Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pray on it

“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. 6But 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. “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."
Matthew 6:5-8

One morning a few weeks ago I was driving somewhere and listening to the Glenn Beck program on the radio. (Why was I doing that?) I did not listen for long, but I heard him do an ad for gold coins. He said very earnestly that he was not an investment advisor and told his listeners not to rely on him for investment advice, but he wanted to be clear that gold was going up in value and many advisors were recommending it. “But don’t take my advice,” he cautioned, “I will say to you what I would say to my own family, ‘pray on it.’” And then he repeated the advice, “Pray on it.”

I went back to country music. But I was haunted by the commercial. The program is nationally syndicated. I wondered how many people heard that message and ended up thinking this is how Christians pray. This is what they pray about. This is what they believe. Christians, one might conclude, are people who use prayer to sell gold coins. Those are scary thoughts.

It is not easy to be a Christian today in the United States. We are not persecuted, and we should never confuse our frustrations with real oppression. But it is hard to live out a real faith in a time when there is so much posturing.

In the verses preceding the passage above, Jesus said to “beware of practicing your piety before others, to be seen by them.” His concern was pride. And rightly so.

But in our time, the piety that is practiced in public is often a caricature of real faith. I’m guessing there are many people whose understanding of Christianity is shaped only by those caricatures. That’s not a happy thought.


  1. Never mind using prayer to sell things, how about Jesus’ teaching about not amassing wealth for yourself? What person (Christian or not) can make the claim that Jesus would say "Buy GOLD...lots and lots of GOLD!"

    That is the problem with Christianity. Those who are humble are not heard. On the other hand, the fundamentalists tend to have the loudest voices, claim to have the inerrant truth and own mass-media networks. As a result, the message sent out to general society is that Christianity believes:

    - If you don’t believe what we believe then you are going to Hell

    - The Bible is inerrant and all the stories happened exactly as they are written.

    - Science is a lie if it contradicts the Bible

    - God causes things like 9/11 and floods – usually in judgment against accepting gay people.

    - Moola bulla shalla malta teema (speaking in tongues)

    - God wants you to be rich.

    Actually I was watching Bill Maher’s “Religulous” (a combination of the words religion and ridiculous) last night and he interviewed a “pastor” who was wearing an expensive suit, gold jewelry, an expensive watch, etc. The “pastor" said something to the effect of – “God wants me to have nice things. It is what is given to me for putting Him first.”

    Where are the media networks promoting perspectives of Tillich, Niebuhr, and Barth?

  2. The fundamentalists may have the biggest drums, a self righteous attitude, and the most powerful modern weapon of mass destruction-the media, but the choice to follow is still the individuals. Because of the powerful ability of the less than christian parties to impress their will upon us, in such an unrelenting and effective fashion we must take extra measures to shore our defenses. This one reason our church leadership is so vital. It keeps us focused on the truth and our goal to be closer to God.