Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 19, 1963

From Whence Did You Receive It, Brethren?

Pete McWilliams

It is becoming increasingly familiar to hear brethren addressing Jehovah, in prayers, with the personal pronoun "You" in such expressions as "We thank 'You,' Lord," or "Will 'You' bless those who are ill," etc. The first one that I remember hearing address God with this terminology was a preacher of the Pentecostal faith. This was five or six years ago. This man was using the expressions repetitiously in rapid succession in a manner of speech which is peculiar to this type of religionist. In the prayer there was also about the same amount of soberness, solemnity and piety towards God that one would expect from such a source. The next person that I remember hearing use this expression in this manner was a young man who was supposed to be a gospel preacher. He was then, as now, allied with those who have embraced liberalism. Since then I have noted more and more brethren adopting this practice of addressing the heavenly Father as "You" or "your."

We all agree that the public prayer is unique in that the whole assembly is praying the prayer which is being led by one who has been appointed or called upon. We also agree that it is right and proper to follow the wording of such public prayers and to silently pray along with the leader using the same words that he uses. In doing this I summon all of the powers of concentration that I possess in beholding God in all of His majestic splendor, sovereignty and holiness. When we are thus engaged in concerted prayer and the leader uses the personal pronoun "You" or "your" instead of "thee," "thou" or "thine," It has the same effect upon my spiritual concentration as when a musician runs a chord on a perfectly tuned stringed instrument — at least, five of the instrument's six strings are in perfect tune, but the fourth one has fallen far below harmonious range of pitch. As the musician strikes the first three strings there is a resonant and harmonious series of notes: But the fourth string is struck and the result is complete discord of the whole series!

There may be those who, in giving a reason for adoption of the subject terminology argue that it is because "thee" and "thou" are outmoded speech which belong to an era of eighteen centuries ago. To those who so argue I would like to ask this question: Inasmuch as this principle was just as true one hundred years ago as it is today, why did not the stalwart pioneers, some of whom were well educated men and profound thinkers, become enlightened relative to up-to-date terminology? The same question must be given consideration relative to the same class of godly men in the church today. In other words, why did this practice of addressing the heavenly Father with the familiar personal pronoun "you" first make itself heard only within the last few years?

What does this writer seek to bind? Not tradition, opinion or any man-made law or idea, but a holding on to that which contributes to solemnity, gravity, and awesome respect when in the act of personally addressing Him " whom we live and move and have our being....," and whose majestic glory, sovereign power and dignity transcend far beyond the reach or comprehension of man's intellect, regardless of the profoundness thereof. I have pondered long and have tried to see the other man's viewpoint upon this subject. But I have not succeeded in ridding myself of the idea that in addressing God by use of the personal pronoun "you" it tends either to debase Him or to elevate man, either of which is blasphemous in nature. This idea is not without the latest dictionary's sanction, for it says that "thee" and "thou" are "...still found in solemn or poetical style...." Neither is the idea without Bible example, for we find no record of deviation from the usage of these words in reference to addressing God.

From whence did you receive it, brethren? Was it from godly elders who feel the same way about this question as I have stated above that I feel, and who serve as "ensample to the flock?" Was it from gospel preachers with this same disposition of mind who, at least at present, compose by far the majority? Or did you receive it from such as the Pentecostal Preacher or the loose thing liberal preacher both of whom were mentioned in paragraph one above?

And finally, brethren, I welcome all views relative to this subject whether in agreement with my sentiments or to the contrary. My mind is still open regarding the subject, and if my reasoning is faulty, I will be grateful to him who points it out to me. For, if brethren persist in this change of words used in addressing the Father, then I certainly would like to rid myself of any objection to it, for in doing so I would also rid myself of the discord experienced in my spiritual concentration when following the one who is leading the prayer.

— 212 Chandler Street, Baytown, Texas