What’s in a Prayer?

I’ve read countless articles this week “critiquing” the public prayers that have been given on behalf of our new president, Barack Obama.

Rick Warren, Joseph Lowery, and Andy Stanley were among the Christian leaders who were on the public stage this week. And whatever they said, the media dissected and analyzed.

There was the controversy about praying in Jesus’ name, even among Christians. There was the controversy about what should and shouldn’t have been said. And, there were even sound bites (“brown will stick around”, “mellow will be yellow”).

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t know the difference between an invocation or benediction (or why we use those words), but I couldn’t help thinking about what Jesus taught about prayer (read Matthew 6:5-9).

Jesus speaks of those who stand on “street corners to be seen by men” and tells us to go into our prayer closet. Public prayer can be a good thing and it is not my place to question the motives of those who lead very public prayers in conjunction with the inauguration of a new president. But, when the words these men speak are scrutinized in detail by the media, I cannot help but feel that prayer has been cheapened. Thankfully, we have the assurance that our God is able to discern between real, heartfelt prayer and the noise.

After I post this, I am going to spend some time in Matthew 6 and question my own motives. Then I am going to pray for our new president and stop being concerned about how others are praying for him and the words they are using.

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