Real Faith is Personal
by Terry Ellis
I ran across an item, a few years old now, concerning an “invocation” at
a graduation ceremony at a college in New Hampshire. The school had gone
through an extended controversy when officials first canceled then restored
prayers on campus. In an apparent effort not to offend, the class president
gave the following invocation: “I invite each of you to reflect positively and
personally on the importance of this day and give thanks.”
That was it. A real invocation is literally a prayer to invoke God’s presence.
More specifically, it is a call for us to be aware of his constant presence
because we do not need to “call him down.” He is here. An invocation is a
prayer that acknowledges this and awakens in us an open heart and mind
to hear him. By this standard, the young man’s invocation falls far short.
I’m not addressing in this article the sticky topic of prayer in a public
forum, but a tendency we all have to become rather dry and distant from
God who loves us dearly.
William Willimon, noted author and chaplain, recalls “I was at a community
gathering in which a minister prayed, ‘Great One, source of all being,
immerse us in the human condition Amen.’ I was seated next to noted Biblical
scholar Walter Brueggemann who muttered at the end of the prayer,
‘Lord, this is Walt. I don’t want any more of the human condition than I’ve
Willimon continues, “I went through a stage of attempting to pray
generic prayers. Rather than address the God of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac,
Jacob and Jesus, I called on ‘that Divine Force which touches our lives.’
After one such prayer a student told me I sounded more like a crew member
of the Starship Enterprise than a Christian minister.”
Nameless, faceless, generic religion is alien to vibrant, real, personal
Christian faith. God sent His Son to us, not a principle or concept. That Son
taught us to pray to “Our Father in Heaven.” He meant that we have a loving
God who is truly on our side. Personal religion is all about a God who
“walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am His own.”
So make your faith personal this week.
Terry Ellis is pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
Read more of Terry Ellis at Grace Waves.