Reverence and Relationship


While people in the Bible saw God as their Friend, they didn’t see him as their “mate.” There was intimacy, but reverence and awe for His Lordship.

But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down towards your holy temple. (Psalm 5:7)

How people speak to God can so easily fall into one of two extremes: either so formal as to have no intimacy, or so casual as to reduce Almighty God to the level of a “mate.” The Bible, however, encourages us to pray with both reverence and relationship.

The trouble is, reverence means different thing to different people. For some English-speaking Christians, the only appropriate way to address God is by “Thee” and “Thou,” seeing this as more respectful. But is this “biblical”? (strange question though this may seem!). There are two things to remember here. First, there is no such distinction in the original languages of the Bible. The same words are used of speaking to God as to men and women. So to add “reverence” to our prayers by using “Thee” and “Thou” is to add something that the Bible never intended. Second, this isn’t how the words “Thee” and “Thou” were originally used in English. In the period when The King James (or Authorized) Version was written, “thee” and “thou” were simply common words of friendship and intimacy, such as a man and wife would use with one another or with their children, or a friend would use with a friend. The words in no way carried a sense of “respect” or “esteem for someone higher.” Sadly, as the English language changed its usage, this original meaning was lost, and we were left with a tradition that thought God needed special vocabulary if He is to be addressed “properly.” Richness of language is no substitute for reality of relationship, however.

But equally, while people in the Bible saw God as their Friend, they didn’t see him as their “mate.” There was intimacy, but respect; friendship, but an acknowledgment of His Lordship.

So, what about the language that I use in prayer? Does it genuinely help me to know God better and talk to Him more? Does it help me to know Him as my Father and my Friend, my Companion and my God? Today, let reverence and relationship be marks of all your conversations with Him.

“My Father, my friend from my youth.” (Jeremiah 3:4)

Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont

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