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Repeat That in a Prayer

How do you feel about repetition in prayer? I use certain phrases again and again to keep myself focused.

Prayer blogger Rick Hamlin
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I’ve heard two lines of thought about repetition in prayer. Some people say that you should fill your prayers with new language, that if you repeat the same thing over and over then you won’t concentrate on your prayer. Others say that there’s a value to using a familiar phrase in prayer, that it releases you from getting too much inside your head and lets the spirit work through you.

I’m on the side of repetition. There are phrases I use again and again in prayer to keep myself focused. One of my favorites comes from the psalms: “Make a joyful noise unto God.” It’s in Psalms 66, 81, 95, 98 and 100, sometimes repeated in the same psalm (so much for no repetition). “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands,” begins Psalm 100, one of those verses I memorized in third grade that still makes me giddy, like a third grader. What a happy refrain.

This one gets translated variously. “Make a joyful sound” or “Let us raise a joyful shout” or “Let us joyfully sing.” But “Make a joyful noise” is pretty good. All those times when you think you’ll never be able to pray because you can’t find the perfect quiet place. You can’t even find time to slip into that closet you like to pray in, like my friend Peola Hicks does. Isn’t it nice to know you can make a joyful noise and it counts as a prayer? Try it in the car when you’re driving. Put on some music and make a joyful noise.

Ever listen to kids? They’re always making a joyful noise when they’re playing, recreating the rumble of a truck, the whir of an airplane, the song of a bird. And there’s a movie coming out this weekend about a church choir, starring the inimitable Dolly Parton, two times a cover subject in Guideposts. What’s the name of the film? Joyful Noise, of course.

To “pray without ceasing” is surely a challenge. But to make a joyful noise unto the Lord? I can find a chance for that. When the dark days of January get me down, I put that phrase in my prayers. It’s the leaven in the bread, the laughter in the soundtrack. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. You won’t be alone.

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