To Whom Should We Pray?

If you think the above question has an obvious answer, then you haven’t been paying attention. In almost any religious article in the public arena (a rarity these days), it is highly likely that this truth will be sacrificed to political correctness.

Consider this gem from USA TODAY entitled: “How to say a Thanksgiving prayer: Expert advice on finding the words to give thanks.” While I commend the effort to discuss prayers of thanks, the god of Plurality was predictably honored.

“There’s no perfect formula for grace or one ‘right’ way to say it, so long as you mean what you say … Prayer can be intimidating. Opening one’s self up through prayer – whether it’s to the Judeo-Christian God, or whatever creative force you think might move the universe – is an act of intimacy.” Catholic priest Tom Doyle chimes in: “Whether you’re Hebrew or Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Catholic, we just place ourselves in the presence of God and trust that God loves us and adores us and wants us to thrive” (11/5/2018. online).

Americans love ambiguity; it disguises our self-centeredness as piety and eases our conscience in the process. In religion, all that matters is that we feel something profound and have good intentions. It is the difference between being “spiritual” and “speaking as the oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11).

So what is prayer?

It is the thought of man directed to the holy, eternal Creator-God, our Heavenly Father. He is a real, personal God, not “whatever creative force you think might move the universe.” If you think the universe was created from the Big Bang out of nothing by the happenstance of natural forces, how can prayer possibly be “an act of intimacy” with it? (“It” being non-personal forces of natural law.) What an absolutely inane statement! But this is where people end up when they abandon truth for relativism. Shall we engage in an act of intimacy with the hurricane that is bearing down on us in hope that we can sweet-talk it into going elsewhere?!

Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven …” (Mt 6:9). When raising Lazarus from the dead “Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me …’” (Jn 11:41). Shortly before His death, “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son …” (Jn 17:1). A little later Jesus “fell on His face, and prayed saying, ‘Oh My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me …’” (Mt 26:39). As they crucified Jesus He prayed, “Father, forgive them …” (Lk 23:34). And finally, as He died He “cried out with a loud voice … ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit’” (Lk 23:46).

I detect a pattern here. Jesus is cognizant of His heavenly Father, the one He shared divine nature with before His incarnation: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (Jn 17:5). Prayer is an act of intimacy alright, but intimacy with a personal God who created us, blesses us, has saved us and will judge us at the end of time. He is our spiritual Father who loves us and showers us with gifts upon our asking: “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Mt 7:7-12). But He is also a caring, nurturing Father who in love corrects our mistakes: “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives … We have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” (Heb 12:6, 9).

So who is this LORD and Father? He is most definitely the “Judeo-Christian God” that USA TODAY author Barbara VanDenburgh couldn’t wait to distance herself from in her obeisance to political correctness. But priest Tom Doyle was equally disingenuous when he morally equated “Hebrew or Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Catholic” who “place ourselves in the presence of God.” Is he completely unaware that these religious adherents have vastly different concepts of “God,” especially polytheistic Hindus? Has he not read the words of Jesus, Himself? “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6)? Oh, but when we bow to the god of PC and embrace all equally, we may get quoted in USA TODAY and receive our honorary COEXIST bumper sticker.

Jesus also said something else which should be quite arresting: “Therefore, whoever confesses Me before men, him will I confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32-33). I think of that passage every time I hear a religious figure say a public prayer at a race/game/session of Congress, etc. and refuse to acknowledge the name of Jesus in said prayer. We do not have to disavow our faith in God altogether to deny Him. All we have to do is cross our fingers behind our back and treat Jesus as just another religious hack.

What a privilege to speak our hearts to God anytime, anywhere, in any circumstance – guilt, fear, worry, sorrow, joy, thankfulness, hope. We are not alone in this universe; we have direct access to the Creator-Redeemer God who personally knows and loves and helps each of us. All He wants is for us to reach back, to acknowledge Him for the loving and nurturing heavenly Father that He is. And what a travesty that someone can’t publish an article about Thanksgiving prayer without dishonoring the God who gives us that for which we can be thankful in the first place.