More on Prayer

May 26, 2010

Recently I had a column in the Roanoke Times entitled "Preaching true religious freedom." In it I critiqued a new policy on state prayers in Virginia. It sparked a letter to the editor that was printed a few days ago. The author made this claim:

Kaylor's argument against praying in public is baseless. Jesus often prayed in public. We desperately need to call upon the Creator these days.
I completely agree with the last sentence--I just do not believe we need the government or its officials to be the ones offering those prayers. However, I thought it was funny to claim my argument against public prayers (which was a reference to the teaching of Jesus in the 'Sermon on the Mount') was "baseless." It is true to Jesus offered prayers that a few people (like his disciples) heard, but that is quite a way from a public prayer in a setting like what I was writing about. That is the difference between praying out loud during a church service and praying out loud at a secular public event.

Not surprisingly, it did not take long for a state police chaplain to react to the new policy by offering a sectarian prayer. The prayer was part of a memorial service for all the state troopers who died in the line of duty. Afterward, the chaplain who offered the prayer expressed his regret about the controversy surrounding his prayer: "I don't want the emphasis to be on me. ... It's on the fallen." It is sad that the controversy dominated the coverage of the event. When that happens, it seems the prayer is not fulfilling its purpose.

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