Thursday, June 21, 2012

Acknowledging Daily Mercies? What?

Reading The Hidden Life of Prayer: The Life Blood of the Christian by David McIntyre, I ran smack into some old-fashioned language (the work was first published in 1893). As I considered the meaning of the words, I began to understand how we can lose meaning when we change language. And language has changed a lot since 1893.

McIntyre is discussing prayer, and specifically the role of praise in prayer. And this is what he writes:

“…the tribute of praise which the saints are instructed to render to the Lord may arise either (a) in the acknowledgement of daily mercies, or (b) in thanks-giving for the great redemption, or (c) in contemplation of the divine perfection.”

Here’s how a contemporary English translation might say it:

“We’re told to give praise for three possible reasons: blessings, thanks for salvation, and/or worship.”

Both mean essentially the same thing, but consider what is lost in the contemporary version.

That praise is tribute.

That we are the saints.

That we are instructed to offer.

That we should acknowledge mercies from God.

That mercies are daily.

That thanks-giving is not a noun but an action verb (it’s hyphenated).

That salvation is a “great redemption.”

That worship is a contemplation – a deep thinking.

That what we are to contemplate is a “divine perfection.” (And McIntyre capitalizes “Divine” because it is a placeholder word for God. Think how common it is for us to lowercase “he” and “him” when we refer to God.)

Reading that short passage, and thinking about it, I was rather stunned. I began to think about all the other things we do – things other than our utilitarian, socially-mediated language – that loses meaning and a sense of awe.

Because that is what McIntyre is communicating – that praise is a form of awe.

Over at Informing the Reforming, Tim Challies is leading a discussion of The Hidden Life of Prayer. Please visit the site to see what’s happening the comments.


Cheryl said...

What a meaningful reflection!

Kelly Sauer said...

Oh I LIKE this one! "Praise is a form of awe." Sigh...

Martha Jane Orlando said...

I agree that our modern language often does not do justice to an author's original intent. Love seeing praise as a form of awe! I will remember this one, for sure!
Blessings to you!

Patti said...

The English language has been so watered down, right in line with watered down thinking. I am reading this book along with Tim, too, and it is such a blessing to enjoy rich, thoughtful, inviting expressions that move the heart and enrich the mind. Thank you for this reflection, which has taken me deeper into "worship as contemplation - a deep thinking." That is a blessing! We need more deep thinking in the Christian world!