Monday, 08 July 2013 14:18

Itís Not a Prayer, or Is It?

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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The issue of the use of prayer to open a legislative meeting will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.  The high court agreed to decide whether or not an upstate New York town is violating the Constitution with its prayers to open public meetings.  The justices will review an appeals court ruling that held that the town of Greece, a Rochester suburb, violated the constitutional prohibitions on government sanction of religion by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that trended Christian.


The WORLD website reported on an instance of a prayer that was used to open up the Arizona House of Representatives recently.  Rep. Juan Mendez told the lawmakers that he did not want them to bow their heads or close their eyes.  He said, “I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people of our state.”


Like it so far?  Unique. Not bad.  Rep. Mendez continued:  “This room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my Secular Humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.”


Uh-oh.   A secular humanist prayer to open a legislative body?  There’s a new twist.  He concluded by saying, “...let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Arizonans, regardless of religious belief or nonbelief.  In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better Arizona.”


Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin and Senate President Andy Biggs have filed a legal brief agreeing with the town of Greece’s position in the New York prayer case.  Tobin actually didn’t have a problem with the Mendez “prayer”.  But Rep. Steve Smith surely did.  He is quoted as saying, “When there’s a time set aside to pray and to pledge (as in the Pledge of Allegiance), if you are a non-believer, don’t ask for time to pray...If you don’t love this nation and want to pledge to it, don’t say I want to lead this body in the pledge, and stand up there and say, ‘you know what, instead of pledging, I love England’ and (sit) down.


“That’s not a pledge, and that wasn’t a prayer, it’s that simple,” Smith said.


Okay, this gets a little complex.   Having an atheist open up a legislative body really doesn’t fit the “prayer” mold, but it could have perhaps gotten Greece, NY or some of these cities that are having prayer legality issues off the hook.  No, Rep. Mendez didn’t pray, but I do think that Rep. Smith was probably a bit harsh in his retort.  After all, remember, we don’t want to turn off the same people we’re trying to win.


But, it wasn’t a prayer.


Maybe sometimes what we as believers in Christ call prayer really - isn’t.  Prayer is communication with Almighty God. It involves praise, petition, intercession, and confession of sin, among other things.  The Bible teaches that true, effective, fervent prayer, which avails much, is prayed by a righteous person.  Righteousness involves our position before God, our standing when we enter into His presence. We can only approach God’s throne through the shed blood of Jesus – He said no one comes to the Father except by Him.  


So, if you feel like your prayers are not effective, check your heart.  Do you know Jesus?  Are you in right relationship with Him?  Have you confessed sins of omission or commission?  Are you asking selfishly?   For our prayers to be heard and answered, we have to be in the right condition in our relationship with God. And, we need to have the right content.  1st John 5 gives us clues about that:



Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (NKJV)



We can be in the will of God – possessing the right heart condition.  And, we can know His will, so that the content of our prayers is aligned with it.  Prayers can end up being mindless repetition or some kind of formulaic approach.  God wants our hearts, and He desires that we communicate with Him from the heart.




Last modified on Monday, 08 July 2013 14:27
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