Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Controversial: the prayer and the pray-er

(For my take on the origins of this controversy read my earlier post.)

(Sorry for the commercials that come with the video!)

Did you watch Rick Warren's invocational prayer at the inauguration today? I did.

No surprises. Rick spoke to God (that's what prayer is) about such things as:
1. His sovereignty and being the source of all we have;
2. History being "His-story";
3. His unity, mercy and compassion;
4. Being grateful for our country;
5. Giving President Obama wisdom, humility, courage, compassion, generosity and integrity;
6. Protection and blessing upon the president's family and all in government;
7. Our commitment as a nation to freedom and justice for all;
8. Forgiveness for our shortcomings and failures;
9. Our ultimate accountability before God;

Gee. Are those controversial or what? Yet some are finding fault with those sentiments.

Even more, he is being criticized for invoking the name of Jesus in his prayer - even going so far as to recite "The Lord's Prayer". (I found that interesting and inclusive, since Rick is a Baptist* and Baptists rarely if ever recite that prayer in corporate worship).

The thinking goes like this: "How dare he exclude some who don't recognized Jesus by praying in His name? Isn't this a thumb of the nose at the separation of church and state?

First, Rick Warren is a Christian. Jesus is his God. He was asked to pray. Who is he supposed to pray to or through if not his God? To quote him, "I'm a Christian pastor so I will pray the only kind of prayer I know how to pray." Why is that so hard to understand or accept? Anything else would be forced or hypocritical.

Second, when government decides it can dictate how anyone can pray, even in public government functions it has violated at least two constitutional rights of every American: the right of freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. Church/state "separation" (not a Constitutional concept, by the way) protects the church from intrusion and control by the state.

Read our Founding Fathers who wrote the document. They talked often and much about God and Christ (they knew no other god) in their writings. If they heard how current culture has distorted their understanding of God and Country, they would start another revolution!

Good prayer, Rick. Thanks for not bowing to the gods of political correctness. May God answer that prayer!

*By the way, on a historical note...It was because of colonial Virginia Baptists, who were persecuted by the government sanctioned Church of England, that religious freedom is part of our rights as Americans. They lobbied fellow Virginian and framer of the Constitution, James Madison, to include the freedom to worship as we please in the Bill of Rights.


Adam & Melissa Hoffman said...

I was also impressed by the names of Jesus he used at the end. He said names often used in the Christian circles, but also contextualized versions in Judiasm, "Jeshua" and Islam, "Isa." He was being inclusive (culturally to all) and exclusive (holding to claims that Jesus is the one and only).

CFHusband said...

so far, I've seen criticisms of Rick's prayer:

1) that he violated the separation of church and state (those people don't know what they're talking about, thanks for explaining it).

2) that he did not include other faiths in his prayer (this was a comment, amazingly enough, from a Christian, and again, you addressed that)

3) that he specifically said ""Jesus changed MY life" in stead of... (ummm?)

I think the most admirable thing about RW is that he's not scared (at least, not so scared that he backs down) of taking the criticisms that come from all sides. He's not perfect, but he's a man who believes what he believes and isn't ashamed of it. I'm glad to know that his God is real that He heard his prayer today and will answer it (the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective).

BTW, I'm highly intrigued by the fact that so many Obama supporters are so mad about his choice of RW...thus it begins...

marcia said...

Obviously, Rick W's words were very carefully chosen and well thought out. What struck me most, as I was wondering how he would end the prayer, were the words that Nate mentioned, "In the Name of the One who changed MY life..." As he had promised before, as you said Rick, he was telling the world that he could only pray from his perspective. He wasn't going to try to claim that everyone believes what he does, but he sure was going to let people know what works for him.....and just might work for them, too, if they give it a shot! Very, very well done IMHO!

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I thought his prayer was superb; however, I was disappointed that there were not representatives of other faiths as well. I wouldn't want instead of, I'd want as well as! In this country, they would have been invited to be present, and to be seen to be present, if not to actually participate (and probably representatives of several Christian denominations would have offered prayers, and all would have been invited to join in the Lord's prayer).

