May 8, 2009

National Day of Prayer

Was yesterday, I believe. Not that I have anything against prayer (though I am not sure I understand it), but I have always found these public days and public displays off-putting. Evidently, Colbert understands and has a wonderful critique of the day.
"By closing the door on his prayers, Obama is letting us down almost as much as Jesus did, when he said in the Gospel of Matthew: 'Whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door.'"

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Monk-in-Training said...

It appears to me that most "right wing cable and radio host" are not very good expositors of the Gosple

steves said...

Maybe Tony could weigh in on this. I made the same argument as Colbert when I was debating someone on school prayer and was countered by other passages that were contrary.

I tend not to be very public in my prayer, but it seemed kind of odd that Obama would avoid this event. I know that he is very busy, but there is always some kind of fallout when a President avoids any kind of group or event. I don't know if it was a great idea.

Streak said...

Monk, I believe you are right. Of course most people on cable and talk radio--whoever we are talking about, don't demonstrate a very deep understanding of any of these issues.

I have always been nervous about public prayers, and usually recall Bill Moyers' story about LBJ asking him to lead a prayer in a meeting, and then telling him to speak up. "I wasn't talking to you," Moyers responded, capturing the problem of public prayers in my mind. Those used at the most recent inauguration come to mind as prayers not really intended for God, but for the broader audience--and reviewed just as other speeches were.

What is more troubling (and I just got into it on facebook with an old, old friend) is that Bush was more than happy to turn prayer into a photo op. He did it every year, and every conservative blog had pictures of him praying rather devoutly. Or at least looking like it. Meanwhile he authorized torture.

I would prefer that my Presidents do their job.

steves said...

Streak, I agree with your point. It does seem that some public "prayers" like the attention and make it into a spectacle and that is what Jesus is referring to in Matthew. It also seems to be an example of form over substance, much like the flag lapel pin.

leighton said...

Most everywhere I've lived, National Day of Prayer events are Non-Christians Not Welcome Day events, so I tend to stay away from them. I'm pretty happy that Obama skipped out; he seems to be pretty smart about not participating in public sectarian activities. I wish all government representatives were so fair.

Monk-in-Training said...

Did Ronald Reagan have public events for this? I don't think so

Tony said...

Hey guys,

Sorry I have missed this conversation. Public prayer amongst evangelicals and particularly Baptists is quite an interesting topic.

There typically is not a gathering I go to that public prayer is not part of it in some way. The way a person prays in public reveals a lot about their Christian character in my opinion. I could tell you a lot of stories about public prayer, but I won't clog the comment stream.

Whether Obama participated in the Nat'l Day of Prayer is irrelevant, at least to me. I think the right's brokers are being really nit-picky and they want some kind of barometer that they can gauge Obama's Christianity; a "failure" to pray in public reveals much to them.

I once heard a pastor say that if a man doesn't pray in public he does not pray in private, either. I responded with Matthew 6:6, to which he stammered that public prayer is different. Different how? I never got an answer.

I see the issue almost like the argument that when school prayer was abolished, that test scores went down. How are the two related? How do you acquire that empirical evidence?(Kind of like those hospitals who have sanctioned different wards for "patients over whom we have prayed" and "patients we haven't".)

Lest I confuse anyone, do I care that our president prays? Absolutely. I hope he is a praying man. And I hope the eloquence with which he carries himself before America and the world comports also to the prayer closet before God.