Prayer is a means of forming a closer relationship with God. You can't just ask for things. That is the difference between God and Santa Claus. (I'm getting all this from the National Day of Prayer Task Force official website, by the way. Although I may have taken a bit of license with the part about Santa Claus.)
Sounds great. Only the thing is, the National Day of Prayer is for Christians only. It says so right on the Saint Louis Gateway National Day of Prayer website:
The purpose of the St. Louis Gateway National Day of Prayer Committee is to assist Christians in the metro St. Louis area to gather at local city halls and other venues on the annual National Day of Prayer, the first Thursday of May, to pray for all U.S. citizens.So what's a nice Jewish girl to do? Or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Wiccan or any other U.S. citizen that does not happen to be a Christian? Are we just supposed to depend on the Christians to pray for us?
This nice Jewish girl called up Kathy Morgan, president of the Saint Louis Gateway National Day of Prayer. It got a bit awkward. "I guess the Christians have taken the lead for organized prayer," Morgan offered.
Some groups, including the Interfaith Alliance and JewsOnFirst, have complained that the Christians have actually "hijacked" the National Day of Prayer.
"Only Christian clergy are invited to participate," Jane Hunter, a codirector of JewsOnFirst, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, told The Christian Science Monitor. "And they encourage their coordinators to enlist elected officials or stage their observances on public property."
The Saint Louis Gateway National Day of Prayer is a division of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a Christian organization chaired by Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. The Gateway group has organized lunchtime prayer meetings at city halls across the St. Louis metropolitan area and larger meeting in the evening at the Arch.
Morgan said that the prayer meeting at the Arch will be "Judeo-Christian" and feature a speech by a "Jewish pastor. Not a rabbi," she clarified. "A Christian Jew. Someone will be blowing the shofar, too. That's a Jewish thing."
Although all the prayers will be Christian (that is, ad-libbed by a pastor), "everyone is free to pray according to his or her own personal beliefs," Morgan said. She has heard of National Day of Prayer events organized by religions that are neither Christian or Jewish, but she doesn't know of any in St. Louis.
President Obama, meanwhile, has decided to scale back White House National Day of Prayer activities from the Bush-era proclamations but not cancel the Day altogether. The former course of action has pissed off the Christians and the latter the non-believers.
In Wisconsin, 12,000 non-believers filed a lawsuit in a federal court claiming that The National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional since it violates the doctrine of separation of church and state.
In the meantime, at the Arch tonight, Morgan said, the pray-ers (who numbered 175 last year, although this year there may be more) will be asking God to help the government out: "It needs all the help it can get."
Meanwhile, here in St. Louis, it's starting to feel a lot like Christmas. Are there any non-Christian National Day of Prayer events going on here today? Or should the rest of us just order Chinese food and go to the movies? Let us know in the comments.