Bouncing One Off The Almighty

Have you ever been in a Church setting where, when someone is called on to pray, instead of praying, they offer up a sermonette or a moral treatise? For instance, the preacher will ask so and so to pray and they say something like: "Lord, we need to all be better people. Many among us have done things they shouldn't have and others have worn themselves out doing things. There is always room for improvement. We should just keep working hard, remain dedicated and faithful. We need to sacrifice our time, money, talents and whatever better than we do. Be with us as we leave this place, God, amen."

I've never really understood why people do this. There is no plea for help, there is no seeking God's guidance, there is no sense of cogency, coherency or even communion, all that exists is a broken up moral treatise/sermonette. This prayer is not said with the purpose of entering into God's presence, it is to exhort the group that is listening. One of my professors used to say of people who did this type of thing, that they were "Bouncing one off the Almighty". In other words, they would open the prayer with an address to God but starting with the next word, they'd focus on everything but praying; it was like throwing the prayer at God, only to have it bounce back and hit everyone else.

There is another type of prayer that I label as "Bouncing one off the Almighty" as well. Let me give you an example. Recently, I was preparing to lead a week of High School summer camp. I spent weeks calling people and asking them to be camp counselors; I called over 80 people and nobody was able to commit. One day, I called the camp office and was talking to a person there. The person gave me three names and phone numbers of people to contact. Before I hung up the phone to make those calls, the person said, "Well, before you call, you say a prayer and I will too; maybe something will come through." (I had been praying all along, by the way.) Anyway, I hang up the phone and dialed all three numbers. Wouldn't you know it, one resulted in leaving an answering machine message and the other two numbers had been changed or disconnected. I couldn't help but laugh. And maybe I was wrong, but the first thought that crossed my mind was, "The person at camp who had prayed, just had their prayer bounced off the Almighty."

Anyway, I was just wondering if anyone could relate to this? What stories do you have? What do you think about the phrase "Bouncing one off the Almighty"?


  1. A couple of weeks ago at church an elderly woman got the opportunity to pray. About halfway through she said "O Lord this reminds me of the missionary woman I met when I was younger..."

    She went on in her "prayer" to tell a three minute story that included details such as them having tea, and of course drew the moral platitude from that story for her audience.

    I also have a hard time when the pastor will "pray" his sermon points before the sermon. Especially, when you are supposed to be in prayer with him and his 2 minute sermonette is so crappy or predictable you know that the next forty minutes is going to be unbearable.

  2. I went to listen to a sermon tonight... I'm sending you the link because the opening prayer made me laugh after reading this post.

    Knowing What We Believe - the Nicene Creed by Iain Provan


    You may like the sermon if you have any time left after the "introductory prayer"

  3. Scott,
    Both of these are excellent examples!!!

    Ok, the Nicene sermon...wow, that's like exactly what I explained. I can see why you laughed, that's hilarious!!!!!!!

    BTW, you're right that the prayers often give the boring sermon away. That's a very astute point!!!