Yesterday, I drove past a little church in a small town. The sign out front read: "God, please bless America."
It made me wonder: do you think you ought to ask God "please"?
Most of us were raised with please and thank you. We were paraded in front of a variety of adults and children alike, asking for the things we either wanted or needed, and awkwardly delayed while everyone waited and baited us to say the "magic word" - please. It is a form of polite posture. It is a word of deference. It is a word that acknowledges that your request might put someone else out, if even for a moment, but asks anyway.
Does God honor you if you ask anyway? Or does God honor you more if you ask anyway?
My morning Bible reading has me in the Psalms this time of year, and I'm reading the words of crying out penned by David and the other poets. You know something? I'm not seeing a whole lot of please. I'm seeing a great deal of "O Lord" and a whole lotta "come" and a good smattering of "get down here and defend me." But not much please. A heart crying out to God doesn't seem to have a whole lot of space for the word. There's no time for politeness.
God doesn't seem to mind. He doesn't stand there tapping His foot, waiting and baiting His children for the magic word. He doesn't respond to an agonized prayer by asking, "Aren't you forgetting something?" He doesn't withhold His coming or His grace for the lack of a simple please. He answers anyway. He comes anyway. He loves anyway.
I'm not even sure what part of speech please is, not in the way we use it today. An adverb or something. But in the Bible, please is only a verb. We lead our lives to please the Lord. We want to be a pleasing aroma. We want our sacrifices to be pleasing to our God. We aim to please only Him. And so on and so on and so on. It's a verb. It's something we do. Not something we ask.
That is the way we ought to use please with the Lord - calling ourselves up instead of calling God out. Does He respond better to a please? No. If He did, wouldn't that change the image you have of God? It would have to. Do you want a God who stands waiting on a magic word? I don't. If in sixty-six books of the Bible, written by dozens of different authors across spans of both time and place, in varying circumstances and changing times, there has never been a reason or a need to pray a please, we have no reason to believe we need one now.
God, please bless America. Fine. That's nice and polite. But God has never been one for politeness.
Bless this nation, Lord.
And let us please You.