Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts


Why I Donâ??t Say â??In Jesusâ??s Nameâ? at the End of a Civic Prayer

posted by Mark D. Roberts

Part 3 of series: Should Christians Pray “In Jesus’s Name” in Civic Gatherings?
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When I have prayed in civic gatherings, such as city council meetings or community luncheons, I have ended my prayers by saying, simply, “Amen,” rather than saying what I’d say when leading prayer in church: “in Jesus’s name, Amen.” I realize that others have a different practice, and I respect their convictions even if I don’t share them. In this post I want to explain why I don’t say “in Jesus’s name” at the end of my civic prayers.
If you’ve read my last post, you have seen that Christians are not required to say “in Jesus’s name” at the end of our prayers. When Jesus teaches us to pray in his name, this is not about the words we say. Rather, it’s a call to pray in his authority and under his sovereignty. This means we are free to say “in Jesus’s name” or not.
When I have prayed in public, secular gatherings, I have not said “in Jesus’s name” because I knew that many of the people whom I was leading in prayer were not Christians. My goal was to include through my words as many people in the prayer as possible. I wanted all who had gathered to be able to pray with me, to join me in the “Amen” without hesitation. I didn’t want to leave some people out if I could help it.
Some Christians are reticent to mention the name of Jesus because they’re embarrassed about their faith. I can honestly say I don’t fall into this group, though there have been times in my life when I did. God help us not to be afraid of identifying with Jesus! After all, it was Jesus himself who said:

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

Of course this passage was not addressing the issue at hand. Jesus wasn’t concerned here with whether or not his followers should say “in Jesus’s name” when they pray in public. But the sense of this passage does suggest that if one is motivated by embarrassment to omit the name of Jesus, in prayer or in any other communication, that person is skating on thin spiritual ice.
Ironically, it is my commitment to following Jesus that leads me to pray without saying “in Jesus’s name.” Jesus, after all, welcomed to himself those who hadn’t the faintest idea who he really was. They were drawn to his truth, his kindness, and his love. People did not flock to Jesus because he hammered them with religious language, but because he welcomed them with God’s own love. In this context he was able to speak of the truth of God’s kingdom and its implications for people, which included calling them to repentance.
I’m more than happy to talk with non-Christian folk about Jesus. In my experience, this sort of conversation happens best when I have welcomed people and have shown consideration for their convictions, feelings, and concerns. So, strangely enough, I don’t pray “in Jesus’s name” in civic gatherings precisely because I want to welcome people in Jesus’s name. I want to show the kind of consideration for people that Jesus demonstrated in his ministry.
There are some public (or semi-public) settings in which I would mention the name of Jesus in prayer. I think of interfaith funerals, for example, where representatives of different faith traditions pray ways that are consistent with their own religious convictions. I have often performed weddings or funerals in settings where many of those in the congregation are not Christian. Yet those who asked me to officiate (the couple getting married or the family of the deceased) sought me out to do an explicitly Christian service. The people in the congregation expected me, as a Christian pastor, to speak and pray as a Christian. (Photo: The sanctuary of Irvine Presbyterian Church, where I performed dozens of weddings and funerals.)
Now you know why I don’t say “in Jesus’s name” when I pray in civic gatherings, and why I believe that, nevertheless, I am praying in Jesus’s name. In my next post I want to examine some public prayers of one of the world’s most prominent Christian leaders to see what we might learn from his example.



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Kozak

posted February 27, 2008 at 10:16 am


Fair enough. On the other hand, note that every Muslim who has prayed before a legislative body has included a Koranic sura that is usually interpreted as calling for the conversion of Christians and Jews.



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Mark Goodyear

posted February 27, 2008 at 11:45 am


Interesting series, Mark. Funny side story. My brother in law was the chaplain in his high school in the early 1990s. He was elected after a farcical Ferris Bueller style campaign.
At the first football game, he wanted to avoid the Jesus problem. And the God problem in general. And he was snarky. So he prayed, “O Righteous Being…” but the PA system garbled the last word and everyone heard “O Righteous Beast…”
I think that was the end of his chaplaincy.



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e. barrett

posted February 27, 2008 at 1:25 pm


Sometimes when I hear people say “in Jesusâ?? name” I feel they are being intentionally confrontational. It seems to me that they care less about recognizing Jesusâ?? authority over our lives, and more about making some kind of political or social statement.
Or maybe I’m just being hyper sensitive after having just finished unChristian!



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Mark Roberts

posted February 27, 2008 at 3:45 pm


Mark: Oh my, you remind me of a fun story.
e: No, I don’t think you’re being hyper sensitive. Some folks are trying to be confrontational. Others are just trying to be faithful according to their convictions.



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Mark D. Roberts

posted February 28, 2008 at 2:20 pm


Kozak: Fascinating. If you’re right, then that provides and even stronger reason for a Christian to act with greater sensitivity and inclusiveness.



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Civic Prayers in Jesusâ?? Name « Kingdom People

posted March 4, 2008 at 5:07 am

HenryH

posted March 11, 2008 at 9:38 am


You might enjoy this bit of (related) satire:
http://tominthebox.blogspot.com/2008/03/enjie-sname.html



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