Bideford Town Council in Devon has infringed UK Law by saying prayers before Council meetings. That must stop. Atheists in Jersey argue strongly that, therefore, the States should not say prayers before States meetings.
What do you think – and why?
To assist our thought processes one telling question could be asked. “If prayers in the States were directed towards “Allah” and recited Muslim teaching, would you be in favour that such prayers be said in the States?”
That question highlights the big issue. It isn’t really about “saying (any old) prayers”. It’s about the “God” to whom such prayers are being said – and it’s about the teaching that followers of that “God” are putting forward as the way to govern the world.
Is there anything to learn from history about this? Take a look at the words in bold above. They’re from the national archives of Israel preserved by the Jews over many centuries before Jesus was born in Judah.
The king of Syria was at war with Israel (shades of AD 2012, of President Assad of Syria, of Alawite religion, and of Israel). He was very angry because it was clear that Syrian military information was known to Israel. e accused his officers, arguing that one of them was a double agent. His officers sought to correct him, explaining that Elisha, God’s prophet in Israel, “tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”
The king of Syria sends an army to capture Elisha. Elisha’s servant wakes up, sees the army surrounding the city and is stressed out. Elisha prays that the eyes of his servant will be opened.
How interesting – for three reasons! Elisha is not just “saying prayers”. He means them. He is actually praying.
Elisha is not addressing any old God. He knows the God to whom he is praying - the God of Israel, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. “His work is perfect and all His ways are just. A God of faithfulness and without injustice. Good and upright is He.”
Elisha is not just reciting the Lord’s Prayer. He is specifically praying “open my servant’s eyes”. He wants his servant to have “sight” of the true reality. Only with such sight will Elisha’s servant be able to assess the true situation, be able to decide aright. Do we pray about members of the States of Jersey, “open my servant’s eyes”?
This ancient archive continues the story. So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.
Elisha led them to Samaria where he again prayed – again for the “opening of eyes”. The Syrian army needed to see again. The sight of thousands was restored.
The king of Israel wanted to strike down the whole Syrian army – but the man of God, the man who prayed, the man who did not merely “say prayers”, answered with mercy, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.
What do you think of true prayer in the States? Prayer that results in sight? Prayer that results in Jersey being generous and merciful? Prayer that results in peace with our enemies and opponents and competitors?