Is There A Wrong Place to Pray?
As I write this devotion, the U.S. Supreme Court has just decided by a vote of 5-4, that it is permissible to offer public prayer before government meetings. There is plenty of opportunity for debate when it comes to this subject. But as they say, “I’ll take it!” The judgment not only gives communities the freedom to exercise their religious freedom, but it also removes some fuzziness for some of my friends who have previously been told they can no longer pray at government meetings.
However, if the court decision had gone the other way, public prayer at government gatherings would have no longer been permissible. But would it have been wrong?
Occasionally, I am asked to visit people dying in the hospital who are loosely connected to believers I know. If I don’t know them I always ask for permission to pray before I leave. I have never had anyone in this situation turn me down, although I have had those who are not as seriously ill tell me they would prefer I didn’t. Certainly, I feel a call from God to pray for everyone who is sick, and especially for those who might meet Him in person soon. But do I really have a right to pray against someone else’s wishes? Would it be wrong?
Perhaps you have already discerned my question is a set-up. Obviously, we can always pray silently, even when others have asked us not to pray publicly. So absolutely, if the court had ruled against public prayer we could have still prayed in a government meeting, and even if others don’t want us to pray for them when they are sick, we can pray silently while we talk with them about other things.
There might be inappropriate ways to pray, but I can’t think of a single place where it would be wrong to pray. Jesus once told a parable about a tax-collector and a Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14) that went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed about himself and thanked God he wasn’t like other sinners. But the tax-collector beat his breast and asked God for mercy. Only the tax-collector left his place of prayer justified, although they were both praying to the same God in the same location. It seems where we are when we pray really isn’t the issue.