By Todd E. Brady
Vice president for University ministries, Union University, Jackson
When toddlers jabber made-up phrases, parents and grandparents say, “Aw, isn’t that cute?” When older adults utter nonsensical language, it’s usually sad. When national leaders use senseless words, it’s downright ridiculous.
This week, I could hardly believe the recent headlines that told of House Democrat Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) who is also an ordained United Methodist pastor who voiced the prayer for the 117th Congress. As he concluded his prayer, he said “We ask it in the name of the monotheistic, God, Brahma, and ‘god’ known by many names by many different faiths.” He then finished what the Daily Mail called his “woke Congress prayer” by saying “Amen and awoman.”
What? Well, if that’s not a bunch of mumbo jumbo, then I don’t know what is. It’s one thing to be politically correct. It’s another thing to be ludicrous. Tristan Justice of The Federalist called it “pointless passive-aggressive virtue signaling.” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa summed it up by saying, “Unbelievable.”
His gender-ification of the word “Amen” followed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) and Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern’s (D-Mass) introduction of a new code of conduct which sought to “honor all gender identities by changing pronouns and familial relationships in the House rules to be gender neutral.” No longer are words like “mother,” “father,” “son,” “daughter,” “aunt,” and “uncle” allowed in the text of Congressional rules. Instead, the “future-focused” rules include only gender-neutral terms like “parent,” “child,” “sibling,” and “parent’s sibling.”
GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted about the new code and bluntly said, “This is stupid. Signed, — A father, son, and brother.”
After Cleaver’s insane prayer, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said “the radical madness has begun.”
His making up a word was nothing less than babbling. To babble is to talk in a foolish, excited or incomprehensible way. The Scriptures say “The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.” (Proverbs 10:8)
“Amen” is a simple word meaning, “so be it.” Saying “Amen” at the end of a prayer is asking that what we have prayed will come to pass. It’s why we say it.
Besides the meaningless content of a nonsensical word, there is a deeper issue. More than asking the question “What was Rep. Cleaver doing in that prayer?,” we need to be asking another question: Who was he talking to?
Jesus said, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6).
It’s not the prayers of elected officials who stand in the halls of power before a watching world that touch the heart of God. It’s the prayers of the single mother who cries out in the night after she’s put her children to bed. God listens to the humble prayers of the farmer asking for rain. The teenager who is upstairs in his room by himself and looking to God for help in overcoming temptation is the one who is heard by God. The simple prayers of the school custodian who rises early in the morning before the sun comes up reach the heart of God.
Sunday night’s prayer in the Capitol Building probably didn’t make it above the ceiling in that fancy room. Real prayer focuses on the God who is listening, not on the people who may be overhearing. B&R