Formality. I bet you think you know where I'm heading with this. You're partially correct.
I'm not a believer in transfiguring myself one day a week to take on a detached Christian role. I also maintain that a church should remain with it's doors opened in welcome to anyone, and it's congregation (of active Christians I assume) should swell with joy when an informal stranger peeks his head in. Sadly, this is not what I've found to be true of most church buildings or of it's congregation members. We dress up and look down. We become different people for a different day to serve a different purpose. I don't believe it began that way, though.
Dressing up was once a sign of respect for the meaning of the Sabbath and an offering of discomfort, if you will, to our God who deserved our best. Christians were Christians all week long in action but they put the time aside to worship formally on their Sabbath day. And from a sincerely grateful heart all of this was good. It was done in love.
Sadly, tradition never maintains it's original intent. Why can't it? Well, a couple of reasons spring to mind. a) Cultural relevance transforms our understanding of the intricate facets that constructed the particular practice. b) Our emotional connection to the practice can only be attached to people we know of as opposed to people we know. The tradition therefore is carried out in the form of unquestionable obedience, which is never, never good. It leads to exclusivism; an opposing idea to Christ's personal earthly ministry. It leads to pride and ego. And the most damaging reason of all.....it leads to the personal comfort of the practitioners. Congratulations to them! They've been successfully mislead. They believe they are acting in faith, because that's how believers used to act in faith. In this misleading, Satan leaves them to cause their own destruction and he moves on to someone who is actually a threat to him. But, wearing your Sunday best isn't even the particular tradition this post is addressing. I'm going to have you look at yourself in what should be your most vulnerable state.
When Moses was on the mountain, when Jonah was being sent forth, when Jesus was teaching: in all of these situations words were being spoken. Words were spoken from God to people and words were spoken by Jesus himself. These words were in a language as all words caught by the human ear need to be. The language that was spoken was the language understood by the audience. If God were to speak to me today He wouldn't speak to me in French. I don't understand French. He would have to use a pretty crude form of English. But that's okay because He would do that to reach me. Just like He would speak to you in your language. If this is a truth that we accept of God's nature, that He is humble, why do we continue to speak, preach and pray as if 'Thee', 'Thou', 'Art', and 'Verily' are God's native tongue? You chuckle but you shouldn't underestimate the power of this misguided assumption. In one foul swoop a pastor can choose to alienate an undesirable stranger in his congregation with these words. In a 'mighty' prayer a small group leader will lift himself over all of the other group members and leave them feeling in awe of him and insecure in their own prayer. Now, the danger in approaching the use of this ancient and outdated verbal embellishment, this carelessly wielded weapon, is that we are now approaching the wall of formality that separates so many of us from having to look God in the eye. And I can tell you from personal experience, people don't like you touching that wall.
And now for the disclaimer; this is not about biblical translations. The King James Version of the Bible, the version most associated for it's 'Old English' format, is beautiful and no lesser the Truth of God because of it's language. But why are you using these foreign words to preach? Why are you using them in personal prayer?
A truth behind this practice brings us back to the wall. This tradition reinforces the exclusive circle of believers that keep their backs to the world and their eyes on themselves. And sadly when they address God in prayer, they believe they are kneeling at his feet when He is standing a mile away waiting for their humble approach. Tradition. It has gotten in the way here but it doesn't have to persist.
Each individual Christian is responsible for their own relationship with God. Each individual needs to approach Him. Each individual needs to acknowledge that they are not good enough to be there. That's okay though because we already have Jesus opening the door for us. We've been invited in and whether or not you speak to God informally or formally you may be misleading yourself in how sincerely you are seeking His guidance.
Now, here's an exercise for you; find a comfortable spot alone, prepare yourself for prayer and recognize your own formality walls for what they are. A common practice Psychologists use to read body language is to interpret the folding of the arms in front of the chest as a defensive position. How many defenses have you put between yourself and God? Do you insist on closing your eyes and folding your hands? Perhaps kneeling? These aren't bad practices but if they have kept you believing for a second that God doesn't see you for who you really are, they are getting in the way of the relationship you could be having with Him. It's not disrespect to approach a God who made a personal sacrifice just so you were able to approach Him in the first place. And, he will use you where you are but He can use you even more if you allow Him to look you in the eyes. He's the one you can trust with the truth of who you are because 1) He already knows it and 2) He's the only one who can do anything about it. So don't waste another minute pretending there are areas of your life that are only yours. When you approach God in prayer don't pretend you're allowing yourself to be vulnerable when you are standing on the other side of your wall to speak to Him. Let Him approach the real and naked soul of who you are. No tie required.