Kolar: Speak with clarity in prayer and faith

Rev. Janel Kolar reflects on the importance of speaking clearly and meaning what we say in our prayers and language, to avoid misunderstandings.

Rev. Janel F. Kolar is the pastor at First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Dickinson, North Dakota.
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John 8:43 43: “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.”

When I was in high school, I had a poster on my wall with a quote by Robert J. McCloskey that said: ““I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure that you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” I am very hopeful that what I sometimes hear (or read) from wonderful, well-intended people, is not what they meant.

Some examples of this? Here’s one that I see and hear a lot – “prayers to you/your family/that person, etc. I know that the prayers you are praying are really prayers to God and that what you meant to say was “Prayers are going out FOR….” Or I am praying FOR you. I understand that what you’re saying/writing is not what you meant, but I also believe we should work on speaking clearly so that what others hear is what we do mean.

Here is another: “dear Jesus, I just pray……” This one really bothers me. When you say “I just” it implies that you’re asking something that’s small and unimportant. “I just pray” is like praying “All I’m asking is this little thing. When we pray to ask God for something, we need to “humbly pray”. We need to understand that there is nothing simple about the things we ask for and that God is not our buddy, he is the one who dwells in unapproachable light. When we pray, we should remember that all honor and eternal dominion belong to God, and that what we are asking is never “just” any little old thing. I know we don’t mean to minimize the importance of our prayers—that what I’m hearing is not what you meant, but again, perhaps we need to work on clarifying what we mean.

And finally, the ultimate in things we don’t really mean when we carelessly say them, is this one: “it’s my God-given right.” Most often, the right being referred to has absolutely NOTHING to do with God. I know that when people say this, they don’t literally mean God gave them the right in question.


I believe God’s faithful should be clear when we speak and that we should always try to say what we REALLY mean, so that people don’t have to wonder if what they heard is really what you meant.

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