Rick said...

For Annabel (and any others) who would prefer more diversity...

All day long there were events that included prayers. After the inauguration there was a lunch at which the Chaplain of the Senate prayed a very generic prayer.

Before the inauguration there was a prayer service at St. John's Church. At that service the Episcopal openly gay bishop prayed and T.D. Jakes spoke.

This morning there is a prayer service at National Cathedral. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (female clergy)will offer the closing prayerThe Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, general minister and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) . The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., senior pastor emeritus at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, will provide the opening prayer, followed by a prayer for civil leaders delivered by the Rev. Andy Stanley, senior pastor, North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia.

Scripture readings will be provided by Dr. Cynthia Hale, senior pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Atlanta, Georgia as well as Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, New York City, and the Most Rev. Francisco Gonzalez, S.F., auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Washington. Rabbi David Saperstein, executive director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington, D.C., has been asked to read the psalm.

Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president, Islamic Society of North America, Hartford, Connecticut;
The Rev. Suzan Johnson-Cook, senior pastor, Bronx Christian Fellowship, New York City
Rabbi Jerome Epstein, director, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York City
The Rev. Carol Wade, canon precentor of the Washington National Cathedral;
Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president, Hindu Temple Society of North America, New York City;
The Rev. Jim Wallis, president, Sojourners, Washington, D.C.;
Rabbi Haskal Lookstein, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurunm, New York City;
Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor, Windsor Village United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas
Roman Catholic Diocese of Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl will help conclude the service with a prayer for the nation, followed by Jefferts Schori's closing prayer and a benediction by the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America.

Sounds to me like no one is being excluded! (Of course, the one group that may be will raise it as a snub.)

Rick said...

No Mormons in that group. Gee, I wonder why not?

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

Ok... since you're a pastor I'm gonna ask you this...

Why do pastors write their prayers out. Is there a fear that God isn't gonna understand them or know what they're saying?

What is the purpose of a prayer like that? Is it to communicate with God? Is it to sway the masses? (I can't keep that question from sounding tounge-in-cheek and I don't mean it that way)

Just curious about your thoughts.

Patty said...

I was really interested in listening to the prayer, and found it to be very well done, and fairly inclusive with names and what not. I didn't have one particular part stick out for me, like I did with Rev. Jessup's, but that may have been because I was still trying to quiet down my class. ;)

Rick said...

I can't tell you why other pastors write out their prayers.

Most of the time my public prayers are not written. But on occasion, especially when I'm in a situation like a ceremony and there are some things I want to say clearly or something I don't want to forget, I'll write them out.

It's for similar reasons I write out notes for my sermons. I'm not good enough to shoot from the hip and say what needs saying. It takes some thought and preparation. Sometimes prayer is the same.

Yes, prayer is talking to God, not to the crowd. But you can't pretend like they're not listening, and because they are, your words to God could have impact on them.

That a prayer is written out in advance doesn't diminish it being a prayer. If it comes from the heart of the one praying and is directed to God, expecting and hoping that He hears and answers is what matters.

CFHusband said...

@Hot Tub Lizzy

I'm certainly not comparing myself to RW, nor am I a pastor, but this might help to answer your question...

At my HS graduation, I volunteered to pray during the ceremony. The only real stipulation was that I write it out. I doubt that RW had to give a copy of his prayer to those who were running the inauguration (although it wouldn't surprise me) as I did to the school administration.

I was a little embarrassed to be praying with my eyes open, reading what I had written, but in the end, I was thankful, because it probably kept me from saying something stupid (like preaching to the people instead of talking with God) or fumbling over my words.

One more thought. When we sing "worship" songs to God in church (which I consider prayer set to music), we usually do so by reading out of a hymnal or from a projector screen. Reading the words that we're singing doesn't make them any more difficult for God to hear or for us to mean them from our hearts.

Jeremy Keegan said...

Rick, I come and go from reading your blog, but when I'm here, I always enjoy the perspective you bring based on the Christian worldview. I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!