Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Public Concerns over Inaugural Prayer

Many of my readers may already know that Barack Obama selected the relatively conservative California pastor, Rick Warren, who authored The Purpose Driven Life, to pray at his inauguration. And many, including myself were surprised to say the least. Rick Warren is committed to Christian understandings of the world and the Bible, including the inerrancy of Scripture ("Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error" - taken from Saddleback Church's Belief statement). These are things to which Barack Obama is not committed. Instead, this is part of his "reaching across the aisle."

It seems that Obama's choice is drawing a lot of criticism from liberals of many stripes, however. Without even hearing the prayer, gay rights activists are protesting the prayer because of Warren's public support of California's Proposition 8, which voters passed and effectively ended legalized same-sex marriages in that state. Atheists are also unhappy with the decision because they assume he will invoke the name of Jesus, something a liberal pastor would likely not do. Interestingly, a number of leaders from other faiths have indicated that calling upon the name of Jesus should be expected from Warren, and they have little problem with it. If they had been selected, they would have called upon the deities in which they believe.

At first, I was not thrilled that Rick Warren had been selected. I have nothing against Dr. Warren, but I wondered why he would publicly pray for Barack Obama - thinking of it as a support for Obama. As I thought about it, however, I realized what an opportunity it is for Evangelicals to show love, compassion, and commitment to our nation while remaining faithful to the Scriptures. We should pray for Barack Obama, his cabinet, the other branches of the federal government, our state governments, and the nation at large. We should pray to restrain sin, to bring in politicians who are committed to Scripture and godliness, for wisdom and guidance in decision-making, and to prevent the government from trampling the rights of its people.

I do believe Obama's choice was a good one, and I am sure that Rick Warren will do a good job of praying in the name of Jesus, according to Scripture. Colossians 3:17 - "whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Scripture teaches that prayers to God must come through Jesus.
John 14:6, 10-15 "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me . . . Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. 'If you love me, you will obey what I command.'"
Christians must pray in the name of Jesus, despite the cultural acceptance or non-acceptance around them. To do otherwise is to disobey our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Another passage I found to be rather appropriate for this time is Acts 3:15-21, Peter's speech to the leading men of Israel.
"You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you-- even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets."
Of course Barack Obama and other government leaders are not Jews, and the U.S.A. is not Israel, but it was not merely these Jews who killed Jesus, all men of every age did. We are all guilty and those who do not love and obey Jesus remain guilty of that grievous sin. Obama's only hope, mankind's only hope, is to rightly receive the Word of God and the witness of His saints, which are every true believer, and place their faith in Him whom they pierced (Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12:10). I, for one, am looking forward to what Rick Warren has to say on Inauguration Day.

1 comment:

blbartlett said...

Thanks Steven!

I very much appreciated this article. There is an amazing double standard in political discussions, where it is considered "intolerant" to follow the tenants of your faith when it comes to homosexual marriage, but it is "tolerant" to say a person shouldn't be allowed to pray publicly if they do that.

Let's hope Obama continues to show a desire to force the two sides to "play fair." Let's also hope gestures like these are more than token gestures to appease conservatives before getting down to business!

Again, very much appreciated your thoughtful and biblical perspective on this, it helped me think it through much more clearly.