Bible says prayer is a private matter

July 5, 2019

To the Editor:

 As a clergyman of over 30 years I read with interest Dr. Daniel Fachting’s 21 June 2019 column, ”Prayer in Public,” where he regretfully ponders on the past practice of religious folk, namely Christians since he speaks from a Roman Catholic perspective, sharing the consensus that making a show of their religion, especially praying in public, was generally considered to be inappropriate.  He states that people declined to do so because “It made others feel uneasy.”   

 I would suggest another reason, a biblical one from Jesus himself, whom Dr. Fachting says is his Lord, why many Christians did not make a show of their piety in public, and not because it made people feel uneasy.  In Matthew, Chapter 6, Jesus speaks at length at outward shows of piety. In regards to prayer he says: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (verse 1) …And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in synagogues and on street corners, in order to be seen by men.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (verses 6-7)

The point Jesus makes is that prayer is a private issue between an individual and to whomever or whatever he or she prays. Many people of faith are merely following the teachings of Jesus in regards to not making a show of their prayer in public.  One may say a silent momentary prayer in public without assuming a prayer posture and thereby drawing attention to oneself.  If one or two feel the need to pray they can also find a seculed place to do so. That is genuine piety, according to Jesus.    

 He also states: “Then the laws changed and it became illegal to gather for prayer in public places, or even speak of God or the bible.” I should like Dr. Fachting to tell just what laws he is speaking of.  There have been certain rulings by SCOTUS that has protected the 1st Amendment Separation of Church from State that prohibits public school employees or someone representing the public school, even a student, from leading a captive audience, made up of people of different or no faith, such as a class or public assembly.  The court clearly stated students may pray singly or in voluntary groups at public schools as long as they are not disrupting the school schedule, it is being led by a student, and is not forcing others to take part in their prayer ritual.  It is said, that as long as tests are given in schools students will pray in school. 

The Rev. Robert L. Barker

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