By Jacqueline J. Holness
A Supreme Court ruling earlier this year is a reminder that Christians need to affirm the power of prayer in our culture, not just in our churches and homes. In May the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in the Town of Greece v. Galloway case that prayers offered before council meetings do not violate the Constitution, even if the prayers are mostly offered by Christians. Representing the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government.”
Two members of the community of Greece, New York, contended that most of the town’s council meetings were opened up in prayer by Christian leaders. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens sued the town as a result. However, the Supreme Court ruled that as long as Greece, which seems to be mostly Christian, “maintains a policy of nondiscrimination, the Constitution does not require it to search beyond its borders for non-Christian prayer givers in an effort to achieve religious balancing.”
For a country that seems to be bent on becoming increasingly secular, this ruling is a victory that should encourage Christians to mobilize our efforts to share the power of prayer. Here are seven ways that Christians can do this:
Learn about prayer. As a minister’s daughter, I thought I was pretty well-versed about prayer. I thought that prayer involved closing your eyes, focusing on God, thanking him for his blessings, and listing various requests or concerns. But after taking a Bible-study course that specifically focused on prayer, I was blown away by what I did not know about prayer. It is hard to share what you do not know, so Christians need to be knowledgeable about prayer to be able to share.
Keep a prayer journal. I cannot remember who gave me this advice years ago, but keeping a prayer journal has revolutionized my faith in God. When I look back at all the various concerns I’ve had and how God addressed them, I know that my prayers reached God. All of my prayers haven’t been answered in the way I’ve wanted them to be answered nor in the timeframe I requested—but the collective, written-down experience has been invaluable in developing a personal relationship with God.
Pray in public. One way to pray in public is to offer grace before meals. This is relatively easy to do when in the company of your family or other Christians, but Christians can pray before meals even if we are with colleagues or people who may not share our faith. I must admit that I have felt uncomfortable praying before meals when I eat with some people, but if being a Christian doesn’t make us uncomfortable from time to time, are we really adhering to our faith?
Become a part of a prayer ministry. I have not been involved in a prayer ministry yet, but I have gone to prayer ministry meetings before and have witnessed the awesome power present when prayer warriors get together. Also a prayer ministry group can brainstorm ways to impact the community through prayer.
Offer to pray for people. While everyone may not be a Christian, I would wager that the average person would be open to the offer of prayer when faced with a troubling issue. Obviously the leading of the Holy Spirit is needed here, but an offer to pray may be just the encouragement someone needs during a trial in his or her life.
Pray for and pay attention to the government. We will likely never meet most of the people elected to formulate public policy, but we can directly impact them by praying for them.
Take part in initiatives devoted to prayer. For example, on the first Thursday of May, the National Day of Prayer task force endeavors to “mobilize prayer in America and to encourage personal repentance and righteousness in the culture.”
As Christians we know the power of prayer, but we are living in a culture that is increasingly ignorant about its power. Town of Greece v. Galloway is more than a decision; it is an opportunity to recognize that we can impact our culture through educating it about the strength of prayer in our society.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service,
an online, national news service for attorneys. Contact Jacqueline at afterthealtarcall.com.