In case anyone is wondering, if I had been asked to pray at the Inauguration I would not have closed with the Lord’s Prayer. I know I’m making a number of assumptions here but I didn’t want any of you (all 3 of you who read this blog!) to lose sleep over this.
Here is why: The Lord’s Prayer is intentionally exclusive. For the early Christians, the first time they would have prayed the Lord’s Prayer would have been after they had been through a lengthy process of training (the catechumenate), baptized (during the Easter Vigil) and then brought into the worshipping community where they would pray those words and receive the Lord’s Supper.
So why in the world would a person stand before 2 million people plus the millions watching and pray that prayer? There were 6 adults in our group who attended the inauguration, 5 of whom are Presbyterian pastors and the other is a church professional – none of us joined in. It wasn’t the time and place. This was a crowd of people representing who-knows-how-many faith traditions. Why diminish the Lord’s Prayer in such a way?
If I am asked to pray in a public place I go as a Christian pastor. That is a given and I am not afraid to represent Christ. Actually, I am humbled to do so. But I also need to understand the context. Jeff and I are co-teaching a course with the neighboring rabbi about Jewish-Christian relations in our community. Would it be appropriate for us to close each meeting with the Lord’s Prayer? Nope. No more so than it would be for the rabbi to close with a prayer from her tradition. Would it be appropriate for us to teach about those prayers in that setting. Absolutely.
This begs the question, why do we pray at such public events? It is intriguing to me that the inauguration was surrounded by so much prayer. As a person of faith, I am grateful that such an event is surrounded by prayer. I can’t think of a role that needs more prayer than the presidency! But what would have happened if there had been a variety of faith leaders leading those prayers? What would a humanist say? What sort of uproar would we have heard if a Muslim Imam had prayed?
Bottom line: those of you who are people of faith had better be praying for the leadership of this country using whatever words best suit your beliefs.