When You Pray

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases…” – Matthew 6:7

I’m rude to my phone.

“Siri, send a text,” I growl.

“Siri, find the nearest coffeeshop,” I whine.

“Siri, wake me at 6:30,” I moan.

I never say please, and I never say thank you.  I’m in a hurry after all and I have a lot to do.  So I spit out as few words as possible and they lay there piled up, a little heap of empty phrases.

No matter what I say, the robotic phone voice answers just the same.

“I’m sorry,” she apologizes, “I didn’t get that.”

Then, “Sure,” she chirrups, “Let me look that up for you.”

Here’s what I say I believe about prayer. I believe that when you or I pray, it changes us and it changes God, too.  If that’s true, then unlike with Siri, it matters to God what words I use.  When I’m rude, or impatient, or careless, it matters.

But with God, as with Siri, I heap up empty phrases, saying as little as I need to in order to get on to the next thing.  Think of a heap for minute.  You heap up dirty laundry or yesterday’s mail or the coins that gather on your dresser top.  Really, shouldn’t our words to God, once collected, be measurable in more than heaps?  Mounds, at least, and possibly even mountains.


Oh bodacious, auspicious, extravagant Awesomeness! Put unaccustomed words in my mouth, so that mountains of profligate and preposterous praise might grow up around me. Amen.

ddgrair.pngAbout the Author
Jennifer Garrison Brownell is the Senior Pastor at Hillsdale Community Church ­– United Church of Christ and the author of the forthcoming book, Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath.