Public expression of angst about Parliament’s Speaker ending the daily abuse of the name of Jesus is misdirected. Ritual repetition of a religious mantra on behalf of an unbelieving Parliament is not prayer. Vainly appending the name of Jesus to that ritual invokes no magical power. Rather, it bears a remarkable likeness to what is prohibited in the 2nd Commandment.
Even if when first used Parliament’s daily “prayer” was an expression of faith and submission to God, ending its use today entices no judgement from God … if anything, the opposite is true! But it is symptomatic of this nation’s long-standing rejection of Jesus and arrogant denial of God’s sovereignty, righteousness and coming judgement.
I don’t often find myself in agreement with Parliament’s present Speaker, the Hon Trevor Mallard. But on this occasion I agree with what he has done. John Bunyan’s definition of prayer identifies the issue:
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word … with submission in faith to the will of God.
That Parliament is subject to God’s sovereignty and bound by him to govern with righteousness, submission and faith in the light of the Bible is a biblical given. That its recently abandoned “Opening Prayer” gave a nod to that while most members nodded not, indicates a heritage for which we should be thankful, albeit that heritage has little contemporary expression. But that Parliament now no longer uses God’s name in vain is surely something to be thankful for.
Of course, we would rather Parliament and its members, along with the nation, gave proper honour to God, engaged in true and submissive prayer to him, and consistently used the name of Jesus as acknowledgement of faith in the Saviour who is Risen and Returning King. Then Parliament could open each day’s business with prayer that honoured God and blessed the nation.
Of course, believers – in or out of Parliament – can and should pray heartily and faithfully for God to direct Parliament and Government with righteousness, justice and mercy:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1-6 (NIV)