Prayer, The President, and Petty Bickering

I have been reading lots of comments on the changes that President Obama has made regarding this years National Day of Prayer. I have to tell you I am just a bit bewildered that people are getting flat out nasty over something that is intended to be an intimate, worshipful, and uplifting conversation with God. All I can conclude is that most people have no idea what prayer is really about, no idea what government is really about, no idea what being a Christian is really all about, and well, no idea about history either.

Let’s start with the history since a big part of the issue seems to be that the President is not hosting a public event as part of the National Day of Prayer. Instead he is simply signing a proclamation about the day and then praying with his family. That is essentially what ever other president did before him with the exception of President Bush the Younger. Harry Truman signed the first proclamation for the National Day of Prayer but held no special event for it. Even the outspokenly Born Again Jimmy Carter did it that way. For the eight years of the most recent past president there was a White House hosted event of some kind. So why are people vilifying this president for doing exactly what was done by every other president, with the single noted exception? Now don’t get the wrong idea, the guy I voted for is not in the White House. He is back in the Senate representing Arizona. I am not an apologist for President Obama. What I hope I am is someone who is looking at this thing with some wisdom and objectivity. Historically speaking only one president consistently held a prayer event on this day. That hardly sets a pattern that should never be challenged and to go back to the original method for honoring the day is hardly giving in to the Anti-Christ.

As to the question of the role of government followers of Jesus need to be extremely careful. For far too long we have relied on the power and influence of the government to be the salt and light for the faith that we as Christians to often fail to be. If we were doing our job of praying and fasting and exercising the various spiritual disciplines as we should, then there would be no need to rely on the government to model that behavior for us. Besides, to we also expect the government to model spiritual behavior that is important to non-Christian religions? Should not the government of, by, and for, all the people, also then recognize Ramadan the Muslim month of fasting or the Hindu Festival of Lights? Personally I would rather the government no be involved and see if Christians might not start to live the provocative lives we are called to instead of counting on the weight of government to make up for our lack of spiritual dedication.

That then gets to what it means to be a Christian and what prayer is all about. The kinds of angry comments I have read on the web that are directed at the President for not holding a prayer breakfast at the White House serve only to dishonor the name of Jesus and the practice of prayer. How in the world can we be calling on the President to hold a prayer breakfast and do it with the same tongue that vilifies him for not doing so. How can we ourselves go to God in prayer when there is such bitterness in our hearts? The answer is simply that we can’t. We might go through the motions of prayer but I suspect that God is not listening. Why? Because we can not say that we love God whom we have never seen and not love our neighbor who we have. Because we can not bring our offering to God, be it material or spiritual, if we have something against our brother. Jesus said that we should instead leave our offering at the altar and go get right with our brother, then come back and have time with God.

Frankly I think that instead of all the anger and dismay being expressed on the Internet, we would be more in line with what God wants from us if we prayed for the President. We should pray that in his time of prayer that He hears from God. We should pray that God gives him wisdom and strength. We should pray that God helps him to be a man who upholds justice for all people. For God is a God of justice. That is what Christ followers should be concerned about on the the National Day of Prayer.

13 thoughts on “Prayer, The President, and Petty Bickering

  1. Jeff Crandall

    I think the pettiness is because Obama’s actions, simply underscore our core beliefs about him. He is not a man that seems to be of Christ, yet he is our leader. Today his actions simply acted as a validation that he is less then honorable. You boil a lobster SLOWLY. Something that Cheif Barry understands all to well.

  2. Great post! While I may not like or agree with some decisions being made by current or past Presidents, scripture is clear about my mood toward them. I think we are suppose to spend more time on our face before the Throne than criticizing those different from ourselves.

    That said, might I suggest picking up Darrell Johnson’s book, Discipleship on the Edge: An Expository Journey Through the Book of Revelation? Regardless of your theology of end times, this is a compelling study of the ‘here-and-nowness’ of Revelation. In chapters 18-19 he discusses Rev. 13 suggesting the beast from the sea represents political power and the beast from the earth represents religious power. These two chapters alone have compelled me to re-consider how I think and talk about government and the role of the church in relation to it. Well worth consideration!

    One last thought, Prov. 21:1   The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. I suspect our real problem over Obama’s decisions and actions comes down to an argument with the way God chooses to tell His own story.

  3. As I was listening to Dr Dobson bemoan Obama’s lack of interest in the NDOP and talk about how many people/media were at the event, all I could think of this: “”But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). It seems that prayer has joined the list of Christian practices and beliefs bastardized for political purposes–anything but “an intimate, worshipful, and uplifting conversation with God” these days. Thanks, Dan.

  4. Dan Lacich

    Absolutely agree with you! Thanks for the thought and I look forward to hearing more from you.

  5. Dan Lacich

    My brain works better after a cup of Storyville. Must have been the result of the coffeehouse and good brew last night. Thanks for arranging that. I continue to be inspired by Chad, Ryan and the whole Storyville team. It is just incredible that they are giving away their entire income for May to IJM, plus doing these free concerts to promote the whole thing. Now that is provocative!

  6. Obama is a threat to the Christian machine and other religious leaders because he is publicly demonstrating that a person can be a Christian without playing by their rules. The response, of course, is outrage, because outrage is what Dobson et. al, have done for a long time. Very rarely is the loudest voice the Christ-like one.

    Prayer in America is not threatened. If anything, non-participation in the NDP is a good thing for us, spiritually speaking (see Matthew 6). On this issue, I believe Obama is right on.

  7. Agree with your post. We don’t need all the outward appearances of being a people that pray if in the depths of our hearts we cannot say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” but have the attitude that we are better than others.

  8. Carol

    Dan, this is a great post. My husband participates in another blog and was hearing all of the bad things about Obama’s decision during the NDP. Right after the election we were getting all sorts of “forwards” from some Christian friends regarding Obama and his family that were downright un-Christian. We don’t listen to Dobson, Limbaugh, or FoxNews any longer because to me they do nothing but stir up trouble. We have enough of that. I say pray for the President and our nation…………….and enough of the griping. He said there would be change—and there is.

  9. jodajo

    Yeah, you are so right on Christians relying on government to much for their faith. Christian faith has survived for thousands of years precisely because it has been a faith that has its traditions directly outside of government, in basements, caves and other secret places. It thrives when it directs culture from the ground level. Governments change with the minds and hearts of the people; but, Christianity changes the hearts and minds of people. Christians are bringing their faith into the realm of decay when they try legislate faith. Christian traditions should be a tight core contained in it self, so it can continue to influence the masses, and from there change the world. Its the way Jesus did it, it is the way the early church did, and it is the way that changed the world. I’m no Christian, but, I got to tell you, the church is wasting away a spectacular potential for great good. If there is a satan, he is laughing at Christians for running down so many rabbit trails, away from the real battle fields.

  10. I hear what you’re saying, but I also agree with what Jeff said. Politicians aren’t the hope of America, but America needs to follow a leader that looks to the real Hope.

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