Yesterday, I saw this video of a school board meeting that had a prayer meeting just before it – all was going smoothly until one guy decided to make a point by praying to each and every god known to humanity – except God. There were about a hundred and twenty people there who were standing and praying and singing hymns, shouting over each other trying to be heard. One woman held up a sign with a simple reference: Matthew 6:5-6. Not having memorized scripture, I decided to look it up –
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
As a Christian, I felt rather embarrassed by the Christians in the video and I cheered for the guy who obviously not a Christian. I got his point – if we’re going to have a prayer session for one god in a public space, then room must be made for prayer to all gods and goddesses in public spaces, if there’s not enough room for them all to be prayed to, then none of them ought to be prayed to in public spaces. It’s not like Christians don’t have hundreds of churches in which they can gather and exclusively pray to God in the privacy of church spaces – which usually double as holy ground.
‘Support the invocation‘ signs were held up by the Christians all over the room. For most of the service they were either praying or singing hymns, but at some point a few of them decided to call upon the power of Jesus’ name to rebuke what they perceived to be the spirit of evil out of the man who was not a Christian. From the first prayer to the first god, he was noticeably nervous – the papers with the prayers in his hands shook. He must have found it slightly intimidating to have these other guys shouting ‘In Jesus’ Name!’ over and over again at him. I know I would have.
I really wish that Christians had met in churches for prayer before the school board meeting, I really wish that they had read Jesus’ words on prayer from the Sermon on the Mount, I really wish that they were going to live as humble examples of Christ-likeness. But they chose to hold the prayer meeting on public property at a school board meeting. They chose to ignore the outcry of others and instead delighted in their perceived persecution. And they chose to give into pride. Would Jesus have praised them for boldly praying in public or scolded them for doing as the pharisees had done?
It’s been a long time since public prayer was a thing in schools. Most children don’t pray before they eat. They don’t invoke the name of God on their math tests or ask for an act of God to get out of turning in the homework they forgot to do. They don’t call upon His name to smite their bullies. They don’t pray that the home team will win and the visitors will lose or that the visitors will win and the home team will lose. I think there’s a whole generation out there who do not understand why when even adults don’t thank God at mealtimes for their food that they would need to invoke his name for every single decision in life.
If the issue is one of sovereignty, then we have to realize that no matter if we do or don’t pray, if we pray for something or if we pray against something, the sum of our prayers will not change an iota of God’s plans. God cannot be made to do anything that he didn’t want to do because of our fervent, sincere, and heart-felt prayers. If the issue is one of majesty, then we have to realize that to us, God’s name is the highest – the sum of all the prayers to all the other gods and goddesses doesn’t amount to very much and therefore is no threat to his majesty. Believers in God are not to call upon the names of other gods and goddesses, but unbelievers may call upon the names of as many gods and goddesses as they choose. Which brings us back to the issue of prayer – Christians, you aren’t following the instructions of Jesus Christ – the guy for whom your religion is named! Which is worse; to not pray to God at all or to pray to God in exactly the way Jesus told you not to?