prayers. pauses. punctuation.

28 09 2010

It's, like, Emma

Emma Thompson has caused a stir by, like, complaining about yoof slang creeping into every day speak. Like saying ‘like’, ‘innit’, that sort of thing.  Apparently its sloppy, and makes you sound, well, stupid. Others have waded into the debate saying ‘street speak’ is fine, has always happened, that one of the main people who flouted language rules and made up new words was some bloke called Shakespeare.

I’m not here to talk about grammar though.

What I am interested in is the idea of filler words. John Ayto of the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang (reported by BBC News) said that using words like ‘like’ is a normal way of stalling a sentence, giving yourself time to think. Like saying ‘um’. In our highly grammatical speech sometimes we just need to slow down and we make noises to hide from the silence.

Now think about prayer. How often when praying out loud do we hear ourselves using filler words that sound so holy but are really just fillers, or punctuation, sounds we make to fill the silence. Does this sound familiar:

Lord, we just pray that Spirit you would come, Jesus, we just pray that you would move Lord, father we ask this in jesus name.

We really only needed to say hello.

So easily we can fill our prayers with words. But in prayer there is no need for filler words. Sometimes there’s no need for words at all.

The thing is, there is nothing inherently wrong with these words, and the last thing I would want is the grammar police making people even more frightened of praying out loud than ever. We (just) need to think about our words, our theology of the Trinity, our use of the word ‘just’; to pray what we mean, and pray it once instead of repeating the same sentence 3 times to make our prayer seem more earnest.

Even so, if when you pray, you need to use filler words then use them, because better to pray and, like, give ourselves time to think and stuff; to punctuate our sentences with the names of the Trinity; to confuse God with random sentences;  better all those and more, than never to pray at all.

So maybe this whole post was filler.

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6 responses

29 09 2010
Tweets that mention prayers. pauses. punctuation. « the blog of kevin -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tina Wheelhouse, Kevin Lewis. Kevin Lewis said: Prayer. Pauses. Punctuation. What Emma Thompson can't teach us about prayer. http://fb.me/HJynhRA8 […]

29 09 2010
Fran

Sometimes silence can speak 1000 justs, Lords and Yes Jesus’!

30 09 2010
preachersa2z

You have, like really made me well think n stuff. Actually – you make a very interesting point. These ‘filler’ words do give us time to think when we pray. Often people use them when they are newer to praying because it reflect their nervousness in the presence of greatness. For my own part, I prefer to pause in silence rather than fill with words when trying to pray. That said – people who speak for a living often have an ambivalent relationship with silence – see ‘scared of the silence’ – http://bit.ly/9s7qsI

30 09 2010
Edge

Encouraging people to reduce their use of filler words is probably a good thing. I suspect some filler words would be really useful if we could just find the right place for them though.
So maybe another approach is to encourage people to recycle their filler words by donating them to someone who could make use of them?
I would like to kick things off by donating this ‘urm’ to anyone who can use it to better effect than it is currently being employed here…

Footnote: “… currently being” = tautology. Yikes! It’s a minefield.

4 10 2010
James Harvey

Ruth here, I am totally with you on this one….I scream inside the amount of ‘filler prayers’ we do….Its great to hear people pray but often its repeative and so unneccessary…sometimes I think we are afraid of silence and the simple words.

4 10 2010
Kevin

Indeed! And every now and then it makes me glad to be (and don’t tell anyone this) part of a church that uses prayers people have thought about in advance. We call it liturgy and it can have a bad name – rightly so sometimes – but often it is great pray something meaningful, brief, and coherent that has been developed over hundreds of years of people praying. I’ll go now before my baptist roots start quivering.

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