Although your previous religion, like many others, may have encouraged prayers to be said in modern language, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asks it members to use a special prayer language—that of the King James Bible, and given to us in the examples of the Savior’s prayers to His Father.
We use this special language to show respect for Heavenly Father when we pray. It’s a way of giving honor to him, in the same way we would dress nicely to meet an important leader and avoid calling someone we admire and look up to by casual, disrespectful names. No one matters more to us than Heavenly Father and the Savior, and so we speak to them in words that given the highest respect—not showy words, but special, Biblical words.
Heavenly Father will gladly hear and answer your prayers before you know the right words. He understands that it takes time to learn how to do things, especially if you’ve always done them differently in the past. He wants to hear from you regardless of the language you use in your early prayers. However, as soon as possible, begin practicing using the special words of prayer.
The most important words to remember are thee, thou, thine, and thy. They replace the words you, your, and yours.
Let’s take a look at the Lord’s Prayer, offered by Jesus, himself, as a model for us to follow: (Matthew 6)
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Notice that the prayer begins by addressing Heavenly Father by name. Most church members add an affectionate term before His name, such as dear, or beloved, so they would say, “Our beloved Father in Heaven” in a public prayer, and “My beloved Father in Heaven” in a personal prayer.
In the first line, we have the word “thy.” What does it mean? It says that God’s name is hallowed, so “thy” means “your.” If you remember that phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, it will help you remember that the word “thy” means “your.”
In verse 13, we have the word “thine.” “For thine is the kingdom.” Whose kingdom is it? God the Father’s kingdom, and that’s who we are talking to. So “thine” means “yours.”
You will often hear people say in their prayers, “We ask thee” or “we thank thee.” Thee means “you.” In the Bible, we often hear the words, “Thou art.” Thou means “you.” Art means “are.”
Jesus does not close this prayer in His own name, since he was still alive, and so we couldn’t yet pray through Him. However, in modern revelation, we’ve learned that this is what we should do.
Once you’ve mastered these words, you will find the language of prayer to be very natural to you. While you may find yourself concentrating hard at the beginning, soon it will feel odd to pray any other way. Just remember, God is patient while you learn.
For more on this subject, read, Dallin H. Oaks, “The Language of Prayer,” Ensign, May 1993, 15.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.