Two very different inaugural prayers

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Well, Rick Warren finally answered the question we’ve all been asking: Would he pray in Jesus’ name?

Sure enough, in a kind of convoluted way, he did. 

“I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus (pronounced “Hay-sus”), Jesus, who taught us to pray … ” said Mr. Warren before he swung into the Lord’s Prayer, a convenient way to get the crowd praying along with him. No one ever disagrees with the Lord’s Prayer. Why Mr. Warren felt he had to go through the Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish pronunciations of Jesus’ name is a mystery. 

Doubtless, Muslims will disagree with how the prayer began to “Almighty God our Father” in that Muslims don’t believe in God as Father (not to mention a Son and Holy Spirit). 

In all, his prayer was pretty normal, although I found one sentence odd: “Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.”

I know it’s unwise to read too much into public prayers, but was he saying race, religion or “blood” (who we’re related to?) are not unifiers? I would have edited that sentence out. 

Unlike the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, the Methodist civil rights icon who gave the benediction, Mr. Warren’s appearance on the program got nonstop attacks from gay rights folks who villified the Saddleback Church pastor for his support of California’s Proposition 8, which passed. 

Mr. Lowery’s prayer began with the third verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a hymn known as the “black national anthem.” Several sentences later, he repeated a phrase from another hymn, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” 

Then he cracked a few jokes: “We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around (people started to laugh at this point), when yellow will be mellow (more laughter), when the red man can get ahead, man (more laughter) and when white will embrace what is right.”  

Was that last phrase a slap or what?

Then, paraphrasing a verse from Micah 6:8, he ended the prayer with a hearkening to revival time. “Let all who do justice and love mercy say amen,” he said, and the crowd yelled back, “Amen!” He repeated the “amens” twice more and left the podium to cheers.

The Methodist preacher did not refer to Jesus, though.

I will have to say this about both men: Their prayers ended very well.

—Julia Duin, religion editor

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About the Author
Julia Duin

Julia Duin

Julia Duin is the Times' religion editor. She has a master's degree in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and has covered the beat for three decades. Before coming to The Washington Times, she worked for five newspapers, including a stint as a religion writer for the Houston Chronicle and a year as city editor at the ...

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