When the Gusto-Meter is Down

I saw this tweet and was reminded of something that happened the other day while I was putting my son to bed.

Sometimes Micah will tell me he doesn’t “want to” pray at bed time. Maybe it’s simply that I want him to. Maybe he’s just too emotionally spent at the end of the day. He’s six; who can really say why? So the other night I start praying and he starts repeating everything I say, in an attempt to be annoying and, I think, to get me to stop what I’m doing. The way kids do.

My gut reaction was to stop, and teach (OK, lecture) him about being respectful toward his father and his Heavenly Father. By God’s providence in that moment, however, I pivoted to another approach. I fed him words. I prayed in the first person what I wanted him to pray. And, for some reason, MrH didn’t fight it. He repeated after me.

One of the graces of a liturgy that includes responses for the people is that we give people good words to pray. Too often, I think, leaders in worship can default to any of several means to get people to participate more sincerely, more enthusiastically, more passionately, more obviously. We will say that what is important is the inward orientation of a worshiper, but when the gusto-meter is at an 8 instead of 11 on a given morning, we will try to exhort (extort?), cajole, manipulate, prod, or lecture our people into turning it up a notch.

What if we trusted the process of putting the trusted words of the saints who have preceded us—and, indeed, the very words of God!—on their lips? Expression is a healthy part of worship, and a core tenet of being an Anglican is that expression ought to be in “a tongue … understanded of the people.”1 Nonetheless, there is tremendous power in putting wholesome and life-giving words in the mouths of those who may all-too-often find themselves unable to generate their own extemporaneously. What if, in doing so, we could assist people toward the sort of worship we think God deserves—from the inside out?


  1. Yes, “understanded.”

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