Ralph Blair is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He founded Evangelicals Concerned in 197 6. This booklet is based on Dr. Blair’s keynote at connECtion1990, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned, at Kirkridge and at San Francisco State University.
(PDF version available here.)
By Dr. Ralph Blair
An unknown gloss adds a word at the end of one of Jesus’s sayings: “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites who love to pray in the synagogues and on the broad street corners to be seen by People magazine.” But there he was, in People magazine: Jerry Falwell tableau vivant—bent over a bed, on his knees, hands velcroed together on top of a Bible, eyes shut, piously beseeching a disinterested French poodle on the bed beside the Bible. People magazine’s a pretty big street corner! Now maybe the posturing wasn’t Falwell’s idea. Maybe it was People’s. But why did he stoop to play the part?
“Believe me,” said Jesus, “they have had all the reward they’re going to get. But when you pray, go into a room by yourself,” he said, “shut the door and pray to your Father privately. Your Father who sees everything will reward you.” That’s how Cardinal Newman could reflect: “I am never less alone than when I am all alone.”
Jesus continued: “When you pray, don’t rattle off long prayers like the pagans who think they will be heard because they use so many words.” But there they were, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, led by Cardinal O’Connor, in vanity and in vain, rattling off the lines of The Lord’s Prayer in a shouting match with ACT-UP invaders. “They think they will be heard?”
After a federal district court ruled against spoken prayers at public school ceremonies, there he was, an Iowa preacher protesting that the ruling violated his constitutional right to free speech. To whom did he intend to speak?
And there he was on 60 Minutes, a U.S. Marine drill instructor, barking orders at his young recruit.
“Get ’em up!” He meant: put your hands together as if in prayer. “Yes, sir.” “Pray! Ya’ got 30 seconds. Go!” “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, … ” Evel Knievel says he can do it in 10 seconds.
After a court of appeals ruling against public school-sponsored spoken prayers at football games, protesting fans throughout the South chanted The Lord’s Prayer across the field before kickoff. They think they will be heard. Does God really have to listen to all this crap? God listens and weeps.
Standing on the 50-yard line, the mayor of Montgomery, Alabama began his protest prayer session by boasting that “Football and prayer are a tradition in Montgomery and in Alabama and in America.” One can think of other traditions in Montgomery and Alabama and America. Read more →