Barack Obama’s first Oval Office speech has been touted as either wise or witless depending on one’s opinions and politics. Apart from outlining the oil spill’s tragedy, commending government response and condemning BP for the disaster, the President’s closing appeal to God’s help has aroused criticism for unreasonably focusing on invoking spiritual intervention in a secular crisis.
However, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, known for his religious articles, books and videos, said in an interview on Fox News that he was pleased that any president at any time for any reason seeks the help of a higher power. He added that he hoped Obama really believed what he said.
Referring to a traditional fishermen’s blessing, Obama closed his speech saying,
“The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago—at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced. And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, ‘The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,’ a blessing that’s granted ‘...even in the midst of the storm.’
“The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through—what has always seen us through—is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it. Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.
“Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.”
We concur with Gingrich. It is high time high officials admit there are some things over which they have no control but God might intervene. While Obama’s prayer reference is that misty stuff of tepid civil religion and not all that we could hope for, it is a step in the right direction.
Prayer, as outlined in the Bible, involves repentance for obstinate sinning, admission of guilt and supplication to do right. Prayer is always a commendable exercise, but America—and particularly the current administration—needs a good dose of biblical perception and redirection.
Supporting abortion—killing millions of fully human unborn babies annually—is a national scandal. Supporting or even encouraging homosexual lifestyles is an abomination to God, corroding cultures and destroying nations. Mushrooming taxation and exploding debt fostered by wasteful and inept government is a scourge on the political and economic landscape and is “generational theft” of ghastly proportions. And substituting man’s earthly genius for God’s heavenly wisdom is a wretched snub of the Creator and Savior.
As is most always the case, the name of Jesus Christ—incarnate God, crucified, risen, ascended and coming again “King of kings and Lord of lords”—is conveniently left out of political praying. Christ is the only way to God according to John 14:6 and the solitary path to salvation as Acts 4:12 tells us. “God” can mean anything from Allah to Christ to a New Age myth. Intercessory specificity is notably absent in civil religious praying.
Let me be clear. Tangential political praying may salve the conscience, but it never saves the soul. God is welcome to graciously hear and answer any genuine plea for aid, but He always instantly responds to the simply cry of the sin-burdened who pleads, “God be merciful to me the sinner.” (Luke 18:13)
We hope that many troubled by the Gulf predicament will pray that prayer, be saved, and enter the close-knit company of the redeemed who always have God’s ear “in Jesus’ Name.”