Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

#104 Saying “just” a lot while praying out loud

When called upon to pray aloud in a group, an evangelical automatically says “just” a few dozen times during the course of the prayer. This doesn’t happen when other flavors of Christians such as Catholics or Episcopalians pray, but an evangelical cannot help it.

“We just come before you today, Father God, and just ask that you pour out your spirit upon us. Just renew our hearts and help us know your plan. Knock down any barriers in our hearts and just show your will to us and, uh, just help us love you.”

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Steph G

posted November 23, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Haha. Yes, to the justs! I used to count the number of times people would say Father God, but maybe I should start counting the justs.
Oh, what about the spiritual yummies when you agree with what they are praying. Mmmmmm. I’ve done that too.

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George, American

posted November 23, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I just certainly agree with this.

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posted November 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Oh, yeah! I’ve noticed this, too, and have heard other people comment on it. It’s a sign of sincerity. It’s also a crutch.

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posted November 23, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I notice this more with younger Evangelicals, anyone Youth or Music Minister and below are more likely to do this. When it comes to people who are more educated (seminary or Masters or higher from a Christian college) I’ve noticed they are more eloquent in their prayers. They usually pray more slowly while the “just” repeaters pray a bit faster.
Steph G,
I’ve never heard the term “spiritual yummies” before, but I know exactly what you mean and I will definitely be using that term now.

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posted November 23, 2009 at 3:14 pm

I totally remember this.
I’m just saying…

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posted November 23, 2009 at 3:27 pm

The excessive use of “just” and “Lord” are the godly equivalent of “Um.” It is equally disruptive to the fluidity of communicating a whole thought, but the banter is excused with the spiritually redeemed prayer versions. The blatant self consciousness is always ignored, but it is clearly exposed through this lazy abuse of language.
When I hear excessive “Lords,” I am reminded that we are told “do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” What is more vain than replacing “um” with “Lord,” to cover for your own uber-spiritual, thoughtless ass?

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david atkins

posted November 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm

I first noticed this phenomenon in my charismatic church when I was about 13. Ever since, I’ve pretty much struggled w/ putting a gun to my head every time I’ve ever had to listen to an Evangelical-type pray out loud. It’s worse than you think…and ubiquitous. Believe me…even WITH this understanding, trying my best to be wary and pre-think every word I say, I STILL did it. And hated myself.
I found a solution, though–I refuse now to pray in public.

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posted November 23, 2009 at 9:57 pm

This drove me CRAZY at the Christian college I attended. It was so obvious that most of us had no idea what we were even saying. Was all of it so lost on us that we couldn’t ask for anything in powerful language? Were we upping the earnestness ante to attract God’s attention? Or each other’s? (Ooo, was the cute boy across the circle listening when I prayed for his unsaved sister?)
(“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words….”)
David Atkins, that was my experience too. And my solution. Sadly I also am crap at prayer in private. It’s so hard to get the filler-speak and the formulas out of my head. (Remember ACTS, anyone?)

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posted November 23, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Sarah: Oh God. I remember ACTS. ACTS was a nightmare. Let’s take something that’s supposed to be genuine and make it nice and formulaic so we impress everyone!
I, too, no longer pray in public. Ick. Such a pressure, and so many people make it into some kind of creepy show of faithfulness.

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Spinning in Air

posted November 24, 2009 at 12:06 am

Oh my. I think you’ve got my number. (srsly!)

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Your Name

posted November 24, 2009 at 1:08 am

I catch myself in the just trap, but it isn’t that I don’t know what to say. I find myself in that lie that we must limit our prayers…be humble and not ask for too much. I have to be honest with God, I don’t just want what I am limiting myself to with those prayers.
It is a lot of work de-religioning oneself.

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Mel T

posted November 24, 2009 at 3:51 am

Lord, we just drown out your silence, we just fill up your absence with prayer.

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posted November 24, 2009 at 9:36 am

Oh steph, grabbing a subtitle of “jesus” from the radiohead video “just” is pure cleverness. Well done.

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posted November 24, 2009 at 10:35 am

Ultimately, we don’t need to say anything in prayer. The best prayer is simply being silent and present with God in his silence. The words get in the way and are obstacles and distractions.

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Rollo Tomassi

posted November 24, 2009 at 11:12 am

Only in Evangelical Culture has prayer been elevated to the anxiety levels of public speaking. I’ve been aware of the “justs” for a long time, but it’s also the christianese that gets constantly inserted into prayer circles that gets me. It’s like the sales-speak (synergy, value added, blah blah) that marketers and job seekers feel a need to parrot back to seem relevant. I understand reverence, but my God is a personal God and I tend to think he’d be saying to me, “hey, just chill, it’s me, enough of this formal crap, tell me what’s on your mind.”

