United Church of Christ

Dorhauer: Prayer is Sacred

Dear Mr. President,

Today I want to talk about prayer.

Prayer is something that people of faith take seriously, myself included. I would never argue that faith and politics don’t mix. I would argue that when one is invited to lead prayer, one shouldn’t substitute their authentic articulation to the sacred with their personal political agenda. One should offer, well, prayer. It’s that simple.

As a person of faith my whole life, an ordained minister serving in my 33rd year of ministry, having completed 14 years of seminary training, and  currently  serving as the President of a National Religious body that has sent a few Presidents to the Oval Office (including your immediate predecessor), I know a thing or two about prayer.

I also want to talk about irony and suggest to you a couple of things that went wrong at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Since prayer and faith are about as personal and private as one could imagine, I would never presume to doubt anyone who told me their spiritual disciplines include praying for our elected officials. If I were an elected official, I would take their offer of prayer as a welcome and much needed gift. Mr. President, serving in your office has to be hard, and you can surely accept prayers on your behalf.

I ask your indulgence to now let me speak briefly, less about prayer than about context. I promise it will lead us to irony.

Your political diatribe not only was a gross misuse of the occasion known to all as the National Prayer Breakfast, your invective was spewed out mere minutes after the Harvard professor reminded us of a most powerful Christian notion:  Love your enemies. Now that was a fine example of irony and the use of prayer and context.

Oh, the irony.

Having heard the call to love the enemy you lashed out at your enemies.

The Prayer is a long established Hill tradition at which a once impeached and recently acquitted Bill Clinton apologized for what he “…said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people.” That was a true ‘love your enemy’ kind of moment.

Oh, the irony.

At the National Prayer breakfast you spoke not a word of prayer, but used the moment to push your political agenda.

Oh, the irony.

At the National Prayer Breakfast, you claimed again to doubt the sincerity of a colleague, whose faith has always been important to her, when she simply said she prayed for you.

Oh, the irony.

You did all of this while trying to claim the moral high ground.

So yes, as a faith leader myself I just wanted to remind you that to most of us, prayer is sacred. Seeing it profaned from the highest office of the land was, in a word, offensive.

If you are given another chance to speak at a Prayer Breakfast, I simply ask that you remember to do one thing: pray.

Is that too much to ask?


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