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Lately, one of my biggest pet peeves during communal prayers in the church has been not using grammar and punctuation within our liturgical services. Like there were clearly five commas in that sentence, and we just trucked through the whole thing? Grammar is essential for several reasons, but there are two that are important, in my mind, as of now. First, when we don’t use grammar during prayer, it makes it harder to pray together. The grammar helps something sound better because it signals when to breathe when to pause and when to continue. But if you don’t use commas, semicolons, and periods, everyone and their teta are all over the place. Using grammar and punctuation makes us use different tones in our voice, which leads me to the next point of why this is important.

The difference in the way you say a word according to the grammar helps give meaning. Language is dynamic, and the way we say something helps give its sense and definition. I encounter this all the time as a mental health professional. Consider the following two statements. “You’re considering a divorce?” “You’re considering a divorce.” Did you hear the difference in your head? Repeat the two sentences aloud again. Can you hear the differing emphases and sense the difference in how someone might respond? In English, your voice tone typically goes up at the end of a question, but gently down at the end of a statement. Suppose I’m in a conversation, and I say the question. In that case, the person has the signal that I’m waiting for a response. In contrast, with the statement, the person understands that my conclusion is they’re already getting divorced.
Likewise, in prayer, when you use the grammar, it gives better comprehension of what we’re reading. And understanding during prayer is fundamental if you still think we should pray in Coptic please @ me in the comments below. I’ve been quarantining for a week and a half now. I feel like squaring up with some of y’all, but back to grammar. For example, take this part in the Creed, “Yes, we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Life-Giver, who proceeds from the Father, who, with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.” All the commas refer back to “Who,” the Holy Spirit, and from that, we have a better understanding of what we believe. If the commas weren’t there, you would have no idea what you were referring to while praying.

So grammar and punctuation are vital because it allows you to have more depth in praying in one voice and understanding what you’re saying. Being more mindful of grammar and punctuation in what is in front of me has helped me be more aware and present during prayer. Imagine that, fully understanding what you’re praying so that you could be in the present moment of worship, never knew it was possible.