In a recent message I stated that I couldn't, off the top of my head, think of anyone who had ever refused an offer of prayer. I know some think it is an exercise in futility, but when I ask, "Can I pray for you?" They say, "Yes." While people won't turn me down when I offer to pray, there are those who tell me I can't pray--or that I have to pray in such an anemic way that it amounts to not praying--at a governmental gathering.
The critics see it right, in one sense, at least. They specifically object to the mention of Jesus. Indeed, He is the one that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.
Yet, when a minister of Jesus Christ is asked to pray, how can he do other than to pray in Jesus name?
My little community is quite homogeneous. A while back a city council member searched for people of "other faiths" to offer invocations at the council meetings. His search yielded little if any fruit.
When I am asked to pray at such a gathering:
- I figure that I am being asked to appear as who I am. I pastor a Christian church. My book is the Bible, a book that tells about Jesus. I do not avoid mentioning Christ or Jesus in my prayer.
- I try to remember the words of Bill Moyers (at the time he was on President Johnson's staff) when Lyndon Johnson complained that he could not hear the prayer that Moyers was offering at the table: "I wasn't talking to you, sir."
- Yet I am aware that Jesus sometimes prayed knowing that those, other than His Father, needed to hear a particular truth. (John 11:41-42)
- I figure I ought to pray about issues relevant to what is going on. If there is a conflict going on, why should I ignore that in my praying? I don't pray that side X will win. I figure that God knows the correct side, so I pray that God will provide wisdom so that what is right can be done. I also pray for civility among the council members and the citizens gathered for the meeting.
- Some forms of prayer are clearly, in my humble opinion, out of line. The most notable example of this kind of praying is that I am aware of is a prayer offered some years ago at Bob Jones University, in which, if the report was correct, God was asked to strike a public official "hip and thigh." For you folk who are unfamiliar with the Old Testament--especially the King James variety--trust me. You don't want to be struck hip and thigh. It is often fatal. If I am asked to take part in a civil proceeding I need to act civilly.
You see, I believe in the true God. He is not threatened by one who wrongly prays in the name of a false god. I am confident that such a prayer does me no harm.
It makes me wonder what the problem of the ACLU-types really is.