The drama surrounding Rick Warren’s forthcoming invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony just won’t subside. After being maligned by both gay-rights groups and evangelicals for accepting Obama’s invitation, the Saddleback Church pastor is now being grilled on whether he’ll offer his prayer in the name of Jesus.
“I’m a Christian pastor so I will pray the only kind of prayer I know how to pray,” Warren stated last week in a written response. “Prayers are not to be sermons, speeches, position statements nor political posturing. They are humble, personal appeals to God.”
At George W. Bush’s inauguration, both Franklin Graham and Kirbyjon Caldwell concluded their prayers in Jesus’ name—including Caldwell’s delivery “in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ”—which drew harsh criticism and led to renowned atheist Michael Newdow claiming in a lawsuit the utterance was an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion.” In 2005, Caldwell again prayed in Jesus’ name but added the line, “respecting persons of all faiths.”
When asked about Warren’s situation, Graham said: “For a Christian, especially for an evangelical pastor, the Bible teaches us that we are to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. How can a minister pray any other way? If you don’t want someone to pray in Jesus’ name, don’t invite an evangelical minister.”
Just how much has American culture changed that this has become an issue? When Richard Nixon was sworn in as president in 1969, Billy Graham virtually offered an invitation to salvation, concluding his prayer “in the Name of the Prince of Peace who shed His blood on the Cross that men might have eternal life.” [AP, 12/30/08]