Friday, November 23, 2007

Proper Prayers

While I was working to craft the Thanksgiving prayer I wrote about here, a squabble about proper Christian graces broke out on an Episcopal listserv to which I belong. One list member reported that some Thanksgiving graces had been published in her local newspaper. Of the three offered by Christian ministers, the one from the Episcopal priest was reportedly the only one that didn't even mention God. The list member was incensed and even asked whether Episcopalians are "ashamed of God."

That got me thinking about the prayer I offered with my friends on Thanksgiving night.

I did invoke God, but not necessarily as the first person of the trinity. The form of address I used could (I think and I hope) also have been invoked by a Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, or even a pagan. And I didn't pray "through Jesus Christ our Lord." Those decisions were conscious. And I believe I have scriptural basis for those decisions. St. Paul wrote (1 Cor. 9:20-23):
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
To every thing there is a season. Sometimes we may pray in public, and sometimes we are counselled to pray in our closets. Sometimes we may proclaim the fullness of our faith in Christ, and sometimes we may speak a part of that faith. For the sake of my friends, I prayed out of a part – albeit a deep part – of my faith. I don't think Jesus is going to go whining to the Father that he got dissed. (See MadPriest's editorial cartoon on that latter point.)

When we are asked to pray in public – outside our Christian houses of worship – what's so wrong with casting the net as wide as possible? Should we not seek to focus on those things that draw us together? Or is that notion now passé, in an era and a country where litmus tests abound?

4 Comments:

Blogger Suzer said...

I think one definitely has to keep their audience in mind. I have a friend who is an atheist, and while I still talk about my being a Christian around her, I don't assume that she believes the same thing as I do or act as if she should. That would be offensive to her and completely turn her off. I tend to try and let my actions (loving my neighbor as myself, etc.) as a Christian speak for me more than any particular words I use in these situations.

I think a wide net is necessary to draw those in (as my friend) who have been so hurt by religion that they turn away from God. Rather than offend someone who is a non-believer, I'd rather draw them in with a commonality, and perhaps open a door that otherwise would remain shut.

11/24/2007 5:26 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Amen, Suzer.

11/24/2007 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon muses...

I attended a conference a couple of years ago which asked a couple of questions. One of those was, "Are so many in missions around the world being persecuted, or causing persecution for the local church, because of Christ or because they act insensitively and selfishly in different cultures and under anti-christian governments?" Wonderful food for thought.

11/26/2007 3:31 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

It is indeed, Jon. And humbling. Thanks for stopping by.

11/26/2007 6:54 PM  

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