The last couple of days I’ve been squarely in the middle of an lengthy academic debate. Each argument is full of so many arcane terms that making it through it is painful. Truthfully, it gives me a headache. Recognizing that, I understand why Quakers placed such an emphasis on speaking plainly and with Truth. Specious arguments sound good, but they collapse after enough careful analysis.

Matthew’s Gospel addresses the lack of humility and mistaken priorities common to the time, and perhaps ours?

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

I may have always been a Quaker writer in the way I phrased my thoughts. My father impressed upon me the economy of words and a compelling desire to get immediately to the point. I wish I could show others that their conversation is predicated upon mistaken motives and ego-driven intentions. Identifying the futility of what to them is the most impressive-sounding, footnoted, fourteen-page polemic ever constructed is only wasted time.

As Friends, we can rely upon an economy of language, one that is easily comprehensible to others, but not dull. The books, essays, and memoirs I enjoy reading these days never forget to broaden their audience while preserving the power of the written word. Academic discourse continues onward in its own self-limited universe. I’ve stopped trying to engage certain speakers, because I have learned that they cannot and will not understand. I seek to convey ideas for all, but they do not and likely will not.

What follows next in the Gospel of Matthew is the first telling of the Lord’s Prayer, a perfect encapsulation of Christian faith in which every single word packs a punch. Though it could have been written by a Quaker, I know it influenced several for similar reasons. Where do we use economy of words in our own lives? 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

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