I’m about to confess something that may irritate even my dearest friends. Even those who tend to look the other way and bear with the annoying or unbecoming aspects of me will likely but put off by this. And yet….
In a single, four-minute public prayer, I recently counted 43 times that the same word was repeated. 43! Now I know Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but Yours be done” three times; I do understand that some things bear repeating. But 43 repetitions in four minutes is careless repetition, not thoughtful repetition.
(For those who might wish to keep watch over this ostensibly judgmental soul, please know this: since I’m a multi-tasker by nature, I affirm that I was able to pray in my heart, at least some of the time, while the repetition was occurring and I was expending energy counting instances. I affirm that the prayer was not wasted on me. I also affirm that the leader’s heart is not at issue. And yet….)
When habits take over our prayers, we need to look at what we’re doing, and why. Why do I always put something this way, or that? Why do I always address God in a particular way? Is it intentional and reverent, or habitual and meaningless? Perhaps especially in public praying, when the ears of other humans are involved, habitual wordings can render the prayers less effective.