- The use of titles signifies respect for office and authority. The words we use in speaking to someone can identify the nature of our relationship to that person. They can also remind speaker and listener of the responsibilities they owe one another in that relationship. The form of address can also serve as a mark of respect or affection.
As a church, we are taught that there are respectful ways to speak to our Heavenly Father in prayer.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches its members to use special language in addressing prayers to our Father in Heaven.
President Oaks talks about a change we go through when we go to worship in the temple and how these changes show respect for the house of the Lord. We also should change to address our Heavenly Father to show respect for Him and his divine role in our lives.
- When we go to worship in a temple or a church, we put aside our working clothes and dress ourselves in something better. This change of clothing is a mark of respect. Similarly, when we address our Heavenly Father, we should put aside our working words and clothe our prayers in special language of reverence and respect. In offering prayers in the English language, members of our Church do not address our Heavenly Father with the same words we use in speaking to a fellow worker, to an employee or employer, or to a merchant in the marketplace. We use special words that have been sanctified by use in inspired communications, words that have been recommended to us and modeled for us by those we sustain as prophets and inspired teachers.
- We should address prayers to our Heavenly Father in words which speakers of that language associate with love and respect and reverence and closeness. The application of this principle will, of course, vary according to the nature of a particular language, including the forms that were used when the scriptures were translated into that language. Some languages have intimate or familiar pronouns and verbs used only in addressing family and very close friends. Other languages have honorific forms of address that signify great respect, such as words used only when speaking to a king or other person of high rank. Both of these kinds of special words are appropriately used in offering prayers in other languages because they communicate the desired feelings of love, respect, reverence, or closeness.
We should remember that people of other faiths typically speak to God in the language of their scriptures. Many variation of the scriptures use simple english so that is the way that people are taught to pray. We should not look down upon others that do no understand the language of prayer that has become acceptable in our religious culture.
- Our position on special prayer language in English is based on modern revelations and the teachings and examples of modern prophets. It is not part of the teachings known and accepted by our brothers and sisters of other Christian and Jewish faiths. When leaders or members of other churches or synagogues phrase their prayers in the familiar forms of you or your, this does not signify a lack of reverence or respect in their belief and practice but only a preference for the more modern language. Significantly, this modern language is frequently the language used in the scriptural translations with which they are most familiar.
We should not be concerned if children and recent converts have problems using the language of prayer. We as church members understand that learning and getting use to learning can be a difficult change. But President Oaks says that as they gain experience, they will become more mature in their discussions with God.
- Our earliest efforts will be heard with joy by our Heavenly Father, however they are phrased. They will be heard in the same way by loving members of our church. But as we gain experience as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we need to become more mature in all of our efforts, including our prayers.
If we wish to show respect for our Father in Heaven, we need to learn the language that shows respect for Him. It will take time, but keep trying and it will get easier as you continue to try.
- Men and women who wish to show respect will take the time to learn the special language of prayer. Persons spend many hours mastering communication skills in other mediums, such as poetry or prose, vocal or instrumental music, and even the language of access to computers. My brothers and sisters, the manner of addressing our Heavenly Father in prayer is at least as important as these.
President Oaks conclude with counsel for parents. He encourages us to teach our children to pray using the language of prayer and the easiest way to do that is to have them learn by our example.
- Modern revelation commands parents to “teach their children to pray.” This requires parents to learn and pray with the special language of prayer. We learn our native language simply by listening to those who speak it. This is also true of the language with which we address our Heavenly Father. The language of prayer is easier and sweeter to learn than any other tongue. We should give our children the privilege of learning this language by listening to their parents use it in the various prayers offered daily in our homes.
I was at church last week and asked one of my 12 year old that I teach Sunday School to, to offer a prayer. He was so perfect in his language of prayer. It was obvious that he had been taught well at home to show respect for his Father in Heaven. What it also showed me is that he has a relationship with his Father in Heaven since he has gained that respect. I think we would all gain a better appreciation for our Father in Heaven as we address Him with respect and seek his guidance and counsel through prayer. I am going to do a better job of remembering to not be so casual in my prayers and show more respect for Him.