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Posted on this site 23rd June 2007

Slaughtering Sacred Cows - Part 2

"Let Me Pray About It"

by Frank Viola

Did you know that we Christians have a code language? The language is commonplace and widely accepted, but the coded message that lies underneath the surface is quite subtle.

How many times have you talked to a fellow believer and asked them for a favor . . . or solicited their help in aiding another person . . . and their response was . . .  "Let me pray about it"?

Now let me say at the outset that there is absolutely no problem with those five little words. At least, on the surface. And there is no problem with bringing an issue to the Lord and consulting His mind about it. 

However, how many times have you heard these words . . . "let me pray about it" . . . and then discovered that the person never got back to you or they ended up turning down your request?

As I think back on the numerous times I've heard my fellow Christian brothers and sisters utter these words, either to me or to others, the answer invariably ended up being "no." I can only think of a few exceptions to this.

In short, oftentimes . . . too often actually . . . "let me pray about it" is Christian code language for "I don't want to do that."

This becomes blatantly obvious when we are presented with some of the most basic and simplest things of life, and we respond by saying "Let me ask God what He thinks."

Here are some examples of how I've heard this phrase used:

* A Christian woman writes to another Christian woman saying, "I've been starving for Christian fellowship for years. I live in such and such a city in the Western United States, and I'm desperately looking to find some Christians to gather with. Do you know of any groups of believers in my area that I can have fellowship with." The reply comes: "Yes, there's actually a group in your very city that I know and can recommend. Why don't you call them, pay them a visit, and see what you think."

The woman replies: "Let me pray about it." She never ends up calling or visiting.

* I used to teach high school. One time a fellow teacher who was in my department asked one of her peers - a professing Christian - to cover her classroom for one day because she had to tend to her sick child. The Christian responded, "Let me pray about it." She never got back to her fellow teacher. The teacher had to ask someone else - a non-Christian - to cover her class.

* A sister in Christ offends a brother in Christ. The sister apologizes and asks for forgiveness. The brother says, "Let me pray about it." The relationship is never restored.

* A Christian sister's car breaks down and is in need of a ride to work one morning. Another Christian sister who has a working car and is retired is asked to give the Christian sister a ride to work. When asked for the favor, she responds by saying, "Let me pray about it and I'll get back to you." She never does.

Observation: I have never seen a Christian say "let me pray about it" when there was no self-denial involved.

I've sat in restaurants with many believers in my life. And not once have I heard any of them say "let me pray about it" when the waitress came to take their order. Yet, when it comes to some of the simplest things in life that are presented to us - if some risk or self-denial is involved - so many of us are quick to shroud the ordeal in religious jargon.

Certainly, there are times when we will feel forced to give a matter over to the Lord and seek His mind on it. However, in most cases of life, knowing the Lord's will is a matter of spiritual instinct or it is simply a matter of exercising wisdom. I've addressed this issue extensively in my book Rethinking the Will of God for I have seen the unnecessary bondage that so many of God's people live under when it comes to discerning the Lord's will. Thankfully, there is freedom from this bondage. And there is a very practical way of tackling the issue of God's will.

What is my point? 

I'm certainly not suggesting that we give up the practice of bringing things to the Lord. Especially those matters that are complex and where our response will affect the lives of others. Forgive the personal illustration, but I think it may help some folks. When I have been faced with a crisis and I needed the Lord's precise guidance, I have set myself apart for three days to seek His face on the matter. In every case, God was faithful to give me clarity at some point during that three-day period. That said, I'm not against bringing vital matters before the Lord to discern His mind.

However, such cases are the exception. As Christians, we possess a mind. We possess a frame of reference where we know by instinct or by wisdom what our response ought to be in most situations. (See my book Rethinking the Will of God for details.)

What I'm really getting at is a plea for honesty. And an exhortation to not make things "religious" when they don't have to be. 

At this point, let me speak to a related danger. Whenever light is brought to an issue and exposure is made of it, it is easy to fall into the opposite peril and begin judging others by their words. Consequently, this message is not for you who hear the words "let me pray about it" from others. It is for those of you who habitually use them. 

Consequently, if someone replies to a request or offer of yours with, "I'll get back to you on it" or "let me consider it for a bit" . . . which is a non-religious way of saying "let me pray about it" . . . please take that person's statement at face value. 

But for you, dear child of God who has made "let me pray about it" part of your normal vocabulary, may I offer this simple challenge? The next time you are tempted to utter these words, pause and ask yourself if it's really necessary  . . . and accurate . . . to let them come out of your mouth.

I believe doing so will take us a long way in dismantling our Christian code language, and reflecting the honesty and integrity that is a part of our new species in Christ Jesus.

Published 2006