"We've come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm." Governor Sonny Perdue made this announcement at the State Capital, Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 13, at a gathering of political leaders and ministers. A national news organization covered the meeting and posted their report onto their web page. Readers online can add a comment on the various stories. Few get more than a dozen comments. By 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, there were 281 comments on the Governor Perdue prayer meeting. Here are a few of them.
"I am glad someone in power is not afraid to ask God openly for help. Good for him!"
"What do you expect from the deep south?"
"If all we have to do is ask God for things like rain then why you don't just pray for food, clothing, health care, education, water etc... Nobody has to actually work."
"This is a cheap publicity stunt. Meteorologists are calling for rain on Wednesday!"
"What if it doesn't rain?"
"Instead of violating the separation of Church and State, why wasn't the Governor implementing water-conserving policies and negotiating water sources."
"It's not correct to think you can only pray and not act, or you can only act and not pray. You can do both."
"It works! We just had some rain here in Tennessee."
"God is already aware of the situation in Georgia. No need to ask for anything."
"This is the dumbest approach to solving a real problem!"
"If the Georgians pray too much will it flood?"
"I know God is real and I think he has a great sense of humor. Wouldn't it be funny if it rained on the protesters?"
I agree with the first and seventh comments. With regards to the fifth, it will rain, eventually. With regards to the sixth, this is not a violation of the separation between church and state; or, if it is, Purdue in good company.
In 1789 George Washington wrote, "It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor."
In 1863 Abraham Lincoln wrote, "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. .... Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
In 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote, "My Fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer: Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith."
These great presidents have set the pattern. It is indeed right and appropriate for the political leadership in America to ask for God's blessings. President Lincoln even did more than this. He asked for the people to change. His call to repentance is a reminder that prayer is more than asking for what we want; real prayer is also to ask what does God want? If the Governor of Georgia is going to ask the Lord for rain, then he ought to also be asking how Georgians can serve God better.
John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn & Mansfield UMC. Send e-mail to email@example.com