I have been thinking recently about the myriad of over used phrases you and I employ in our everyday language. I did a little research and saw a list of the ten most over used resumé phrases of 2010. They included “strong communication skills,” “possess leadership, motivational and inspirational skills,” “go-to person,” and “team player.” (Used any of these recently? Be careful, so did everyone else!)
I also saw a musical site that listed over used clichés in writing song lyrics. They included, “On my knees/begging you please,” “love/sent from above,” and “All I ever wanted/all I ever needed.” And a commentary on personal ads cited these three phrases as some of the most over utilized: “I live life to the fullest,” “Looking for my soul mate,” and “I didn’t have a picture, but trust me you won’t be disappointed.” (Might want to avoid these too!)
And it amazed me that we tend to recycle our over used phrases. We just re-work the words a bit and keep the sentiments flowing. A few years ago, the phrase, “run it up the flag pole” meant to try an idea out with your co-workers. Today we might say, “Let’s put it to the smell test.”
Like you, I am weary of hearing phrases like, “whatever,” or “at the end of the day,” or “think outside the box.” But I am also weary of hearing Christian clichés. We all have them. Pastor Ed Young went so far as to make fun of these “go to phrases” on his blog. And I agree with one writer who said that the phrase, “I am praying for you….” may be our worst cliché yet!
Even worse than those silly mindless comments that we exchange with each other are the “vain repetitions” we used to speak to the Lord. If you listened to Christians for a while, you will likely hear certain phrases repeated over and over again. It is almost like we have a summary list of spiritual “fillers” that we can use when called upon to pray out loud. We pray for a “hedge of protection” on our love ones and ask for “traveling mercies” as they leave. We almost always start our prayers with “thank you for this day,” and focus on others with the phrase, “lead, guide and direct them.”
If we are praying over a meal, we like to use the phrase, “thank you for this food and bless the hands that prepared it.” And we tend to finish a social get together by thanking the Lord for this “time of fellowship.”
I think this must have been what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 6:7 when He admonished us, “When you are praying, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (NIV 1984) In the King James Version of that verse, the term “babblings” was translated “vain repetitions” and it literally means to use empty phrases over and over, to stammer.
Next time you have the opportunity to pray (out loud or in the privacy of your own room), stop and think about what you want to say. Avoid clichés and over used phrases. Speak from your heart. Speak as if your best friend were across the table (He is!) and say what you mean (and mean what you say). You may have to take a few extra moments to choose just the right words, but make sure they come from your heart. I am certain that the Lord will appreciate the clarity, and we will all appreciate the creativity.
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel