Points to Ponder: Pondering the prayer wars

Points to Ponder
Pondering the prayer wars
By Pastor Whitmore
Weekly Contributing Writer

All across the nation, conflicts are erupting over the practice of opening a public meeting with prayer. In the Greencastle-Antrim school district in Pennsylvania, the school board ended their traditional practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer. Responding to the protests of Pennsylvania atheist groups, the board replaced it with a moment of silence; however, the audience insisted on filling that moment themselves with the Lord's Prayer.
I have heard the lament from many people, concerned that atheists are bullying organizations to silence prayer. Every year at graduation time, there's a news report about some valedictorian's speech being edited by authorities because of religious content. Of course the specific content being edited is usually Christian in nature; just as the prayers being silenced are from Christian sources. Would these same people sense injustice if the prayer was Islamic or Hindu or Buddhist in origin? Folks have complained about how the government removed prayer from the public schools, but what would some say if the prayers in some classrooms were to Allah?
I have been pondering these debates over prayer in public meetings. Some people are really angry with these determined atheists who initiate these protests. I wonder if somehow they are doing the Lord's work - that God is actually behind all of this.
In the Old Testament, we find that when God's people turned from Him, disobeyed His word, or worshiped the gods of the land, God would send prophets initially to warn them. If they did not repent, He used an enemy nation to discipline them.
When they first entered the Promised Land under Joshua, God stopped driving out the enemy nations "so that through them I may test Israel whether they will keep the ways of the Lord...or not" (Judges 2:21-23).
When King Solomon built worship places for the gods of his many wives, twice ignoring the warnings of God, the Lord raised up adversaries to harass his kingdom (I Kings 11).
In the Book of Habakkuk, the prophet questions God; why is He using a people who were worse sinners (Babylonians) to punish His own? God even refers to the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, as "My servant" (Jeremiah 25:9) by whom He would bring "calamity on the city which is called by My name..." (25:29). The Babylonians destroyed the beautiful temple and burned Jerusalem along with it. Thousands were killed; thousands more taken into exile.
We have nothing that major going on - yet. But I do wonder, are these fervent atheists unwitting servants of the One whose existence they deny? Held together by a sincere lack of belief in God, what will come forth from the true believers in Him?
If you don't believe prayer is happening in public schools, you didn't take my math exams. And if you think reciting the Lord's Prayer is a command of God, you may want to recall Jesus' warning about public prayer:
"And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words." (Matthew 6:7)
How many of us can say the Lord's Prayer with our mouths while our minds are elsewhere as we do? These atheist groups may actually be forcing some folks to stop sinning against God with empty words.
In prayer, you are in conversation with the Almighty - it's not a performance. It's not a verbal weapon with which we say, "So there! Take that, you rebels!"
It is consistent with scripture that God uses unbelievers and even the worst of enemies to test us and to strengthen us. Stop and consider what lessons we can learn from the unbeliever. Like the velvet background on which a diamond is displayed, their darkness helps the truth shine with clarity. Believers miss this because they argue with the velvet instead of delighting in the glory of the gem.
"Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, you people in whose heart is My law; do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but My righteousness will be forever, and My salvation from generation to generation." (Isaiah 51:7-8)

Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring. Listen to Rev. Whitmore on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs at 10:45 a.m. & p.m. & Wed at 10:45 a.m. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.