Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thee, Thou, Thy, and Thine: Learning the Language of Prayer

Prayer can come in many forms, and we know that God invites all to come to him.

In the LDS church, we do not use a set of memorized prayers when we communicate with our Heavenly Father personally in prayer, but we are instructed to use worshipful language when addressing our Father in Heaven.  

Today, we are lucky to hear from my friend Alana Lee, who is going to teach us how to use worshipful, respectful language while praying.  

(If thou thinkest that thou needest not this post, thou shouldst think again!  We can all use a refresher course, right?!)  :)

Alana has also created an easy-to-reference bookmark to help us navigate the language of prayer.  (You can download it here or at the end of this post.)

Here's Alana:

Having our language reflect our respect of Diety is part of our quest to become perfect like our Savior, and as part of our mortal progression toward perfection, we need to learn the proper language of prayer.  

When Christ prayed to His Father, he set the example by using Thee, Thou, Thy and Thine.

Elder Oaks explains the why in his Apr 1993 Conference address: “The Language of Prayer." He says:

     "The words we use in speaking to someone can identify the nature of our relationship to that person. They can also remind speaker and listener of the responsibilities they owe one another in that relationship. The form of address can also serve as a mark of respect or affection. 

"So it is with the language of prayer. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches its members to use special language in addressing prayers to our Father in Heaven. 

"When we go to worship in a temple or a church, we put aside our working clothes and dress ourselves in something better. This change of clothing is a mark of respect. Similarly, when we address our Heavenly Father, we should put aside our working words and clothe our prayers in special language of reverence and respect. In offering prayers in the English language, members of our Church do not address our Heavenly Father with the same words we use in speaking to a fellow worker, to an employee or employer, or to a merchant in the marketplace. We use special words that have been sanctified by use in inspired communications, words that have been recommended to us and modeled for us by those we sustain as prophets and inspired teachers. 
"Perhaps some who are listening to this sermon in English are already saying, “But this is unfamiliar and difficult. Why should we have to use words that have not been in common use in the English language for hundreds of years? If we require a special language of prayer in English, we will discourage the saying of prayers by little children, by new members, and by others who are just learning to pray.” 
"Brothers and sisters, the special language of prayer is much more than an artifact of the translation of the scriptures into English. Its use serves an important, current purpose. We know this because of modern revelations and because of the teachings and examples of modern prophets. The way we pray is important. 
"I am sure that our Heavenly Father, who loves all of his children, hears and answers all prayers, however phrased. If he is offended in connection with prayers, it is likely to be by their absence, not their phraseology. [This is particularly true with recent converts and young children.] 
"The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “It is a great thing to inquire at the hands of God, or to come into His presence.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 22.) The special language of prayer reminds us of the greatness of that privilege. I pray that all of us will be more sensitive to the importance of using this reverent and loving language as we offer our public and private prayers.

Now that we understand the why, let's go over the how.

3 steps for using Respectful language of prayer

1st, Identify any 2nd Person pronouns: subjective, objective, and possessive. 
Ex 1: I love you (I = subject doing the action, you = object receiving the affection/action of being loved.)
Ex 2: I passed the hymnal to you. (I = subject that actively passes, you = object that receives.)

2nd, replace common pronoun with worshipful pronoun.
You → Thou (subject pronoun), Thee (object pronoun)
Your → Thy (possessive pronoun)
Yours → Thine (possessive pronoun)

3rd, Modify verb ending with –est (usually) when using subjective form “Thou.”
Thou knowest, Thou doest, Thou helpest, Thou gavest, except for these irregulars: Thou art, Thou wilt, Thou hast.
Thou hast given me many blessings.
We give thee praise.
We thank thee for thy goodness and mercy.
We ask thee to bless and sustain thy prophet and apostles.
We seek to emulate thee.
Please help us to understand thy will.
All that is thine can be ours.
Other Helps: Doctrine and Covenants Section 109: Dedicatory Prayer of Kirtland Temple.

Using respectful prayer language will come more naturally as you study the scriptures and pay attention to the wording in hymns. Comfortable use will eventually come with practice. Thus, practice in your daily personal and family prayers.

Understanding a seeming contradiction in biblical language:
Exodus 4:15, "THOU shalt speak ... I will be with THY mouth...and will teach YOU what YE shall do." "Thou/Thy" refer to Moses himself, but "You/Ye" refer to the entire nation of Israel. (This example taken from:

You can DOWNLOAD this Language of Prayer Bookmark by clicking on the links in this post.  Please feel free to pin and share this resource as there aren't any other resources on this topic readily available online.

You can find more resources by Alana here:  
Family Proclamation Treasure Hunt Game Download
Modesty, Purity, and Tolerance


  1. Great post. I think so many things these days are so informal and prayer has become a lot that way also. I grew up praying this way and so it's natural for me, and my kids pick it up. But I notice in church that so many people who haven't grown up that way pray very informally...mainly because they don't know any better and I don't think they notice it when someone does pray the correct way. This would make a great sacrament meeting topic.

    1. Yes it would. Watching Elder Oaks' talk would be great too for any lesson.

  2. I can't get the bookmark to open no matter which link I try....Google Docs keeps saying "Re-Direct Loop" or "Too Many Redirects".... HELP!! I would like to download it for personal use!

    Thanks for posting on this topic, in a world where children are no longer required to call adults by Mr and Mrs and teachers slub to school in jeans looking like they just rolled out of bed, I am glad that we can and should teach our children that there is value in respect! And respect for our Heavenly Father is and should be of the the highest regard!

    1. Hi Steph - I uploaded it to another site so it's easier to access. It should be working now...thanks for the heads up:

  3. Great post. This is something I have worked with my Seminary class all year long on.
    I cannot get either link to work for the bookmark.

    1. Try this updated link, Shauna:

  4. Did you know that in Spanish the form used in prayer is the same intimate form that is used only is families? I learned this from my dad who was a Spanish teacher. The same form is used in the translation of the Book of Mormon. Dad says it gives a different feel to the book, rather than being old-fashioned sounding it is intimate and beautiful. I also remember from reading "Christy" learning that the Quakers used the forms thee, thy and thou, when speaking intimately, reserving you, your and yours for more formal usage. It makes sense to me that we would speak to our Heavenly Father in the most intimate way because of our relationship.

  5. I'm glad that Rozy Lass made her comment. When I think of thee vs. you it reminds me of the tu/usted issue in spanish. Tu is considered "informal" while Usted is "formal." meaning that you only use Tu with intimate and close friends and family.

    In this sense, I think of using Thee/thine - not as formal (in the linguistic sense), but as intimate. Heavenly Father wants us to have a loving, close, intimate language with Him. This helps me remember that Heavenly Father isn't some far off God, but is close to me. He loves me. He is my Father.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  6. As a side note: this also comes in handy when your high school daughter goes through a Shakespeare unit in english. Because we pray in this language and read the scriptures as a family, she had no problem whatsoever with the vocabulary or grammar. She couldn't understand why her classmates were having such a tough time with it, but then realized she'd been learning this way of speaking since she began to talk.

    1. That is funny. I think we do take for granted that many of us learn this as we are learning to walk and talk in our homes. It is an advantage to be "bilingual!" :) But for others we need to help them learn and still for others, we need a refresher course! :)

  7. I love that my prayers can be a step above my regular day talk. It feels like another way I can honor the Lord whom I love so much. Although I'm not perfect, I love trying a little harder every day!

  8. I love the language of prayer, and I find that it is used less often, even at church. New members don't seem to be picking this up, and I even hear lifetime members getting casual about it.

    I am always wishing this would be mentioned in talks more often.