"Thou" and "You" in Prayer

We should either use only "Thou" and "Thy" and "Thee" in a single prayer, or else employ only "You" and "Your." But never mix them.

By ROBERT LEO ODOM, Editor, Philippine Publishing House

Too often we hear some minister saying in public prayer something more or less after this manner: "We pray that Thou wilt bless us and draw us closer to Thee, and that we may serve You and do Your will more faith­fully." Some even holding responsible position of leadership are heard to mix the solemn form "Thou" with the common form "You" in ad­dressing the Deity. This is an inexcusable breach of literary usage, and brands the trans­gressor as an undiscerning person. We should either use only "Thou" and "Thy" and "Thee" in a single prayer, or else employ only "You" and "Your." But never mix them.

Literary use is determined largely by custom. The generally accepted usage in the various churches of the English-speaking world is to employ the solemn form of the pronoun in ad­dressing the Lord. In recognition of this fact the Revised Standard Version of the New Tes­tament has retained the solemn form in the Lord's prayer (Matthew. 6:9-13 and Luke II: 2-4) and in other places where our Creator is addressed, although elsewhere in the Scripture the old form has been abandoned. The same is true in the New Testament in Modern English, a new translation by Helen B. Montgomery (Baptist).

"You" and "Your" are employed in prayer most frequently among those who work for children and young people. They say that it is difficult to teach many of the youth to use the old, solemn form, because boys and girls gener­ally have not been taught it at home and in school. However, children brought up in homes where the family altar exists, do not have much difficulty in this matter. In my early childhood I was taught by my mother to recite from mem­ory the Lord's prayer, in which the solemn form is used. This made it natural and easy for me to use the reverential form in speaking to the Lord thereafter. If our church workers will practice this form faithfully, and teach parents and children to do so, our people will follow their leaders.

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By ROBERT LEO ODOM, Editor, Philippine Publishing House

November 1947

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