daughter (who “needed” me to lay there in order for her to go to sleep :)) and praying for understanding. A very clear answer came to me at that time. I also think of a time when I was praying while on the beach and an answer came to my mind and heart very clearly. I think prayer has a whole lot more to do with where our hearts and minds are than anything else. I know it is important to show the Lord our love and respect through our actions (i.e. kneeling, speaking respectfully, etc.) whenever possible. I also know that He answers prayers in many different ways and in many different places and it is much more important, IMO, where our heart is and not necessarily if we are on our knees or not.

  9. Ray,

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this post. I have feel exactly the same way and often my wife is very concerned because she doesn’t find me sprawled out somewhere pleading my heart and soul out. i tend more toward the “have a prayer in my heart” side of things and I often ponder a lot especially because I travel a lot with my job. anyway, formal requires always give me pause simply to make sure I do things for the right reasons. I rather be the Publican in this case.

  10. I have been praying for the same thing for 12 years,and I’m sure many of you here have similar experiences.I find it hard at this pint to specify an answer to those prayers,but continue to wait upon the Lord.I do not feel that i am less sanctified now than I will be when this prayer is answered.I love the fact that Ray is inviting us not to judge the prayers of others.I think answers to prayers are evidence of God’s grace,not necessarily of our own righteousness.

  11. Post

    I think answers to prayers are evidence of God’s grace,not necessarily of our own righteousness.

    That would be a wonderful foundation for a post, wayfarer – one that could have some terrific conversation. Let me know if you’d like to tackle it as a guest author.

  12. wayfarer-

    To add to what you have said, I think answers to prayers have a whole lot to do with the timing of the Lord and not necessarily how righteous we are, have been, or will be. What we think might be the right time (and we can feel adamant that it is the right time) just may not be in the Lord’s eyes. If we truly believe He is who He says He is then we can trust that our prayers are being heard and that the Lord is aware of our righteous desires. Maybe some answers don’t come right away because we aren’t prepared to hear them and we need more time. Whatever the reason, waiting upon the Lord is never easy and can test us to the core.

  13. I’ve always thought that obedience (which includes “him that seeketh so to do”) puts each of us in a position to receive the grace (mercy) of the Lord. Therefore, righteousness equals obedience. A righteous man or women is one who is obedient to the the first principles and ordinances of the gospel:

    We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. 4th Articles of Faith

    The fourth principle of receiving the gift Holy Ghost seems to be the most difficult. This can be determined by asking ourselves if we are receiving the manifestation of this gift. Many of us struggle to answer this question without hesitation. Why is the case?

  14. (#17)”I’ve always thought that obedience (which includes “him that seeketh so to do”) puts each of us in a position to receive the grace (mercy) of the Lord.”

    I don’t know if I am correct about this, so I want to clarify to be sure, but have you mentioned in other posts that you received answers from the Lord that were undenibale even at the time when you were living in a more “worldly” manner? If I am wrong I apologize, but I see instances in the scriptures where those who did not necessarily “deserve” (and only the Lord can decide that) angelic visitations or major manifestations from the Lord (because they weren’t necessarily living an obedient life) but yet still received them. That is why I mentioned that answers or manifestations don’t always correlate with our level of righteousness or obedience at that time in our life. Does that make sense?

  15. #18 Jen, thanks for your insightful thoughts and question.

    I am a witness to the fact the Savior will leave the ninety and nine and bring back lost sheep. Alma the older and younger, the four sons of Mosiah, the apostle Paul, Amulek, Zeezorm, and Aminadab with hundreds of wicked Lamanites are some of those who were at different levels of unrighteousness and yet were blessed with unusual manifestations of the Spirit. How can we account for this.

    I don’t think we have all the answers to this question, but the Lord looks at the thoughts and the intents of our hearts and makes judgments based on what he sees there (1 Samuel 16:7).

    Additionally, I’ve learned the Lord will send a spirit into a family or situation on a “mission”, where in some cases, they will learn the ways of the world because of the traditions of their fathers, but will respond to the Lord when He calls them. They are put in difficult circumstances for various purposes, but in the end they bless that lineage they agreed to come through. These spirits are called upon to make great sacrifices to complete their “mission”. It appears to me that the “righteousness” that allows them to receive mercy comes from pre-mortal righteousness/obedience.

  16. Jared,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your point is exactly what I was referring to when I mentioned that our level of righteousness or obedience AT THAT TIME may not correlate with our spiritual experiences at that time, but I believe it was there at some point as you mentioned above.

