Today is the National Day of Prayer. It’s a day set aside to turn to God in prayer. The modern day National Day of Prayer was established by an act of congress in 1952, although similar themed days in American government go back to the 1770s.
I came across an article in my former college’s newspaper this week talking about some division within the Bowling Green, Ohio community over this year’s day of prayer.
Bowling Green has an annual prayer gathering in front of the Wood County courthouse. This specific prayer gathering is organized by a privately funded Christian task force. The Christian task force (prepare to be shocked) keeps their prayer gathering as a Christian prayer meeting with Christian speakers.
This is the heart of the controversy because some think that it’s wrong that the event is excluding other faiths.
One of the wonderful things about our nation is the freedom to assemble and associate. Anyone of any other faith is welcome to setup a similar event for the day of prayer (or every day, for that matter). But a Christian group has every right to keep their event as a Christian event. The job of the privately funded task force is not to setup an event that equally represents all faiths.
Literally hundreds of thousands of churches meet in a similar fashion every week. They’re also not meeting to pray to the deities of other religions.
Part of the argument against this exclusively Christian prayer gathering is that it gets away from the heart of the meaning of the day of prayer. We can agree to disagree over that, but it doesn’t change that this specific group has decided to make their prayer service an exclusively Christian service.
I ask: would anyone take offense at Buddhists having a Buddhist only prayer service? Would there be objections to Jewish people having a Jewish prayer service? Absolutely anyone is welcome to attend this Christian prayer service so long as they understand that it is a Christian prayer service, and that involves praying to Jesus in the name of Jesus. And that’s the heart of the issue. The Christian task force isn’t interested in generic prayers.
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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.