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Lorelei Black

posted November 24, 2009 at 12:06 pm

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. it’s so funny, Stephanie, because I showed my boyfriend (who was raised all fundamentalist) your blog a few months ago and he asked me to email you and tell you to write a about about ‘just.’ of course i was like ‘what the hell does that mean’ but he said you’d know what i was talking about. anyway, i forgot to do it, but i’m glad you made a post about it anyway! it totally made my day!

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Mel T

posted November 24, 2009 at 12:16 pm

At the top of this page next to Stephy is a child’s drawing with a smiling mommy between a cross and a bunch of dollar signs.

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posted November 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I call them the “Just/Really” prayers. If it were a drinking game, the deal would be to take a sip of communion juice each time the prayer includes a “just” or a “really”. the chalice would be empty in minutes.
Of course, ya know we would ONLY do this with like communion juice cuz, after all, ya know this is like a prayer and it would just be like really inappropriate to like drink just anything else, really – ya know?!

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stephanie drury

posted November 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Trev, and if you click on it you can see the video. heh

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posted November 24, 2009 at 3:30 pm

I didn’t know about this! Is it an effort to sound low-key and not too demanding of God?

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posted November 25, 2009 at 1:00 am

I work at a Christian non-profit and we have daily devotions. I’ve never counted the “justs” but I did count 34 “Father Gods” last time a certain youth leader prayed during devos.

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posted November 25, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Ha. I always notice when people say “just” a lot in prayers. And then I think, why would you say something like, “God, can you just help me to…” Its literally saying, “God, can you only help me to…” We need so much more than we could ever even know to ask God for, so it doesn’t make sense to say I just (only) need this, this and this from you. …You know what I’m saying?

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posted November 25, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I call those the “Jesuswejus” prayers, it’s usually said as one word. I went from Foursquare to Episcopal and the best thing about a prayer book? WAY less Jesuswejus.

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posted November 25, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I think its similar (for me anyway) to saying “like” when I’m nervous. I also think its learned subliminally listening to everyone else do it. Its a filler word, something to pause on while I form the next words I want to say. It is silly, but I’d probably just pause awkwardly if I didn’t say something.
Just my two cents.

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posted November 25, 2009 at 11:33 pm

No, the worst ones are the ones that use the words ‘father,’ ‘lord,’ and ‘god’ as commas.
“We come before you, God, hoping that you would bless us, God, and keep us safe as we leave here today, God, to do your works, God. And God, we just ask that you keep our troops safe, God, and bless them, God. We come before you in Jesus’ name. AND EVERYBODY SAID…Amen.”

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posted November 27, 2009 at 1:49 am

The Evangelical tradition taught me how to pray spontaneously with others at Church, and I think that’s a good thing. However, I picked up on this verbal phenomenon after I started attending an Anglican church, and then joined with some Evangelicals again after a few years. It nearly drove me bonkers! I commented on this to a Theology student/Anglican Priest in training, and he said, “Oh yeah, the ‘prayers of the just’.” Sigh.
I’m comforted by the “Quaker Proverb,”: “God knows how to make sense out of confused prayer,” but I have also learned the value of either a) using the Book of Common Prayer/Prayers of the People, already written out; and b) short one sentence prayers, carefully thought out, or written out BEFORE they are said at all.

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posted November 27, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I absolutely love the Radiohead “Just” music video reference. Made my day. Love this blog. Keep up the good work.

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posted November 29, 2009 at 1:31 am

I definitely noticed the just prayers when I attended youth group. I thought maybe it was a local thing but seeing all these comments I guess not!

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posted November 30, 2009 at 7:32 am

Wow. I haven’t gone to church for 20 years but I can *still* hear them doing this! “Just open up our hearts Father God!” *laughs* You pegged it!

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Robin Marie

posted December 3, 2009 at 1:01 am

The author of the God Virus talks about this; he thinks it is a mesmerizing technique, a way to get people into the zone of meditation and prayer. Like music, except with words.

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Still Breathing

posted December 3, 2009 at 7:57 am

I put this alongside the person who always gets in first at a prayer meeting and then goes through the entire list of subjects for prayer. There usually follows an awkward silence before individuals pray for the subjects that are close to their hearts even though they’ve already ‘been covered.’