    I have to run, but I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  17. Post

    It appears to me that the “righteousness” that allows them to receive mercy comes from pre-mortal righteousness/obedience.

    and I respectfully believe that we should NOT be teaching that idea – right or wrong. It got shot down forcefully (finally) with respect to race after the lifting of the Priesthood ban; it is WAY too open to similar abuses minus skin color; and it reeks too much of predestination to me. Out core theology claims that ALL have an equal chance for celestial glory in the end, so I prefer to bury all notions of differing levels of pre-mortal righteousness and obedience. If there really are those differences, and if they do play a role somehow, fine; NOTHING is hurt by not teaching it. If that idea is not correct, however, there can be GREAT harm in teaching it – so I prefer to bury it deep and let it go.

    In this case, leaving it in category of “unexplainable mysteries”, allowing grace to extend the same blessings to many outside of our ability to comprehend, and saying, “We don’t know” actually is my favorite response.

  18. Wow Ray–shouldn’t we accept truth over what some see as being politically correct? See Alma 13 to begin with. Beside that, my comment had nothing whatsoever to do with race and priesthood.

    Five minutes ago I finished a post on my site titled “I Am No Respecter of Persons”. I think it relates to your comment. If you decide to read it I would like to know your thoughts on it. Click my name to go to my site.

  19. Wow Ray–shouldn’t we accept truth over what some see as being politically correct?

    Where did that come from, Jared – and what in the world does it have to do with my comment? I’ve never been accused of being politically correct once and had it be accurate – just so you know.

    You said that receiving mercy comes because of extra righteousness, and that such extra righteousness was evident in the pre-mortal life. Alma 13 talks about leaders, as does Abraham 3 and every other verse you can cite. NOT ONE of them talks about “mercy” in any way. What they say is a FAR cry from “people who obtain mercy here deserve it because they were better in the pre-existence” – and, yes, that was the EXACT justification that came to be used for the Priesthood ban – which justifications have been shot down by multiple Prophets over the past 50 years.

    What I actually said is that I don’t like the possible permutations of teaching that mercy received on earth is a result of pre-mortal righteousness and obedience – and there is nothing of which I am aware in our canon that says it is. Leadership is one thing; “mercy” (especially in the context of answered prayers) is a TOTALLY different thing.

  20. Ray said–“I respectfully believe that we should NOT be teaching that idea – right or wrong.”

    I took this statement to mean that if a “doctrine” appears to be out of touch with the politics of the day then we should let politics trump doctrine. Maybe I misunderstood what you were conveying. That is very easy to do, particularly in blogging.

    Now to a bigger point, Ray. But first, I want to make sure that you know that I am not accusing you of anything. You’ve brought up some interesting points in your post and comments. I am responding, not accusing.

    Ray, I am doing everything in my power to understand the Doctrine of Christ. That said, I am ready to learn from anybody and everybody. You consistently bring up points that make me think. I like that. My focus is on the saving doctrines, I’m not too interesting in many other subjects. Sometimes I let that be known because I think its important to distinguish and prioritize what is important from that which is unimportant. In my opinion focusing too much attention on history and science puts that which matter most, at the mercy of that which matters least. Now some may not agree with this approach, that is just fine with me. However, we don’t need to be disagreeable when we don’t agree.

    You brought up an interesting point that’s got me thinking. After reading what I said to Jen #19 you wrote:

    “You said that receiving mercy comes because of extra righteousness, and that such extra righteousness was evident in the pre-mortal life.”

    I want to think about this and write a reply because it is an important point relating to the Doctrine of Christ. I’m not focusing my attention on the issue with the priesthood.

    Ray–thanks for making me think. Till then.

  21. Got it, Jared. Thanks for the clarification.

    I was talking basically about the idea of pre-mortal righteousness being applied generally to groups of people. Outside of the idea of some leaders being chosen as leaders based on extreme valiance in the pre-mortal existence (which is found in all the canonized works), there isn’t anything else – and when that core gets expanded into applications beyond that core we end up with “the Negro race was less valiant” – or anyone who doesn’t see visions was less valiant – or those who don’t commune directly with an audible voice from the Holy Ghost were less valiant – or any other permutation that can be imagined. We get a version of predestination, and, therefore, I just don’t think the idea of differing levels of pre-mortal righteousness / obedience should be taught.

    Going to your focus on the “Doctrine of Christ”, I just don’t see how the concept of varying levels of pre-mortal righteousness is necessary to teach – whether it’s correct or not. In a very narrow application, perhaps it’s true, but we mortals can’t help extrapolating it to incorrect conclusions – so it’s better to leave it alone and deal with more core, universal beliefs. That’s my take, anyway.

