Ok, let’s close with Prayer. I know that’s a common saying in church and bible studies, and sometimes in other more public, settings, but I mean it in a different way. I mean it in the sense of a – it’s time to wrap up this series and b. I need to address public prayer before closing. Because really, this bugs me. Imagine laying in bed at night. You’re nice and comfortable, with the perfect temperature outside the covers and the perfect temperature inside the covers, and you’re just drifting off. But it’s one of those sloooow drifts, where you can feel yourself falling asleep and you’re enjoying the resignation and relaxation as you go. But then you hear the buzz of a mosquito and it snaps your brain back awake. You look around and can’t find anything, and now you hear nothing either, so you relax again, just enough that it lands on your left earlobe. Now you’re awake and slapping your own face as you hear it buzz to the other side of the bed. That’s how much the public prayer issue bugs me. If you’re interested, here’s why:
The most basic, elementary definition of prayer I’ve ever learned is “communication with God.” My dad always stressed that it involved listening as well as talking. I know a lot of religious folks who would subscribe to this definition but add that He does most of His speaking these days through the Bible, perhaps suggesting less importance on the listening part of prayer, as His communication outside of scripture is rare. I accept the Bible as communication from Him, but I believe He speaks readily and frequently still, to those who listen. Regardless, prayer is communication with God.
But public prayer. That’s the issue. Because we in the U.S. don’t have any problems with or restrictions on private prayer, just between God and an individual – it’s prayer in public settings that raises the debate. No U.S. law has ever outlawed a private prayer and I dare say it would hardly be enforceable, as private prayer can be done in silence while someone is doing other things. I’ve heard so many times, people say the nation has gone downhill since prayer was taken out of the schools. I say show me a school where prayer isn’t happening and I’ll show you a school where no one is trying to pray, because prayer cannot be stopped anymore than thought can be censored. So the U.S. government did not take prayer out of the school, it took forced, public prayer out of the school. And forced, public prayer would hardly be valuable anyway.
If the Bible is our guide, our scripture, our bible, let’s look at what it says about the public prayer for which we so zealously fight.
Matthew 6:5 – “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
That was Jesus, addressing His followers during the Sermon on the Mount. In light of this directive from Him, it seems odd that modern Christians would fight so hard for the right to pray among those who don’t care to. Surely we aren’t placing more emphasis on our individual unalienable rights under the Constitution than we are the clear directions of God Himself. Certainly not. I am certainly familiar with the free exercise clause of the first amendment, and I hold it in extremely high regard, but I cannot find the place in God’s Word where He encourages me to pray aloud among non-believers. And I most definitely cannot find the scripture that directs me to require non-believers to stop and respect or listen to my prayers. In fact, it reminds me more of the Babylonians of Daniel 6 than it does Jehovah, or Christ –
7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.
It seems to me that while my God does not force Himself on people, but cherishes free will, the false gods and evil rulers of history (and their followers) are the ones who have demanded prayer and worship regardless of the will of the worshiper.
But for whatever reason, some people want to force it. I don’t know anyone I would call dogs or swine, but what do you think Christ meant when He said:
6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
As I pointed out in “He forced Himself,” Christ was most zealous in protecting what was holy, sacred. This is how I see Prayer. Because it is sacred, I don’t want to cast it to those who don’t want to be included in it. Not because I consider them lesser than me, but because we disagree on the value of it. I won’t let a reckless person or non-rider ride my motorcycle either. (weak example, I know)
So I don’t really get forcing prayer in public. I can’t find a reason for it. But Christians have been doing it in the U.S. for a couple of centuries. I’ll get to that tomorrow, to examine how that is going for us. For now, I hope there’s no mosquitoes at my bed.