Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 5, 1963

Irreverence For God's Name In Prayer

N. Z. Crass

There seems to be a growing tendency among the Lord's people today toward irreverence for the name of God. I have particular reference to the practice of addressing God as "You" in public prayer. Two decades ago it was almost unthinkable that any gospel preacher (or anybody else) would refer to God as "you." But today it is a very common thing, and is heard often among churches of Christ. Some gospel preachers, especially younger men, seem to have the habit deeply ingrained. I would like to point out a few things that I believe bear on the subject, and solicit reviews and comments from thoughtful brethren among us. Let us have a clear understanding of the full teaching and spirit of Christ and the apostles, so that we can either correct the practice if it is in error, or commend it if it is proper.

First, let us examine the prayer of Jesus as recorded in John, chapter 17. Let us study this divine example. Note, first of all, verses one through five: "These things spake Jesus; and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee: even as thou gayest him authority over all flesh, that to all whom thou hast given him, he should give eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they should know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ. I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do. And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."

Note carefully the four pronouns which Jesus used, in the order given: "thy," "thee," "thou," thine." He had begun by addressing God as "Father." In the remaining verses he used these four pronouns a total of fifty-three times using "thy" ten times, "thee" eleven times, "thou" twenty-six times, and "thine" seven times.

Who can say, in truth, that Jesus by the use of these four pronouns a total of 53 times in his prayer, plus also the six direct salutations to God as "Father" did not express the highest, truest, and most proper reverence for the name of God? How can the practice of addressing Jehovah God as "You," with its almost careless and flippant familiarity be reconciled with the solemn and earnest reverence shown by Christ in this example? (Compare also 1 Peter 2:21; 4:11; 1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 11:3.)

What is the source or origin of this questionable practice of undue familiarity with God? Since neither Christ nor his apostles nor any other inspired man ever showed such audacity, and since none of them ever used such irreverence in their address to, or reference to, God, whence came the practice? I think it clearly must have come along with the catalogue of evil things set forth by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-4.

Not long ago, I visited in another city, and attended the morning service of the congregation there. Some brother, large in statue and strong in voice, led the congregation in prayer. I was amazed at the number of times he addressed God as "You." It appeared that he must have used the improper salutation no less than a dozen times — perhaps more. To me it was most disgusting. I called attention of one of the brethren there to this public, flagrant show of disrespect for God. I have seen the same undue familiarity shown even more recently by a visiting brother in my own home congregation. This brother, too, was large of statue and strong of voice. And over time he came down on that "you" he seemed to give is special emphasis!

Without desiring to cause offense to any brother, I venture this assertion: Not a single one of these brethren who address God as "YOU" would for one moment think of addressing some state judge, district judge, or even county judge as "You!", but would rather the more likely show respect and reverence to the office by saying, "Your Honor." Are men deserving of more respect than God? Think about this.

— 6248 Oram, Dallas, Texas