Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Am I the Only One Who Is Bothered by National Day of Prayer?

After a series of self-serving Facebook rants, I'm back for an encore performance (I seem to be in full rant mode lately): Am I the only one who has trouble with this National Day of Prayer thing? It's a big deal here in Karnes County Texas, where we borrow a high school ball field and pray 'em up good. And everyone walks away feeling, oh, so wonderful, and aren't we fine Christian citizens of the standard bearing Christian nation, and then they go back to their back-stabbing, gossipy, immigrant hating, blame the poor for their poverty ways without a moments pause. I refused to participate last year, and I caught hell; had my patriotism questioned, had my faith questioned, had my manhood questioned. This year I'm on the fence, should I just go along to get along, be there to represent St Paul's, even though my heart isn't in it.

Now don't get me wrong. I pray for our elected leaders all of the time. I pray for them whether I agree with their politics or their decisions or not. I pray for them whether I care for their personality or not. I pray for them regardless of their race, religious or sexual orientation. I pray that they put the interests of the poor ahead of their own. I pray that they seek justice, truth, freedom, and peace for all of our citizens including those who may happen to be undocumented. I pray that they may be examples of cooperation for their constituents to follow. I pray as I believe I am called to pray. And I resent any implications or insinuations that my patriotism is suspect, because I question the wisdom and the necessity of a showy, contrived, feel-good, star spangled co-optation of a practice I hold very precious and dear (I opposed school prayer for some of the same reasons).

I also pray regularly for our military. Especially after watching a lecture on the role of the ancient Roman military in spreading Roman culture. It dawned on me that our military personnel are the only Americans some folks will ever meet; they are our ambassadors. And so I pray that they may serve with honor and justice and dignity. Lord knows the horrors they endure on our behalf. I pray, as btw do most military personnel that I've encountered, for the day when swords can be beat into plowshares and each person can live at peace under their own fig tree (or in this corner of Creation, pecan tree). I pray they may return safely to their families whole and at peace. I resent being told I do not fully support our troops because I question the wisdom and the necessity of a showy, contrived, feel-good, star spangled co-optation of a practice I hold very precious and dear (I opposed school prayer for some of the same reasons).

So I am in a quandary: do I stick to my principles or do I suck it up and be a good, little pastor and take one for the team? So many decisions, so little time. I am the Unlikely Pastor. Welcome to my world.


  1. Hopefully everyone is praying for these things everyday. I guess they hope to catch the un-prayerful during the world day of prayer.

  2. Amen to everything! Well said. I skipped a similar event a couple of years ago because I didn't want to be asking God under my breath not to listen to some of the paternalistic, pro-war, homophobic prayers that were coming out of the mouths of my much more conservative brothers and sisters in Christ.

  3. Granted this is a little late since the National Day of Prayer has already passed, but I felt it was still important to join in the discussion. Better late than never.

    I have to say that I don't completely agree with the sentiments stated above. It seems to me that the focus has shifted from prayer to the God in whom we believe to the differences we have with our fellow Christians. Do we pray with the universal body of Christ or only those with whom we agree theologically?

  4. @Erick Thanks for the comment. You are correct to a certain extent. I have a hared time participating in a public prayer service when I cannot in good conscience say Amen to the prayers that are being offered. I went ahead and participated this year and sure enough, one of my colleagues, who is a fine man and a good pastor to his people, went off on a "prayer rant" about homosexuals and how they are ruining American society and families. IMHO, totally inappropriate in a public prayer service, whether you philosophically agree or not. To me, he was preaching and sermonizing, not praying. Then there is the whole question of whether at such a service we are truly praying to the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, or to the gods of American Civil Religion. That my friend is a whole other rant. Thanks for furthering the conversation. Peace.