In our house, when a parent asks a question, makes a statement, or does something for a child (that is, where social norms would suggest a polite response), one parent or the other will sometimes offer a “Parentally-Suggested Child Response“. For instance, if my wife tells the kids that dinner will be in 5 minutes, and they keep playing video games, I will sometimes say, “Thank you, Mother, for your helpful and timely notification. We will immediately shut off our devices and join the family at the table.” If I ask one of the kids to pick up stray dishes (or laundry or toys or books), and I get no response, she may say something like, “Yes, Father. We appreciate your reminder to keep our living area neat and clean, for the good of our family.”
Of course, I don’t think that any rational kid is going to talk like this. (If yours do, I apologize – this article might not be for you.) However, over time, we have started to hear these suggested answers spoken back to us in other circumstances. Sure, our kids now sometimes reply to situations like this with funny imitations of our voices, clearly indicating that they are copying our joking comments from before. But somewhere, I hope that they will remember how to be polite to others, and to remember to say something kind when it is appropriate.
God offers us suggested answers, as well. For one thing, His word (the Bible) contains a great collection of answers for questions we face.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Psalms 119:11 NASB
We should also listen to the wise (which is not always the same as listening to those who are just “smart”).
Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
Proverbs 22:17-18 NASB
And, sometimes God Himself helps us know what to say in a specific situation.
When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Luke 12:11-12 NASB
We would do well to learn good answers from all of these sources. At first, we might just repeat what God has already said in similar situations. Over time, though, as we learn about His character, His heart, and what He wants for us, we can provide better answers to a wider range of questions from those around us, in ways that glorify Him.
After all, when Jesus’ disciples ask Him how to pray, He gave them a good outline. What we sometimes call the Lord’s Prayer provides some examples of topics to pray about.
It’s not wrong to memorize the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:9-13), or even to recite it (although I encourage you to mean what you say). These words were Jesus’ suggested guidelines for His disciples, and they provide an initial primer for those who are new to talking with God. However, building upon that outline, talking with God doesn’t have to be limited to just these exact words.
So, let us accumulate and accept the suggestions that God has provided, and use these not only as specific examples of “God-suggested Christian Responses”, but also to build upon them as we grow in understanding God’s purpose, while listening to the Holy Spirit within us.