Over the last several decades, we have seen a continual erosion of religious freedom, and that is especially true if your boss is the Jewish Carpenter. It used to be okay for football teams to take a knee before a game and ask God for protection for their team mates. Nearly 50 years ago, when I was coming to the end of my high school education, public schools held what were called baccalaureate services which were for the senior class and their families. They were non-denominational, held in the school auditorium, had bulletins printed that could double in any church on any Sunday morning, and you were considered pretty lame if you didn’t attend. It was just all part of the rite of passage.
When the Jesus People Movement hit in the middle of my senior year, even the administration understood that what was occurring throughout our school was a phenomenon that needed guidance; and so we had an all-school assembly that was run by a musical group called the New Men. They were Christians, they were good musicians as well as speakers, and no one objected.
Obviously, these were long before the onset of groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who describe their activities as “critical work to promote non-theism and defend the constitutional separation between religion and government.” Their purpose falls apart at the get-go, seeing as there IS no “constitutional separation between religion and government,” but I digress. The point is, no one had a problem with what happened at my school nearly a half century ago.
Since that time, and throughout time, people have tried to stop other people from praying. It really is a silly enterprise, seeing as no one can control what you do with your thoughts, but nevertheless, they try. We think of Daniel being willing to outwardly pray three times a day, and he landed in a lions’ den as a punishment. He was spared, his accusers were not. In terms of the long game, it never goes well for those that feel there is no God, and don’t want anyone else to, either.
This week I was encouraged greatly by the stories of two “pray-ers.” One was a cop, the other had sung in subways to survive. One is a SRO in a school and has been there for years, the other was a contestant on American Idol who brought the judges to tears, and then asked if she could pray for them after she was finished singing. They readily agreed, these judges, and they happen to be well known. Their names are Lionel Ritchie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryant, and yes, Katy Perry seemed to enjoy herself. The cop volunteered for the SRO gig after innocent children were shot and killed at schools. He humbly says, “I’ve been praying for the students ever since I started being a SRO, but I started last year standing at the flagpole. I don’t do it to be seen, but I do it to glorify my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!” You would think that non-theists would just ignore the guy who is praying at the flagpole for the safety of children. After all, if no one is listening, couldn’t his gestures on some level be seen as kind of sweet?
At the end of the day, an argument for the healthy benefits of prayer might just serve to strengthen those who have become intimidated out of praying by those who would try to control them. Harvard University, the Huffington Post, the University of Pennsylvania, and many more established institutions all talk about the benefits of prayer for one’s total health. If it’s been awhile, start back up. You’ll be in the majority, as one study showed that a full 85% of all Americans prayed in the last week. It may be that while it might be beneficial to some to be freed from religion, it will never hurt to run toward God in prayer.