When I was growing up, I learned the importance of saying please and thank you. In recent years, why don’t I hear those words as frequently?
As naturally as a baby who cries when its needs aren’t met, I asked for what I wanted. “Can I go play with Johnny next door? Can I have a cookie? Can I have a bicycle?” My teacher mother said I should say “may I,” not “can I,” so I quickly changed my begging to “may I.” Otherwise, I didn’t have much chance of getting what I wanted.
“May I have a cookie?” I said.
My question wasn’t good enough. “Say please,” Mom said.
Now I knew the magic word. If I didn’t say please, I wasn’t going to get what I wanted.
I also needed to say thank you. Always. It was more than a courtesy. If I didn’t express my gratitude, next time the answer might be no.
I knew how to beg, saying please and how to express my gratitude with thank you so I could beg for more. Of course, in my bedtime prayers, I followed the same practice with God, always saying please when I wanted something and saying thank you for his gifts. Otherwise, I would be ignored. I wouldn’t get what I wanted.
In ancient times, saying the one word “please” was the lazy way to express respect to those in authority. Instead of saying to the king, “If it pleases you,” when making a request, people just said, “Please.” Over many years, the meaning gradually changed from expecting our superiors to do what they deemed best to begging for what we thought was best.
I wonder why we seldom hear “please” in people’s prayers today. Perhaps we’ve moved on from respecting God’s will above ours, and we no longer see the need to beg. Now we want to claim our rights, so we’ve turned to demanding our entitlements “in Jesus’ name.”
Since I think God is smarter than I am and wants the best for me, I think I’ll go back to using “please,” meaning, “If it pleases you, my Lord.” Then I can have whatever he wants, and I’m fine with that.
Queen Esther said, “If you love me, O king, and if it pleases you, let my life and the lives of my people be spared.” — Esther 7:3, The Discussion Bible