How the Government Wants You to Pray

On May 23, 2007, I posted an article about the reaction to Pastor Keith Hamblen’s prayer before the Ohio House of Representatives. Although the rules are not currently being enforced, the attached article seems to indicate that some legislators are still angry about his prayer. Be that as it may, the whole outrage and proposed changes have caused me to think through the matter.

Think through this with me. What if the dissenters got their way? What would they achieve? They are asking that clergy prayer be non-sectarian, non-offensive, non-specific, and that a deity not be mentioned. In the case of Pastor Hamblen, they would rather that he not pray about the issues they would be facing that day and that he not pray in Jesus’ name.

Perhaps the dissenters have forgotten what prayer is. Prayer is not just some frilly speech made to make the hearers feel better about themselves. First, real prayer is communication with the Almighty God who created and rules the universe. Prayer should be a humble realization that without him, we can do nothing. But as our state motto says, With God all things are possible. Secondly, real prayer must be offered in Jesus’ name. As sinful human beings we have no right to come into his presence except for the righteousness we have obtained through the blood of Jesus (Rom. 5:1-2). Thirdly, real prayer should be specific. The non-specific prayers they are calling for may keep some sort of unity, but they will accomplish nothing specific. If there are specific needs, prayer is the way of gaining God’s wisdom. Without true prayer, our legislators will not have his help.

The basic outcome is that opening prayers will do nothing and mean nothing. If the wishes of the dissenters are made into law, real Christians will not take part in such foolishness. Sadly, there will be many, like Ahab’s prophets (1 Kings 22), who will be glad to comply.

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