This week for my class Gospel and Global Media Culture, we are considering the topic of prayer in a digital world and other public media. So… we were assigned to watch several YouTube videos of different prayers and even an episode of the popular TV series Glee (The Grilled Cheesus episode from Season 2). Two of the prayers were given at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama; one by the Gene Robinson and the other by Rick Warren. Another was a prayer for the Minnesota State congressional session by Bradlee Dean. And finally there was a prayer by Joe Nelms at a NASCAR event.
(Can anyone clarify for me if it is Pastor Nelm or Pastor Nelms? Since so many people have no idea how to use apostrophes or possessive forms correctly, I can ‘t make heads or tails of this from a Google search. Grammar issues will have a separate blog in the not too distant future).
OK, so back to prayer. What I noticed with all of these prayers was that there were pieces that I liked in each of them and things that rankled me. So…I had to wonder about that. Was there something similar to each of them that didn’t sit well with me?
Each of these prayers would be classified as Christian prayers. I will admit that none of them pray like I do but prayer comes in many forms and shapes and sizes and voices and I’m okay with that. But what I noticed with all four of the prayers that I watched is that somewhere along the way I wondered, “Just who are they praying to”?
Minus the NASCAR prayer, at some point in time they ceased to be prayers and became public speeches. There are lot of kinds of prayers-thanksgiving & praise, confession and penitence, petitions of need and intercessions on behalf of others, plus many, many more. But prayers aren’t political platforms. They aren’t an opportunity to chastise others, especially those who behavior or beliefs are different from yours.
So, as a Christian leader, what does all of this mean for me? Part of ministering in this world today means engaging digital media cultures. Even if I never plan on praying at a big public event, it doesn’t mean that a prayer I offer somewhere doesn’t get video-taped and plastered on YouTube. So here’s my plan:
1. Make it clear to all who are listening (whether in real-time or delay) that I, as a Christian, am praying to God (The Triune God)
2. Remember that I offer prayer on behalf of the whole people of God- Christian or not
3. Prayer is a conversation with God. Public prayer is more than others overhearing- they are part of the prayer.
By Photo by and ©2004 Dustin M. Ramsey (Kralizec!) (My own photographic work.) [<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5">CC-BY-SA-2.5</a>], <a href=”http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AUnder_the_ORU_Praying_Hands_sculpture.jpg”>via Wikimedia Commons</a>