In the United States, when the country first formed, there was a great desire by the founders to not inhibit the free practice of religion. There was, therefore, a prohibition of state and religion mixing in a way so there would be no official religion. In recent times courts have often gone to the extreme position that no religious action, including prayer, is allowed if the government at any level has a part in the activity. Some have criticized this, especially when it goes to removal pf prayer in public schools.
Public Prayer: The Depths of Consideration
Prayer is useful, but we must not discard the religious beliefs of others to the point of requiring them to pray against their conscience.
Thought or Emotion?
A response to this issue is often based on emotion. Sometimes, emotions and logic work in harmony. But, one must be careful. Logic can in some cases work in opposition to emotion. There is opportunity for harmony, and danger of discord, with this issue.
Can Allowing Prayer Be Problematic?
The most significant of all of God’s commandments is that of not practicing idolatry. So, wherein can prying become a problem? If it is to a false god, or to what one perceives to be a false god. That last phrase is the focus.
So, praying to God is in a way universal, or is it? Christians believe in the God of Abraham with the manifestation of being in three persons, and the attributes of Allah indicates a commonality of belief with the God of Abraham. In fact, a belief in a monotheistic god can often be in a god with the same attributes, omnificence and eternal. So, is a prayer to God acceptable by all monotheistic religions? Well, in exodus there was a worshipping of a golden calf, so the answer simple answer is no.
Some claim God has a name, and any other name defines a different being. God can be identified with a multitude of words, especially when one considers the variations in language, as a defining term. And if people claim that to be a name is defining, does it really matter?
Of course not every god can be considered as the God of Abraham, or Allah. Look at the ancient Romans and Greeks with a god for every occasion. They might reflect, in many cases, attributes or powers of a single God, but when the emperors proclaimed themselves gods there is a clear break with a true God.
I have not even touched on eastern religions. There are many religions in the east that have their own deity or deities. Some have multiple deities. Nor have I touched on atheists and agnostics. The three major religions offer enough to digest in one article.
What Logic Dictates
So, if there is a commonality in what we accept as God, wherein lies the problem?
Beliefs are not universal. Christians believe in a God with three distinct persons. This is not accepted by those not Christian. So, while a Christian might believe that a prayer offered to God is acceptable by the other two main religions, that belief is not always reciprocal.
One interesting thing is the Jewish religion has the Torah. When Christianity evolved with the Apostles there was no rejection of the Torah. The Roman Catholic Church accepted the Torah as the Old Testament, and added only the New Testament to it. Is this contrary to a Trinity?
This came up in a Christology class taught by a skilled theologian. Actually, the question of why did the High Priest accuse Jesus of blasphemy when Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man was what was asked. The reason is there are two additional books that appear to have been written under Divine inspiration, but I forgot their names. They were forbidden to the Jewish people, but required reading for their leaders, and these books gave insight into the Trinity, and the use of the term “Son of Man.” So, there is an interesting correlation to the Trinity from the ancient writings.
Idolatry is a serious matter. I believe it is not acceptable to cause another to, in the conscience of the other person, commit idolatry. So, while I may see no problem with accepting the God of Abraham as a Catholic, I would equally find it immoral to require a person of another faith to go against conscience. Some people feel they have the answer and it is acceptable to cause another to commit idolatry in the other person’s conscience because there is no understanding that there is merit in the other person’s beliefs. Indeed, I have recently been at a public school graduation where an invocation clearly addressed Jesus. This indicated an intolerance.
It is the intolerant who make public prayer a dangerous thing to negotiate, and while prayer is important those leading the prayer must word things carefully. Banishing public prayer is draconian, but it comes from intolerance. We must be aware the others in the group may have restrictions as to what words are comfortable. When prayer is no longer used to coerce others to accept a belief they do not share we can discuss having public prayer restored.
First, let everyone become more tolerant.