Monday, May 5, 2014

Prayer in School

There is going to be a lot of talk about prayer in school and prayer in public forums after today’s US Supreme Court decision which held that public prayer before government meetings is not unconstitutional.

I believe in prayer because I believe in Jesus. He taught us to pray and he prayed often. Jesus prayed earnestly. He prayed in his toughest moments. We should too.

I also want everyone to know what I know about God. I want them to know that God loves sinners. That God is about mercy and grace and not about condemnation. That God doesn’t want to change your behavior, he wants to change your heart. God is not all about rules. He kept it very simple. Love God, Love others. Those are not a lot of rules. They are, however, two rules that are impossible to keep without his help. He knows we will fail at both and loves us anyway. Love God and Love others. I love how easy his yoke is for I am weary and heavy laden. I know you are too.

However, there are a lot of Christians who add a lot of rules and a lot of heresy to what I just described as my beliefs. They add things that are not in the Bible. They take away things that are. Many say they believe that we are saved by faith alone but actually add more to it in practice. Many believe the Joel Osteen philosophy that a strong faith can build good old American wealth. Many believe that God will save you through faith but you have to work your butt off to keep in his good graces after that. One misstep and you are out. I think some of that is blasphemy. I think it is wrong. You can disagree. I don’t mind. I love you anyway.

Here is the problem with prayer in school and prayer at city council meetings and prayer in courts. Whose prayer will we use? You see, I don’t trust some of my child’s teachers. You shouldn’t either. I trust them to teach him math and science. I just don’t trust them to teach him about God. I may not know a teacher well enough to trust him or her or I may know the teacher too well to trust them. It is probably not that they are bad persons. It is just that they may not believe what I do.

Young kids are impressionable. Suppose your child’s third grade teachers prays: “Dear God, please let these little children know that you will love them if that do X, Y and Z.” That is wrong and I don’t want kids thinking that God only loves them if they do something to earn it. What if the prayer is: “Dear God, have these kids know that if they work very hard and do your will that they can then be saved.” That is wrong in my book. We don’t add a single thing to salvation except our sin and the need for a savior. What if the prayer is: “Dear God, help these kids to know that if they use alcohol they will go to hell?” You think I am kidding. But I am not. I have heard these and far worse come out of the mouths of Christians.

Kids are impressionable. What they hear from a teacher will matter.

Jesus also taught about how, when and where to pray. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6) He also warned in Luke 18: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus knew that there would be those who used prayer in the wrong way and at the wrong time. I agree with him.

I think this applies to our elected officials at governmental meetings as well. None of us trust politicians anymore. From both sides of the political spectrum, we are misled and misinformed. I can’t even imagine a worse group to decide who, what or when to pray. When lawmakers on both sides use public forums to grandstand and politicize almost every issue, do we really want them in charge of prayer? Do we really think politicians leading or picking prayers or those who lead them is a good idea? Is it a good idea when the Democrats control the prayer and the Republicans do not? Is it a good idea when the opposite party is in control? I don’t think so.

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