Who May Pray?

One day as the Lord God looked down on his world, he observed the many signs of good and evil at play in the lives and relationships of the people he had created. From acts of love and generosity and compassion to acts of hatred and lust and greed, from neighbors helping neighbors to nations at war with each other and even between factions of their own people. It occurred to him that perhaps he needed to remind them that he created them out of his love for them and that their wellbeing as individuals and families, as nations and as a world is wrapped up in that purpose of love for one another that is at the very heart of their being. Then he remembered that once he had told one of his prophets that if the people he created would call upon him for his help, he would save them from their sin and their self-destruction. So he landed on the idea of a world-wide day of prayer and tossed it out to see whether some of his faithful would consider spreading the word.

Well, the idea did catch on, and over the period of a few years, various communities began holding World Day of Prayer gatherings, calling on God to help them find ways to overcome the sins that separate them and create such chaos in human life and suffering, and help them become the people he had created them to be.

So God decided this idea must have some merit, and he decided to call together the leadership of the world’s religious organizations to work on the details. What he wasn’t expecting is that some of those in leadership wanted to dictate the rules of who would be allowed to attend and lead these gatherings. For example, those who considered themselves”true Christians” wanted to designate who could pray, but would allow anyone who wanted to attend to do so as long they were silent, and also wanted to specify what prayers would be allowed.

God was especially dismayed by the Christians, because when he sent Jesus, he sent him to convey his message in a very personal way, not to start a new religion, but to correct some errors in the old ways of understanding him and his intentions for the human experiment he had begun, and to open up their understanding to life in its fullness as he had intended it. Moreover, if they were going to limit the prayers people could offer to so-called Christian prayers, that would mean that the prayer Moses taught the Israelites, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,” would be ruled out. So would personal prayers like those of Hannah as she prayed for a son, and the prayers of David in his Psalms, the prayers of the prophets, and perhaps even that one often called “The Lord’s Prayer,” which after all was taught by a Jewish Rabbi even before Christianity began.

More than that, if Christians claim Jesus as the founder of their faith, why would they want to keep anyone from praying to God who sent Jesus in the first place, who himself never turned anyone away, but gladly welcomed them into his fold – Romans, Samaritans, Greeks, even despised tax-collectors, prostitutes, and lepers!

So what will God do now? Let’s tune in and see.

–Horace Huse
Toledo

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