Prayer is a private affair
October 01, 2004
Public school prayer?

With great interest and concern I have been reading open letters on the editorial pages of newspapers and magazines, for many months. I have been silent until now. Now that both parties have had their conventions, some issues cry out to be heard. "We the People" need to get our views heard along with the so-called pundits, and the clergy, nay, it is our duty to speak out. For the record, I am a Christian, a veteran and an American who lives in this great land in good faith. I am tired of the spin. I am weary of the lies. The things that have come to divide us shock me.

First, I will talk about "public school prayer" that not only some politicians are hooting and hollering for, but the clergy also. I have to admit public school prayer (not merely a moment of silence) looks and sounds very good. In my humble opinion, public school prayer is just the opposite of what the Word of God, teaches us. It is written: "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

Jesus defined prayer in Matthew 6: 5-6: "And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."

Jesus did not spin. He spoke straight out. In the matter of prayer he told us to forget about the eyes watching us, and those who might think them good and worthy of being elected to public office. Jesus was not about "What's in it for me?" He instructed us to be of good faith in our hearts, and to forget the pomp and show. As personal as spiritual worship is, as Jesus defines it, praying in school seems highly suspect as a devised thorn in the side of man, devised to get votes or position. It seems the stuff of ulterior motives.

I can understand why some politicians hide behind this falsehood. They think people will think they are a good person because they are religious. So, do they really care about prayer in the school? I wonder how many times a day they stop and close their eyes in prayer to the Almighty Creator. I wonder how many times they pray compared to how many times they give speeches to the voters concerning school prayer. I would guess that the ratio would be lopsided. If this is true, then what are they about? What do they intend? We all have heard political advisors to the candidates say that winning is everything. Is it really? Would they use Jesus and God and school prayer to their own advantage if they thought it would help them get elected? I have my own opinion. Think about it.

Some clergymen preach in favor of "public school prayer" and they in my view forget the teachings of Christ and His concern for us having love and concern for our fellow man. It is stated in Romans, "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple."

So do the clergy feel that our worshipping God in church is inadequate? Our homes, also? Considering the privacy of prayer and worship about which Jesus spoke, why do the clergy or politicians insist upon school prayer as well? Do we as a nation need to court other Constitutional conflicts that give Jews and Hindus and other faith based students reason to feel conflicted in the classroom on issues that are not even related to school? Must they feel uncomfortable just because they are there, and the majority religious group of Americans insists on trumping Constitutional rights to freedom of religion and having everybody pray or have to listen to prayers, whether they choose to or not? Is that freedom of religion?

I often have wondered if say, okay, we agreed to have prayer in schools. So would those Christians in the majority, after Christian prayers were finished, then agree to allow Hindu prayers, where all the Christian students had to pause and listen to those prayers in all fairness? Then the Muslim prayers where many bow to Mecca? Then so on. So would those who want prayer in schools allow the free worship of all religion in our schools by allowing equal time for religions other than Christianity? I have doubts that they would. Aside from being satisfied in our own hearts with our own personal worship of our God in our hearts, in our private places of the spirit, do we need to act like it's always "showtime" where we need to have others watch us pray? Is that what Jesus would do?

It is not true that our children cannot pray while at school, or anyone for that matter. Wherever we are, whether driving to school or work, in hallways, classrooms, stores, hospitals, truth is, we can pray. In our private places with our spirit connected to the Holy Spirit. Those are the real places where communion is real. The secret place is anywhere and everywhere. God is always with us, and His hearing will not be impaired in places outside of the public classrooms. So be watchful of anyone who teaches or preaches otherwise! Be faithful of what Jesus told us to do and how and where to pray. Jesus has a natural following of believers. He doesn't force himself on anyone. Jesus is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. That's the alpha and omega of all the reasons we are here, remember?

The First Amendment is really a marvelous one. It protects religion from government, while at the same time, protects Government from religion. Oh how wise our forefathers were, by adding the First Amendment!

Jack Elton, Port Neches, TX.

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