Lou: We’ve explored talking to God as with a friend. Yet I can still remember the shock I felt when in a public prayer, a seminary student spoke to God with a familiar “You.” I wondered at the time if this young man had lost his way. But really, when we come to church, we usually put on special clothes, something that’s just a little different than other times, out of respect. Isn’t there an analogy here perhaps as to the kind of language that we ought to use when we talk to God? He is our Friend, but we still want to show respect for His majesty. What about that?
Graham: It’s true that many of us dress in a special way when we come to church. But I don’t see us wearing antique clothing. And so, when we come into the presence of God, I believe we should use the best words we know to express ourselves. We should be reverent and respectful, to be clear, but it doesn’t mean we use old-fashioned words.
Lou: But isn’t reverence and respect the purpose of the “Thees” and “Thous?”
Graham: I believe that has come to be true for many, but I think people need to realize why they are doing it. The Thees and the Thous and the wists and the wots are the way English was spoken in those days. Folks can look at the Preface to the King James Version and notice that the language there is the same. Actually, if the garbage collector came in those days, you might say, “We salute thee, thou gatherer of refuse, and we prithee that thou wouldst place yonder vessel ere.” That’s how you would speak to the garbage man. That’s the way you talked to everybody back then. But today people say about our common speech, “Well, that’s no way to talk to God.” But King James English was simply the common language of the day. It’s beautiful language, but it was not special at that time. Forty years ago I was explaining that there’s no basis in the original language for using Thee and Thou and wist and wot. Yet I still find myself saying Thee and Thou when praying in public. These words have become a symbol of something, so I’m still doing it.
Lou: What words do you use in your personal prayer?
Graham: I often say “You,” and I’m comfortable with that. But I must say, I like the way you pray. You say “You” to God, but you say it very reverently; it’s in the tone of your voice. It’s in your choice of words. So I feel it’s very reverent. I’m accustomed to Thee and Thou in public prayer, and there are a number of people I feel might be a little distressed if I switched. I don’t want words to be a barrier. But maybe I’m just getting too old to shift.
Lou: Well, I’ve gone through my own struggle with that, and it strikes me that I really made the change after I came here to Loma Linda. Even here I wondered how the congregation would feel.
Graham: I think the important thing is: “Rend your heart and not your garments” (Joel 2:13). If the reverence is in your heart, the language is not the important thing. I want words to be my servant, and I want to use them with care. I’m ready to change as need be.
Lou: The crucial thing is that prayer is talking to God as to a friend.
Graham: Language mustn’t stand between us and our God.