Flippancy or
Intimacy in Prayer?

Flippancy or Intimacy in Prayer - can we define the line between these two attitudes? Some highly value the intimacy they can have with God in prayer, but others keep pointing out that God is too high and majestic for us to be so informal in our prayers. I think this debate hinges on how we define Intimacy.

What we can all object to is - flippancy. That is, treating God or our relationship with Him lightly. It is quite possible to regard God very highly and to truly worship Him in our hearts and also draw very near to Him, and to believe He really cares about the details of our lives just like a loving, tenderhearted father does.

If we carefully read, even study, the recorded prayers in the Bible, of King Solomon when dedicating the temple in 2 Chronicles 6:14-17, and Nehemiah's intercession for Jerusalem while still a cupbearer for the pagan king, (Nehemiah 1:5-6) or Daniel's deep communion with God in Daniel 2:20-23, we see that they used reverent, worshipful language. There was no flippancy in prayer.

Nor did the many others who came directly into God's presence with short intimate prayers that assumed God was listening and ready to answer their cries. For instance, the disciples did not pray regal preambles to their prayer when caught in the tempest on the Sea of Galilee. They cried out, "Lord, save us! We're drowning!" (see Matthew 8:25). Peter also, when he was walking on the water, but looked at the waves and began to sink below, cried out, "Lord, save me!" (Matthew 14:30).

To some people the choice of words for our prayers is awfully important. And they are, but not in the sense of having to learn a 'correct' prayer language. It is our attitude that makes all the difference to God. Flippancy? No. At least not if we understand it to include trying to flatter God to prepare Him to 'hear our petitions.' Not if we think we have to use more 'holy words' to twist God's arm. Nor even if we use casual slang terms to make us feel that God is just one of us - our gang of buddies who have fun together.

The Pharisee in Jesus' parable of Luke 18:9-14, knew all the word tricks to put pressure on God to hear and honour his prayer and lifestyle. The sinner in that story didn't even dare lift his eyes upward as the Pharisee did; he just pounded his fist on his breast and prayed, "God have mercy on me, a sinner!" Jesus' own analysis was that the sinner went home forgiven and justified before God, but the Pharisee did not. The Pharisee used flippancy. The sinner used intimacy.

Here comes a proper definition of 'intimacy in prayer.' It is being honest, humble and repentant - your real self before God. God wants us to be sponteously from the heart, not hypocrites, nor show-offs. We don't have to know a beautiful, formal language to be able to pray. God is reading our hearts - that's our motives - as well as our words and thoughts. True intimacy in prayer includes reverence for God.

John Bunyan wrote, "When thou prayest, rather thy heart should be without words than thy words without heart." If the Old English thees and thous throw you off, in our vernacular he was saying that we should sooner be stuck for words in our prayers, than that our prayers should have words without sincerity.

Throughout the Bible are many examples of people who came directly into God's presence with their prayer requests without turning them into formal speeches.
Abraham (Genesis 18:22-23)
Jacob (Genesis 32:9-12-, 24-29)
Moses (Exodus 32:31-32)
The centurion (Matthew 8:5-9)
The Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28)
(You will be able to find more).

You will offend God with a flippant attitude far sooner than if you use your culture's common language of the house and barn. Don't try to be "cute" with God, or show other listeners how "chummy" you are with the Almighty God of the universe. Just keep your heart and mind reverent, humble, worshipful and willing to obey. Listen for His instructions. God likes that kind of intimacy with you and me!