We stood beside our desks obediently responding to the unseen and yet familiar voice from above, “please stand for the playing of the national anthem and remain standing for the reading of The Lord’s Prayer. All was right with the world or at least our corner of the world back then, but times have changed and morals have decayed, all because we have taken prayer out of schools.
Reciting a set of words out of mandated tradition is not a prayer.
Most of us would have been glad if they put an end to the morning ritual of anthem singing and prayer reading. It was not that we desperately wanted to get on with learning or hated our country or God but rather we had trouble controlling the natural need to move and make noise. At least you could move a little and fake that you were singing during the anthem. When it came to the prayer, if you looked like you were praying you weren’t cool and if you lifted your head and looked around or made noise you were in trouble. It was kind of like Shakespeare; do what you are told and you will make it through this old literature and get to move on to more exciting things like lunchtime. For many this was not their faith and it did not become their faith just because they spent every morning hearing it and yet we have become convinced that taking prayer out of schools, removing a forced tradition, has somehow led to a widespread change in morality.
Sadly, in the place where conviction not tradition insists we pray heartfelt words of praise, repentance, and request, we no longer see prayer as overly important.
While many in the church point to the removal of prayer from schools as the cause of moral decay, we continue to ignore prayer as a vital part of the church. In my blog, Legislative Evangelism (click to read) I talked about the misguided belief that the laws of the land somehow lead to people becoming Christians just because they are forced to live out Christian morals. Is it any different to say that a forced time of pause to hear the PA announcer regurgitate a portion of scripture will have a major effect on the morals of a country? The collective of Christ followers lost their ability to make an impact on the country when we made people outside the church “pray” out of tradition and regulation while we allowed prayer inside the church to become nothing more than a formality. Weekly prayer meetings dwindle, congregational prayer is marginalized, our desire to see revival is left to programs and strategies and our belief that God can do the miraculous is subject to the predictions of the medical professional’s diagnosis or the limits of our scientific knowledge.
While the persecuted church around the world prays for the safety of believers and those with limited technology or medical resources pray for miracles, prayer in North America is often an interruption to our lives, our church services and our leadership planning.
Where does prayer fit in your life/church?
- Is prayer the first approach to everything?
- Is prayer a safety net after all else fails?
- Is prayer your way/your church’s way of beginning a search for divine inspiration and intervention?
- Is prayer your way/your church’s way of searching for God’s blessing on what you have already decided to do?
- Is it really prayer when a bunch of people who may or may not have faith, mindlessly recite or listen to someone recite a section of scripture?
Prayer is the act of admitting you need God’s leading, intervention and provision, it is not meaningless words said or heard because of tradition.