QUESTION: Some modern languages differ from English by using a polite form of the second person pronoun “you”. The intimate form is used in prayer to God. Is our use of “Thee” in prayer merely a refusal to break, with tradition?
ANSWER: English has gradually changed. The intimate form has been discarded in general use. Understandably, younger believers question the continued use of these forms in prayer.
Using a second language in addressing God makes me particularly aware of the reverence and devotion these older English forms represent. They include something that the use of “you” lacks. Such forms distinguish between speaking to a mere friend and to God, and have the advantage of maintaining reverence while expressing devotion to the Father and the Son.
QUESTION: Do such obsolete expressions as “Thou” and “Thee” in public prayer tend to make our meetings cold, formal and stilted.
ANSWER: Hebrew, Greek and 17th century English (as the KJV) used the second person singular in addressing any individual. Gradually, the second person singular -thee” was replaced by the plural “you” in addressing individuals. However, denominational congregations chose to continue addressing God as “Thee” to express reverence. Recently, coincident with the adoption of modern translations of the Bible, have dropped the use of “Thee”. Our continuing with this practice reflects a preference to express reverence rather than a doctrine.
A brother recently saved, unfamiliar with the grammar of the KJV sometimes uses “You” in prayer. Others, because they find the grammar difficult, say, “We pray that God will bless…”, a form not found in Scripture. Also, some invent words such as “wiltst”.
The principles taught in Romans 14 should preserve us from being overly critical of those who have not mastered the reverential “Thee” and “Thou”. They likewise guide younger believers to avoid offence to Christians to whom addressing God as “You” seems irreverent.
What really makes prayer meetings cold, formal and stilted is thoughtless repetition of words, phrases and sentences when a brother prays.
QUESTION: What does the “fear of God” mean?
ANSWER: To fear God is to have reverence for Him (Prov 3:7; 9:10) because we dread to offend the One who loves and saved us. It does not mean to be afraid of God. The Lord Jesus feared God (Isa 11:2). A wholesome fear of God causes a fear of sin and anything that hinders communion with God. It restrains outwardly and inwardly, publicly and privately.
“O fear the Lord, ye His saints” (Psa 34:9). Verses 11-16 of this Psalm teach that the fear of God rules the tongue, lips, feet, hands and eyes. “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Prov 8:13). To fear God is to hate what He hates.
QUESTION: If Psalm 89:7, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of His saints,” applies to our assembly gatherings, in what specific ways should it affect our behavior?
ANSWER: In verses 6 to 8 of this Psalm, angelic beings acknowledge the preeminence of God, the unchangeable, incomparable, awesome and Almighty One. His majesty, commands their fear. As He is acknowledged in Heaven, so He is to be on earth.
The word “reverence” in Hebrews 12:28 indicates respect for superiority. A respectful quietness is becoming. Teaching this to our little ones expresses that we appreciate the sweetness of being in the Lord’s presence.
“Shamefacedness” (I Tim 2:9) is the same word. Honoring the Lord’s holiness results in modest dress and adornment that display His grace, not my person or possessions.
“Honor” (Rev 4:11) suggests extolling Christ’s virtues, acting for the good of others (Phil 2:7) and even being on time express honor to Him.
J. N. Smith