I have seen English native speakers say prayers like this:

  1. God, we ask that you would heal those being affected by the coronavirus.

The form you use is: we ask that you would do something.

So I wonder what the use of "would" in that context is. Is it being used to make a polite request on something that you would like to happen? Besides I wonder why you don't say it like this:

  1. God, we ask you to heal those being affected by the coronavirus.

This form is: we ask you to do something.

1 Answer 1


The "would" makes the clause a conditional, and in prayer, has the implied effect of

... you would heal the sick, (if you choose to.)

Probably because it is somehow felt to be inappropriate to make direct requests of god, or (as likely) people have heard other people praying that way and are copying the style.

The direct request asks for someone to do something that they weren't going to do anyway. It asks for god to change their mind. But since god is "perfect" if you ask god to change their mind, you are praying for imperfection.

  • I'm sure there are also many forms of prayer that do make direct requests of God., Apr 18, 2020 at 8:42
  • Or indeed use imperatives: "Give us, this day, our daily bread, and don't lead us to sin"
    – James K
    Apr 18, 2020 at 8:49

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