How to Address the Deity

There is a general principle which we must keep in mind in the matter of the form in which we address Deity, and that is, we must show proper reverence.

By L. L. CAVINESS, Professor of Biblical Languages, Pacific Union College

There is a general principle which we must keep in mind in the matter of the form in which we address Deity, and that is, we must show proper reverence. In the Romance lan­guages, in German, and in English there are two different forms used in the second person. One is the familiar form used in the family, which was formerly used in the English also, but has been kept only by the Quakers. And then the more polite form used in addressing those who are not in the inner circle of the family. In English this is you, and is used for both singular and plural. In Spanish this is usted and in French vous and voi in the Portu­guese.

There is also what is called the solemn style. This is in form like the familiar style. The forms thy, thee, and thou were used formerly in the familiar style in English, but are novii preserved by the Quakers only. In English they are still preserved in this "solemn style in addressing Deity.

There is creeping in, in the English language, and in some cases in other modern languages, a recent tendency to replace the solemn style in prayer by the polite style of conversation. This is a tendency which we, as Adventists should not follow, for it makes people feel that we are not showing due reverence in our prayers. It is possible that the so-called solemn style is due to the fact that God was considered by Jews and Christians to be our heavenly Father, and so in prayer the familiar style was used by the Old Testament prophets and by Christ and His apostles in their prayers to God.

I have been told that in the Portuguese, the solemn style has been dropped in the newer Catholic versions of the Bible, and the voi used in its stead. However, the Portuguese continue to use the tu for members of the family, and the Protestant translations of the Portuguese Bible follow the English in keeping the solemn style of thee, thou, and thine, which were used by Christ and the apostles when they were speaking to the heavenly Father.

The principle in this matter is that we, as earnest Christians desiring to show due rever­ence, should be conservative and maintain the style that has been considered proper for prayer for these many years. Let us follow in public prayer the forms that have been given us by Christ in the prayer that is commonly known as the Lord's prayer. Repeat to yourself that prayer if you would know bow Christ wants us to pray.

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By L. L. CAVINESS, Professor of Biblical Languages, Pacific Union College

November 1947

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