Por favor is the phrase in Spanish. S’il vous plait is the French version. In English, it’s down to a single word: please.
I was recently on a cruise and was sitting at a table with a number of people from different areas of the US as well as the UK. I noticed when the woman from the UK provided her selections to the waiter, she began with, “May I please have…” “How very polite,” I thought. As we chatted through dinner, she mentioned observing that Americans are quick to say thank you, but do not say please. I thought about this, and realized that in many circumstances, I don’t! I think the times that I do say it, is when I’m offered something, and I accept with, “Yes, please.” But if I don’t want it, then it is “No, thank you.” As children, when we ask for something, we are often prompted to say please in order to obtain it, yet as adults, we don’t seem to include it when we do ask or, in this case, place an order with the wait staff.
We know we’re supposed to use that word, but what does it really mean? A look into the dictionary makes the intangible term seem even more vague. Even investigating the etymology of the word suggests it comes from the Greek for flat surface! Digging a bit deeper into the English roots, I found it could also derive from the Latin placare, from which we derive the word placate. This points to soothing and appeasing. Now the flat surface reference may make sense, as one is looking to be smooth when making a request. Looking at translations from other languages, the literal Spanish translation is by favor; the French, if you please. Both of these phrases indicate the request made is not a demand or requirement, but rather a humble submission that the requestor turns over to another’s power to fulfill.
We are encouraged to pray with confidence; God hears our prayers and answers them. He wants us to come as we are: warts, wild emotions, and all. But do we say please? Do we ask God, if it pleases Him to answer our prayers in a particular way? Do we ask by His favor to bless us? God wants to give us all good things, yet sometimes what we ask for is not in our best interest or it is not the time for us to receive it. Do we respond to Him with more of the same demand, perhaps a bit louder, as if He didn’t hear us? Or do we ask God what pleases His will in the petition we offer to Him and praise Him for whatever way He answers?
Lent is the perfect time to ponder and to pray with the word please. Rather than asking for a specific solution, let us ask the Lord for the pleasure of His assistance in our needs. We just may be amazed at His creative solutions that we would never dream to ask of Him.