Praying in Public

I don’t get it. It’s just pizza, man—I don’t know if we need to ‘beseech’ the ‘Father of lights in whom there is no variation or shadow due to change’ to bless it to ‘our bodies, hearts, and hands that we might serve thee.’ It’s not even good pizza.”

via Local Man Takes On Persona Of 17th Century Puritan When Praying

The Babylon Bee is a satire site, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of biting reality in most of its posts. I can definitely confirm a lifetime of hearing prayers full of “beseech”ing and use of lingo that is out-of-date in any context.

Praying in public has always been something of a fascination for me and I’ve always been interested in the multivarious ways that contemporary Christians here in the US (primarily in the South) do it. Whether it’s before our football games or at our NASCAR races, it’s an integral part of the culture as much as fights over bbq sauces and whether Jimmie Johnson is better than Dale Earnhardt (he is).

I wonder what the drive is to use such language in prayers (especially ones at restaurants or in public gatherings)? I know that I’ve been a part of group prayers, say before a meal at a crowded and small restaurant / fast food joint… particularly with youth groups) where the prayer leader (typically male) rolls forth with a choice number of King James idioms that always feel as if they’re more of a performance in order to pique the interest of others outside of the group.

It gets particularly fascinating when we mix formal and antiquated language with very casual references to our “smokin hot wives” and “Goodyear’s performance.”

Maybe that’s the point of praying in public for many people… witnessing or evangelizing in a mini-one-act-play. I’m certainly not ashamed of my faith or never pass up a chance to talk about Jesus (I scrawled “ASK ME ABOUT JESUS” on my beloved green Vans in the 8th grade… I still wear those). But when I do lead a prayer in public or when my family prays before a meal at a restaurant as we often do, we try to be reverent or at least make the prayer more about thanksgiving than performance art.

Perhaps it depends on whether you like 1 Timothy or Matthew better. It’s sort of an “is the dress gold or blue” thing, I reckon:

I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11 Let a womanb]”>[b] learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no womanc]”>[c] to teach or to have authority over a man;d]”>[d] she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Matthew 6:5-8

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.a]”>[a]

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

 

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