“Passive Aggressive Prayers” – A United Church of Christ StillSpeaking Daily Devotional by The Rev. Kaji Douŝa

July 9th,2024 Categories: Latest News

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. – Matthew 15:8 (NRSV)


Have you ever heard a manipulative prayer? Have you ever prayed with people who used the opportunity to offer God (and you) a litany of their grievances against each other? For example, such a prayer might be: “O God, help your servant such-and-such to change their wicked ways.”

For more examples, google “passive aggressive prayers,” where you’ll encounter a whole genre. In my cursory search, my favorite was this very specific one, where, during the Kyrie, the priest chanted: “From a blind attitude over the theft of work Xerox paper for personal use, Lord have mercy.” He continued: “From a temptation to cheat at golf tournaments by not reporting strokes or by a foot wedge, Christ have mercy.”

And you know when the congregation responded, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy,” there was someone – one Xerox-paper-taking saint, one golf player who was liberal in using a foot wedge – who knew exactly what the priest thought they’d done wrong.

And while this may sound pretty silly or egregious, it’s only fun and games until our prayers start hurting folks.

Prayers that cause someone harm only point to a human aim. Prayers that harm do not ever point to God.

Fortunately, we can have a blueprint. We have Jesus’ own words and actions of correction with compassion, of healing, of mercy, with the love of God connecting it all.

We honor God with our lives and hearts, not just with our lips. Because otherwise our praise is about Xerox paper and golf scores. That’s hypocrisy, not God’s glory.



Help us always to turn back to your love that will never turn away from us, O God. Amen.


The “StillSpeaking Daily Devotional” series is produced by The United Church of Christ.