Religious Word-Rationing

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20 November, 2021




They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.

— Mark 12:40

Most religious people have been guilty of multiplying words as substitutes for worthy deeds, and of all such the writer of these lines is probably the worst offender. But because we have offended is not sufficient reason for our going on to repeat the offense.

It is better that we face the whole thing with self-effacing humility and try to correct our fault. It remains only to be said that where shallow eloquence is most out of place and where it is oftenest found is the prayer meeting. The most halting speaker seems to become unusually fluent when he kneels to pray, especially when he has an audience. I have heard much flowery speech in the prayer room, and I suppose I have uttered a good deal of it.

But again, there is no reason for continuing to utter words without wisdom. A conscious sense of the presence of God is a wonderful cure for empty talk, whether in the pulpit or in the pew. When the Holy Spirit falls on a man, he is likely to become strangely eloquent. Out of the awe and silence of the soul comes an uprushing of power-filled words that move the hearts of the hearers to tears and to action.

Such eloquence as this is something else; of this we do not here speak. Of this latter we need a great deal more, but we can do with a lot fewer empty words in religious circles.


Prayers from the heart prayed to God, as if no one else were listening, are strangely moving, aren't they. Then there are those long, well-rehearsed prayers addressed to people as if God might be listening in.


O God, teach me to pray!