Melinda Penner had a terrific post today on the topic of offering prayers in a public, multi-faith setting. Modern notions of pluralism and tolerance, coupled with political correctness have resulted in an assault of criticism against Christians who invoke the name of Jesus in public-lead prayers. Doing so is said to be insensitive, intolerant, and guilty of excluding those who do not share our faith. Penner argues that this perspective is mistaken for the following reasons:


  1. Prayer always involves a recipient. To offer a prayer necessarily entails addressing it to someone, whether that someone is named or not (not “to whom it may concern”). In the case of the Christian, the object of our prayers is Jesus. Speaking the name “Jesus” at the end of a prayer only enunciates to everyone what they already know: that the Christian is praying to the Christian God—“not a committee of generic deities of all faiths present.” No one expects the prayer leader to abandon his beliefs while offering the prayer, so no one should be surprised or offended when we name the person we are praying to.
  2. Offering any prayer at all—even a generic prayer—will exclude atheists. Should we, then, not only be prohibited from addressing our prayer to a specific God, but also prohibited from offering public prayers altogether?
  3. The only alternative is to require prayer leaders to pretend that their beliefs are not true, or only allow religious pluralists to lead public prayers. Both options discriminate against Christians.
  4. It requires that Christians hide their religious convictions in public.
  5. Those who bear the burden of tolerance are the listeners, not the speaker. “Tolerance doesn’t censor, it encourages expression even’t when the belief isn’t shared.”

I would encourage you to read her post.