  22. Ray,thankyou for your invitation.I am so flattered that anyone would consider me for such august company,but feel I really don’t have the gospel scholarship,or the stamina at present.I look forward to better things.

    Jared, it may be useful to consider that the poor in spirit may find your proposition damaging,and find themselves unable to defend themselves against such allegations.

    From where I’m sitting I fail to see the usefulness of such a doctrine of despair.

  23. Ray, Wayfarer, et al—thanks for sharing your thoughts. I see your point and it is well taken. Should anyone take the doctrine of pre-mortality and attempt to turn them into a means to create division, or classes of saints, this of course would be wrong and would never be acceptable to church leaders.

    However, I think there is another way to think about the doctrines of pre-mortality. I’ll attempt to explain what I mean. To illustrate this point I’ll use a university setting. University students are identified as undergraduates and graduates. Students are classified by the academic standing: A, B,C,D,F. Some students graduate with honors: cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude. Most students are just happy to graduate.

    The point is that individuals perform at different levels for a variety of reasons. Society accepts this and distinctions based on students performance are recognized as a useful way to reward various levels of diligence.

    The Lord has revealed that prior to mortal life we lived in a pre-mortal setting. There as here, we performed at various levels similar to the university setting.
    1 Nephi 17:35 teaches, “Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God.”

    In other words, those who are obedient (the righteous) receive blessings and help in mortality that the disobedient (unrighteous) cannot receive.

    In pre-mortality the same kind of reward for faithfulness was given for diligence:
    Alma 13:3-4…being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling.. And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren…

    I’m trying to keep this short and leaving many thoughts out–members of the church are all equal in the eyes of the Lord. He doesn’t love one more than the other. The newest member of the church in a far away land has the same privilege as you or I, or as President Monson, to apply the first principle and ordinances of the gospel, and thereby begin the journey back to Father’s presence. Each of us has equal access to the path. We may not be at the same place on the path, but we’re promised the same blessings if we will be faithful and endure to the end.

    All those on the path are valiant. Where much is given, much is required. Those who are on the path and been given much are required to appropriately help others. The Savior taught, “he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Would we have those who have been given unusual experiences hide their talents so others don’t get their feelings hurt? Should have Alma and the four sons of Mosiah kept their experience with the angel secret? The Book of Mormon teaches that they openly told their experience to many people, trying to repair the injuries they had done. As a result, they were smitten by some, but confirmed the faith of others(Mosiah 27:32-35). This is why I have shared some of my sacred experiences in the Bloggernacle.

  24. I agree with that, Jared, and I certainly don’t think anyone should hide their light under a bushel. (even former members who share their light – not those who primary objective is to extinguish others’ light)

    All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t tie a particular manner in which one person’s light shines to a belief that such a person was more righteous or obedient in the pre-existence. Based on your future clarifications, you probably don’t mean that, but your first statement could have been taken that way – and that’s why I addressed it. (“To all are not the same gifts given . . .”)

    Again, thanks for the follow-up comments.

  25. Hold on everyone! Thee, thou, thine, etc. are not elements of FORMAL English. In fact, they are INFORMAL English. In modern English we now use only the formal version: You, yours, etc. The reason for using informal English in prayer, is that we are God’s children, his family members. It is to show our familiarity with God, not as most Mormons think, to be formal before God. I bet if the Brethren figured that one out their heads would spin.

  26. Rick, that’s absolutely true (well, for early modern English or Jacobean English, when we still had the t-v/y distinction). It’s also true in other languages which still maintain the t-v distinction (or equivalent pronoun distinctions…French will use tu instead of vous for that familiarity, as you said, Germans have something similar [with du and Sie?, I don’t know German pronouns], and other languages)

    The interesting linguistic and sociological problem is that in late modern times, where th~~ is not recognized and the distinction is not made, y~~ becomes the informal pronoun. Thou/thy/thine, because it’s “unfamiliar” and “old,” morphs into a formal pronoun (because we’ve dropped it out of favor). And since we do not have a modern linguistic precedent for th~~ pronouns (because well, th~~ pronouns have dropped out of favor), the linguistic standard can be hijacked. So this is the interesting phenomena…based on comments from General Authorities (like Russell M. Nelson’s Lessons from the Lord’s Prayers)…is that the church has reimagined or retooled thy/thou/thine from its historic roots (which, you’re completely right, are for familiarity) and into a new, mostly Mormon use (of “reverence” and temporal distancing.)

    It also doesn’t help that we’ve got a lot of emphasis on the King James Version, so we get a LOT of that temporal distancing (with some people believing that it’s “better” that the Bible is in a more antiquated English, even though Early Modern English trips us up).

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