This news article ran yesterday in the Washington Post. It seems the ACLU was threatening to sue to halt prayer the daily practice of prayer to begin each day’s session.
I have several thoughts on this.
First, if you read the comments section of this article, many of those who appear to support prayer (which one would presume mean they claim to be Christian) certainly don’t help the cause by making comments declaring God’s judgment on the state, it’s government, or its citizens. Last time I checked, God was pretty clear that judging was his responsibility, not ours, and that those who falsely proclaimed his judgment (in other words, say “Thus saith the LORD” without clearly hearing Him direct them to say it) are not looked on favorably.
Second, Although I’m a ferocious advocate of prayer in ALL situations, I’m not certain that prayer sanctioned by the government is what God desires, or is even very effective. The article stated that they were already prohibited from prayers that mention a specific deity. What good is that? I believe that the fervent prayers of the true believers within that legislative body, offered up in the name of Jesus, will be much more pleasing to God than milquetoast happy thoughts addressed to whatever random spirits that happen to be listening to the formal, mandatory invocation that ceremonially (religiously?) starts their work day. If that means that the believers in their midst should gather together in Christian fellowship BEFORE the legislative session begins, to jointly offer corporate prayer to GOD asking for his protection of their state and their legislative body, his wisdom and guidance for their actions throughout the upcoming day, then PRAISE GOD and THANK YOU ACLU! Maybe, just maybe, if they started doing that, God might unleash his power and favor in their midst, and the believers might see their numbers grow… possibly to the point that all of the Senators might voluntarily join in their prayer group out of their devotion to God, not out of compulsion.
Third, many Christians in America today want to protect what we perceive to be Christian principles in our government, be it through “In God We Trust” on our currency, or “under God” in our pledge, or corporate prayer in our official assemblies. But our Founding Fathers had broad views on the relationship of religion and government, reaching recorded consensus only to direct that
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
It’s my humble opinion that the Hawaii Senate is only following the intent of the Constitution and their citizens. If the only way to comply with the prohibition of establishment is to water down our prayer so that we can’t call on YHWH or Jesus, then who needs the prayer? Christians should also consider this: If we insist that prayer should be an established beginning of government assemblies, are we OK when that prayer is offered to Allah? Because it’s not inconceivable that one day the majority of citizens of some local government might be Muslim. I personally would rather have NO corporate prayer than be a part of corporate prayer offered to Allah, Buddha, or Mother Earth.
Are we really protecting Christian principles or merely Christian practices? I would submit that we can and should be more interested in the principles (compassion for our fellow man, maybe even a little love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control) and maybe the practices will take care of themselves.