Pray At Your Own Risk

Reviewing the news this morning I ran across a story about a Jewish man being escorted off of an Air Canada Jazz flight for praying. It occurred to me that prayer is one of the most powerful and dangerous things we as believers can do!

Consider the Old Testament character of Daniel (Daniel 6). The political cronies of King Darius are threatened by Daniel’s influence over the king. They set about to craft a piece of legislation that will prohibit Daniel’s public practice of personal prayer. The king signs a decree that temporarily outlaws the practice of prayer to any other being but Darius himself.

Politics is a curious thing. We give it such credence, sometimes even over the sovereign God we serve. The authorities of the time were threatened by an “outsider,” someone who seemed to operate by a different set of convictions and motivations then their own. Daniel just seemed “too good” when they observed his behavior, and prayer was just one of the manifestations they witnessed. They saw the king bestowing more and more authority on Daniel and this alarmed them. Self preservation is one of the primary drives of any successful politician (just ask Joe Lieberman).

Daniel knew and fully understood the law was in effect, but was undeterred by the politics of the day. He went home, went into his prayer room (an upper room that was visible and apparently known to the outside world), and with his windows wide open, he prayed, not just once, but three times a day. The Book of Daniel goes forward to detail consequences for Daniel’s behavior and God’s gracious protection because of his obedience: ultimately God is honored by Darius and before all men.

As for the plight of our aforementioned passenger this morning, the man was identified as a Hasidic Jew whose style of dress alone would call attention him. Though his prayer was not characterized as audible, the rocking back and forth in his seat drew attention from some “nervous” passengers. Whether or not the airline may have over reacted is not as much of a concern to me as the fact that the man was praying, as was his custom, no doubt, and people felt threatened. To be totally honest, his situation convicted me. When was the last time I prayed in such away publicly that what I was doing was so unmistakable?

These are extraordinary times, at least when compared to what I’ve experienced in my lifetime. But just as in Daniel’s era, prayer is an incredibly powerful and sometimes dangerous thing to do today. Prayer in public schools and even at public events has become an undesirable element, politically speaking. Federal cases in the early 1960s effectively outlawed prayer in public schools led by a teacher or school staff. In the late 1990s, prayer in the huddle of a football team before a game was ruled unconstitutional. Now don’t get me wrong, the separation of church and state is a good thing. I’m not interested in a state sanctioned religion (my experience with government leads me to conclude anything they get involved in such as this is usually rendered ineffective immediately upon implementation).

But for the average citizen, public prayer is still a legal option. It may be discouraged, but we’re still free to employ it if we are so moved. What about you? If you are a believer, do you pray? How often? Are you a closet practitioner of prayer? Do you pray publicly, perhaps before a meal? As believers, in my lifetime, we have in many respects abdicated the God given mandate to employ public personal prayer. Aside from what it does for us, our souls and fellowship with our Lord, it makes an undeniable statement to those around us. However, be careful with what you commit to doing. Prayer is rapidly becoming a mark of “radical fundamentalism” and all the negative connotations associated with that label. You are making a powerful statement when you bow your head publicly and pray to God. You are identifying with His power and authority over you. You are recognizing your dependence on God before a watching, and increasingly intolerant, world. To be sure Christ withdrew from the crowds to pray (Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12, 9:28), but when He was commanded by the Pharisees to rebuke His disciples for proclaiming public praise to Him, Jesus declared such a command would cause creation itself to cry out (Luke 19:38-40).

The time to be silent has passed. These are the days when courageous men and women of God need to demonstrate their faith in very public ways, not to drawing attention to themselves, but to our glorious and sovereign Lord.

Consider this: whenever you read this little article, commit to praying publicly at least once over the next seven days. It doesn’t have to be audible prayer, but bow your head and have a little heart-to-heart with the God of all creation. Be a Daniel. Adopt a habit of public prayer. If you’re a father, you will be setting an example for your family and children. If you are child, you will be demonstrating your faith to those in your classes, teams, and neighborhoods. Prayer doesn’t take a theological degree; just a will to be obedient to God our Father. You may get asked some questions. You may even be asked to cease, but you’ll be participating in one of the most powerful and God-honoring acts you can


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