Monday, January 19, 2009

Only One Type of Inaugural Prayer Is Appropriate and Urgently Needed Now!

Prayers at the Inauguration and related activities has stirred up intense controversy for weeks in part due to the persons chosen to participate and in part due to the possible content of those prayers when they are uttered.

Names such as Rick Warren and Gene Robinson have come to the forefront since the announcement was made that President-Elect Obama had chosen them to offer prayers during inauguration events. With the announcement came reactions of a varied kind, much of which was controversial.

Warren is considered an "evangelical" and the nature of his prayer and whether it would be prayed "in the Name of Jesus Christ" was part of the issue. Warren came under fire for his support of marriage being limited to male and female which was an issue in the November election in California -- same-sex supporters fired salvo after salvo on this issue.

Then came the choice of Bishop Gene Robinson to do a prayer during the Sunday outing at the Lincoln Memorial. Bishop Robinson of the Episcopal Church is a practicing homosexual and has had a "partner" for some time. Robinson was on record as saying that he did not want his public prayer on this occasion to be particularly "Christian" and that he would not be making references to the Bible.

But really, what these persons pray and say is not really important. It will likely involve some appeal for some kind of blessing in times to come. With all the tossing around of phrases such as "God bless you." and "God bless the United States of America." it is a distinct possibility that the favor of some divine something will be sought.

What is needed is a prayer which was prayed in the distant past and which goes straight to the heart of the issue as to our republic's greatest problems and how to correct them. It was originally prayed by the prophet Daniel a long time ago and doesn't need a bit of revision to fit our situation -- here it is as recorded in Daniel 9:3-19:

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day; to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You. O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such never has been done as what has been done to Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly! O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all who are around us. Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord's sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name."

As you probably realize, such a prayer would never be prayed on the occasion of an Inauguration nor will it be prayed in other places or other occasions in our republic.

The reasons are simple -- first, many would say it has no relevance to our time and place -- just forget it and treat it as though it doesn't even exist!

Second, the vast majority have no desire to pray unless we get into some crisis out of which we cannot extricate ourselves -- then maybe we'll call out for some assistance.

Third, that may be one of those passages in the Bible that really never happened to begin with and certainly doesn't have anything to do with us in the 21st Century.

Fourth, what have we done that is so wrong anyway? We're all pretty good people and God is a good God (if He should happen to exist) -- besides, we have to respect one another's views as to what is right and wrong -- we can't use an all inclusive term which implies that we are all sinners and we are all guilty!

So we will pray our prayers asking for blessings, special favors and whatever and then wonder later on down the road when God really begins to make His response to our entrenched ungodly ways as to why such calamities (read "judgments") are hitting our country!

And here and there among a very small minority the thought might arise, "Maybe that Daniel fellow really knew something significant after all!"

"The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. --- Jeremiah 18:7-10

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