The latest news on the culture war front comes from North Carolina. It seems that Pastor Ron Baity of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem was named an "honorary chaplain" of the North Carolina House of Representatives. Although he had been invited to lead in prayer for an entire week, that invitation was rescinded after he refused to omit the name of Jesus from his prayers. According to this news report, he was allowed to lead the invocation for one session but then was told that his services were no longer needed.
During our drive to Chicago several days ago, we heard Pastor Baity interviewed on Fox News. I was impressed with how clearly he expressed that all truly Christian prayer must be offered in Jesus' name. Speaker of the House Joe Hackney, a Democrat, and Paul Stam, House Republican leader, issued the following statement:
"It has been our practice in the North Carolina House of Representatives for many years to request, but not require, that our guest chaplains deliver a nonsectarian prayer. This is intended as a show of respect for all the religions practiced by the members of the House and the people we represent."
This is pure nonsense. All prayer is "sectarian." There is no such thing as "nonsectarian" prayer. Imagine telling Muslims they can't mention Allah because it might offend someone or telling Hindus they could not mention their deity. Christians pray in Jesus' name because we worship him as our Savior and Lord. Telling us not to pray in Jesus' name is the same thing as telling us not to pray at all.
What should we learn from this?
1. The name is Jesus is truly explosive. Christians tend to forget that because we sing songs like, "The name of Jesus is so sweet, I love its music to repeat." True, but some people hate the name we love.
2. If you want everyone to like you, keep quiet about Jesus.
3. It doesn't matter to me if a legislative body opens with prayer or not. But if they do, they should put no restrictions on the content of those prayers. Forcing ministers to pray sham "nonsectarian" prayers makes a mockery of religious belief.
4. You don't have to literally say "In Jesus' name" when you pray. It's not the literal words that matter. I develop this further in my message In Jesus' Name, Amen.
5. But if someone asks you not to mention Jesus' name, then you must not back down. Either don't pray or say, "I would be untrue to my deepest convictions if I did not pray in Jesus' name." Then pray audibly in the name of Jesus.
Please don't buy into the nonsense that we can water down our faith and still honor our Lord. While we mean no offense, we take greater offense at those who wish to neuter Christians when we pray in public.
Let the Muslims pray Muslim prayers, the Hindus pray Hindu prayers, the Unitarians pray Unitarian prayers, and let the rabbis pray Jewish prayers. When we are asked, we will pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not arguing for prayers before public events one way or the other, but I am saying that if we take part, let's pray Christian prayers. And that means praying in Jesus' name.
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