Let me make this clear: Prayer is not Punishment.

“Of course,” you say, “it’s obvious it’s not punishment.” Oh, really?

Then why do we play games like “nose goes” to decide who’s going to pray? Why must people be forced into praying? If prayer is such a privilege as some people crow, then why aren’t we lining up to pray? why aren’t we having to force people not to pray just to keep the pre-meal prayer, for instance, within a reasonable time frame?[1] Instead we do the opposite.

But we treat Prayer as Punishment.

When I was in high school, there was this one kid in my youth group that had a horribly tough time standing still. He was also the first out the door after our youth service would end, in order to gobble food. It was our custom to pray together as a group to both close the service and ask for the Lord’s blessing for the meal. Often, on the basis of the inappropriately bouncy, over-eager demeanor, the youth leader would — every week — say something along the lines of: “Since you’re so eager to eat, why don’t you pray for us?” There are several things wrong with this:

  1. People should be volunteering to pray.
  2. The kid needs to grow up.
  3. The kid shouldn’t be the only one to pray every week.
  4. Prayer is not — according to the Bible — necessary for us to get to eat (see discussion).
[1]For the sake of this argument, a pre-meal prayer that ends up taking the whole mealtime isn’t exactly practical for most. Kudos to those who wrinkle their nose at putting such limits to interacting with the Almighty in the interests of eating fleshly food.