It’s a classic line: “We covet your prayers at this time.” But are Christians allowed to covet anything, even prayers? Read on…
(? Click here for an audio podcast version of this post. ?) A Texas reader of the blog writes in and says:
I’ve heard people say “I covet your prayers” and “we earnestly covet your prayers.” But whenever I hear people say the word “covet” I think of the Ten Commandments and “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17). What’s the story on “coveting prayer”? Can people do that, and where did the saying come from?
Praying Without Ceasing or Coveting
Great question! Thanks for contacting me via the Facebook page! I’m letting everyone know that they are welcome to ask questions about Christianese via the Facebook wall. Feel free to post on the Dictionary of Christianese wall or send me a private Facebook message. If you send a message, let me know if you want me to quote your note, and if you want me to use your name or an alias. I’ll be thrilled to hear from you!
But let’s skip the commercials and get on with your question. The Christianese idiom “covet prayer” or “earnestly covet prayer” isn’t in the Bible, so there’s the answer to that part of your question. But just because a phrase doesn’t appear in the Bible, that doesn’t mean Christians can’t use it. The word Trinity doesn’t appear in the Bible either, and for that matter neither does the phrase New Testament. But just try to talk about the Christian faith without ever using the words Trinity or New Testament! That would be a tricky proposition.
Nowadays when we think of the word “covet” we typically think of the Ten Commandments and how we’re not supposed to covet anything, especially not our neighbor’s wife, his stuff, his ox, or his brand-spanking-new cherry red convertible Porsche. Basically, if your thought ever begins with “I sure do covet my neighbor’s…” then hit the eject button immediately!
But it wasn’t always this way when it came to coveting. Older translations of the Bible use the word covet in a positive sense. For example, the King James Version of the bible (published over 400 years ago in 1611) says that Paul instructed the Corinthians to covet the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. Back in 1611, the verb covet was just a neutral word that meant “to really want.” I suspect that after 400 years of memorizing the King James Version of the Ten Commandments, the only time we ever heard “covet” was when a broken commandment was involved. Does nobody read 1 Corinthians in the King James Version anymore? Anyone?
Bear in mind that not all Christians use the expression covet prayer, and obviously it’s not a phrase that Christians are required to use. But if you’re around people who do use the term, just remember that all it means is “I want prayer.” Your ox and Porsche are perfectly safe around these covetous people.
Do you have another word you’re curious about? Use the contact form in the sidebar and let me know!