A teacher once wrote a single word on a piece of writing I turned in for a grade that has affected all my writing since then. I forget what I wrote, but I remember his word distinctly. He wrote in capital letters, “TRITE.”
At the moment I had no idea what that word meant. I quickly went and looked it up in the dictionary. It is “an overused word, phrase or opinion and consequently of little importance; lacking originality or freshness.” The teacher thought my wording was an expression that meant nothing anymore because of its overuse. Trite.
When I listen to Christians tell me the story of the events of their lives I frequently want to stop them and say, “Trite.” They continually use words and phrases that mean nothing.
One of the most commonly used phrases has to do with prayer. Often Christians will tell me “I have spent a lot of time in prayer over this matter.” It is always stated in the past tense and emphasizes the length of time spent praying. They want other people to know that this decision was not of their own devices, but rather a God-inspired move.
Usually, I have one follow-up question to this trite old expression. I want to know “Would your actions have been different if you had not prayed?” It seems that for most people the answer to their prayers was almost identical to the answer they were already seeking. For example, they thought it was time for a job change and lo and behold they felt God saying the same thing. They thought it was time to quit a particular ministry in the Church and they prayed. Guess what? God said the same thing.
So I want you to ask yourself a couple of questions about your prayers.
1. Are you genuinely praying for God’s will or yours be done? Do you even see a difference?
2. Where are you seeking for answers? Are you talking only to people who like you, agree with you and are influenced by you for insight? They may be very biased. Are you asking Christians with a deep spiritual walk?
3. What constitutes an answer to your prayers? Is a gut feeling enough? Are you looking for a sign? If so, what kind of sign do you seek?
4. Does the answer to your prayer align with scripture? God does not contradict himself.
5. Is the answer you seek pushing you to a greater dependence on God? God rarely uses the path of least resistance.
It is quite possible that some people say things like this just to make themselves sound spiritual. I will give you the benefit of the doubt. I believe you really are praying. I just want you to be careful with the answers you seek. I have seen people do very ungodly things saying it was God directed.
My teacher was right; some expressions are trite. I assume the one I used in the paper that day was a fitting example. But I hope for Christians that our talk about prayer cannot be described by the same word.
Are your prayers seeking God’s direction for your life or do you hope your will be done?