I once shared a story with a new friend and fellow follower of Jesus about a young boy praying for his teacher. My friend was perplexed and silent for a moment. Finally, she stammered out an explanation, “I’ve never prayed for people before.”
I didn’t know how to take this. Did she mean to say that she never offered prayers on behalf of others? Was this a foreign concept to her? Did she have a theological aversion to intercession? Aside from liturgical prayers uttered at church, did she not pray?
Or perhaps it was my words that threw her off. If instead of saying “prayed for…,” what if I had said “asked God to bless…” or “requested that God watch over…?” Would alternate phrasing have removed the confusion?
Recently, the MC at an event randomly picked an audience member to participate in the show and was making the requisite small talk. The person was attending with a group of ministers and said he was “waiting for a call.” I knew what he meant, but the host was perplexed. Even the guest’s explanation left his interrogator confused.
When we move in tight spiritual circles, we are bound to fall into using phrases and terminology that make complete sense to our friends, but leave those on the outside confused and perplexed.
To make sure that we aren’t misunderstood, we need to choose our words carefully so that our efforts to communication are not thwarted. We need to watch our language.