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posted December 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm

I have noticed this verbal “stamp” on prayers also! But I notice it mainly with young people praying in a group situation. It shows their nervousness and their unsureness and maybe their lack of complete faith that their prayers will really be answered.
So they add the word “Just”/ maybe it is a code wors for Justice, maybe it is a way to get ‘s attention much like a school child will try to get the teacher’s attention by raising it’s hand (althought they know that they are not supposed to wiggle or squirm while doing this – however; this just causes them to wiggle and squirm all the more.
The fact that we pick up on these verbal hesitatioons points to our need to judge those around us.
Once the young Christian has a few years under his/her belt then these verbal hesitatioons will fade out and their prayers will be more specific and to the point.

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stephanie drury

posted December 5, 2009 at 6:24 pm

I have more than a few years under my belt though and I still say just like crazy, I really can’t help it.

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posted December 8, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I realized I did this too, and I’m making an effort to just stop it! :)

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posted December 10, 2009 at 9:45 pm

When Protestant friends start in on me about “vain repetition,” I dare them to get through a whole prayer without repeating “andlordwejust.” Can’t do it.

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posted December 11, 2009 at 9:04 am

ahaha they def say just because they want to sound sincere and want something hyper spiritual to happen. maybe genuine step towards faith or maybe to assert their own self righteousness in front of others? i am not sure but i know for me when i pray like this it is usually the latter..

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Kari Ann

posted February 18, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Another one: “DearLordGod”.

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posted August 11, 2010 at 12:32 am

Yes….this is a habit and it shows up in other areas
of our speech as well. It belittles our intent
and our expectations. Maybe we should say less and
Pray for one specific thing and not try to cover all
the bases at once.Pray it and mean it and visualise it.
The Holy Spirit needs our humble undivided attention.
Praise God from Whom all Blessings flow..Thank you Jesus.
I love you Jesus.Yes Lord, Let Divine Love fill my heart.
Come, Let us Break Bread in Jesus name.
Be renewed by The Holy Spirit.
Remain steadfast examples of The Path
and The Light, one Blessing at a time.
In The Name and The Body
of The living Risen Christ
We Praise Almighty God.

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posted August 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm

the youth pastor. I couldn’t count how many times he said “Father God.” They do it all over the world. I can’t speak Russian, but when I kept hearing the same word over and over again, I figured they were saying Jehovah in some form.

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Your Name

posted April 29, 2011 at 12:48 am

“Lord Jesus I’m just crying out to you Father for your many blessings. Father God if you could just lay your hands on all of us today as we come into your house to wroship you Father. Lord just forgive us our transgressions for we know not what we do Father. God just place a heavy burden our our hearts so that we may worship you in joy and in spirit. Father if you could just renew our spirit so that we may trust in you today as we worship Father and just be with everyone that has come here today. God, may we just lay out our hearts for you Father. Amen.”

I grew up in church and I can now easily recite the prayers for personal entertainment.

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posted January 12, 2012 at 8:54 am

To echo an earlier comment, I believe that “just” is a way to pause while thinking of the next phrase and it also reiterates one’s humility in “merely” asking for the things in the prayer. I believe that it’s harmless and many of the folks who do it a lot are spirit-filled Christians who live by their actions, not just their words. However, it’s a distraction to me, and I don’t think the Holy Spirit is responsible for the pause words we use to get through a public prayer. I prefer to pray publicly with actual pauses, trusting God to provide the utterance, and if it doesn’t come, the silent pause is more of a blessing than the word inserted to fill the pause. Or maybe I shouldn’t offer a public prayer if all I can do is run my mouth with spiritual sounding phrases separated by “just.”

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Mark Burns

posted June 27, 2012 at 1:11 am

Why do Christians even pray aloud at all? It is one of the things that drives me crazy about the Christian culture. Matthew 6:6 clearly tells Christians not to pray in public at all, yet most Christians ONLY pray in public, before a meal, at church, etc., yet have little to no private prayer life whatsoever.

Christians are quick to downplay Matthew’s instruction and call it merely an example to demonstrate that the proper attitude is important when praying. Yet Jesus demonstrates exactly the same habits as this verse instructs Christians to do. In Mark 1:35 (as well as a number of other places), Jesus makes a point of taking many steps to avoid praying with any distractions, including waking up early and going to a secluded, private place.

If Matthew says not to pray publicly, but to hide in your room, and Jesus demonstrates the same, why do Christians feel at liberty to do this at all? We have both the instruction and the example to follow, yet Christians, I believe, are more into their culture than what the Bible actually says to do.

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