Prayers To End All Prayers

The best part of my newest book—Contemporary Pastoral Prayers for All Sorts of Situations—is the section on the theology of the “closing prayer.” Now, I realize that many pastors do not have a “closing prayer” because they simply follow the ancient custom of bestowing a benediction. However, for those who need help with their “closing prayers,” I offer the following classifications.

The Symphonic Prayer. This one never ends. It seems to end at certain points, but keeps on going. Like a symphony, the same themes are repeated, but not in different ways. You keep waiting for that roll of drums and blast of trumpets, but it never comes. When the prayer does end, it’s not with a shout, but a grateful sigh.

The Recapitulation Prayer. This prayer is especially helpful to latecomers who missed the choir anthem, the solo, or the Scripture readings. The pastor closes his eyes and relives the entire service, reporting what happened over the Lord’s shoulder. “Thank you for the choir anthem! Indeed, we say ‘Hallelujah for the Cross!’ And we give thanks for the solo by Sister Kennicott. [The congregation gave thanks when the solo ended.] And for the Scripture readings from Isaiah 40 and Mark 6, we give thanks.” On and on. One preacher I know keeps the Sunday bulletin before him so he does not miss anything. Once he forgot to give thanks for the ushers who took up the offering and he almost had to resign.

The Announcement Prayer. This one is just the opposite of the Recapitulation Prayer, because it reminds you of what is coming next. “Thank you for this service,” it begins; but then it continues; “And I pray for the Ladies’ Aide committee that is meeting in the parlor right after the service; and for the two o’clock meeting of the choir captains; and for the missionary tea at 4:30; and the preservice prayer meeting at 6:00; and then, Lord, especially for the evening service at 7:00. Give thy servant power to preach on ‘Giants and Midgets in a Cookie-cutter World.’ ” Again, it helps if you have the bulletin before you.

The Sermon Prayer. Here you have another variation of the Recapitulation Prayer, except that you rehash the sermon. Point by point. With emphasis. This is especially good if you have a guest preacher; it proves to him that you were listening and taking notes. (Actually, you were balancing your checkbook, but who could tell?)

The Scolding Prayer. This one needs no explanation. “Lord, I pray for those young people who talked all during the service. I pray also for the PA system—help us to get the bugs out of it. And for the people who are missing today, I pray. Some of them are just being unfaithful to the church.” Give it to ’em!

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Of course, the purists might question whether or not these are really prayers in the biblical sense. Perhaps not, but why bring the Bible into it? After all, some of the best-known preachers have been known to use these kinds of prayers, and who am I to quarrel with success?


You Can Bank On It

With all the concern about genetic engineering, it is high time evangelicals give attention to a movement whose importance cannot be oversestimated. As the responsible head of the organization. I have given it the name Spiritual Superiority.

Our mission is clear. We propose to set up a National Evangelical Sperm Bank to which only spiritual giants will be allowed to contribute and from which we intend to breed a race of super spiritual saints.

We need your help.

First, of course, we solicit your prayers. The ramifications of this idea stagger the mind. No more hours of Bible study for the next generation. No necessity to spend time in prayer. No fight to overcome temptations. No reluctance to witness to overcome. Your spiritual giant ancestor will have conquered these matters and will pass along the victory to you. All will be in your giant genes.

As we improve the race we can improve our theology. Immediately we can do away with that pessimistic doctrine of apostasy. Indeed, we might even be able to eliminate the future tribulation period and do away with all the debate over the time of the Rapture. Certainly, premillennialism will have to be discarded, for the super spiritual saints will inaugurate the kingdom by themselves. (And I may win a Nobel Peace Prize for starting it all!)

Second, we need your money. True, the bank will be a parachurch organization, but think how much it will help the church. No more carnal Christians. Guaranteed ecumenical success. Everybody a tither, at the least. We can even arrange an annuity that will pay your descendants in the bank.

Third, we solicit your nominees. Your own name should not appear on your list, since that will indicate you are not humble, and all spiritual giants are humble. If you want your name submitted, try to get a close friend to do it. On second thought, not too close. Come to think of it, that very point may spell the doom of my organization. Didn’t someone say that every organization has in it the seeds of its own destruction? I guess Spiritual Superiority is no exception, for the only people qualified to join wouldn’t.

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But I did learn something. It has become obvious to me that the real reason I don’t like to pray or study or engage in healthy spiritual activities is that my genes are wrong. All the self-discipline in the world won’t help me. I’m really not to blame. And I shouldn’t feel guilty.

You see what freedom Spiritual Superiority can bring?

In the spirit of Eutychus,


Founder and President

“Science Fiction Nightmare”?

The article by Fay Angus, “The Promise and Perils of Genetic Meddling” [May 8], raised questions about genetic manipulation that need to be considered, but I found her article misleading in several respects.

At least twice she makes statements I think are contrary to what the majority of science journalists and scientists believe. For example, to claim that the ability to incubate a fertilized human ovum or embryo to term in an “artificial womb” in the laboratory will occur in the “very near” future for human babies is very unlikely. In fact, this feat has never been accomplished for any mammal, not even laboratory rodents or marsupials. I believe Angus’s statement is irresponsible and deliberately exaggerated for its shock value.

I urge readers not to believe that genetic advances are hurtling us into the bizarre science fiction nightmare that Angus conjures up. Rather, Christians who uphold biblical principles should seek to keep abreast of progress in this area in order to influence the application of these findings for good and not evil. In this hope, Angus and I heartily concur.


Charlottesville, Va.

It seems to be an unfortunate human failing to rush headlong through any newly opened door to a promised wonderland, only to discover later that there is often a terrible price to pay for scientific cleverness. This is not to say that science has not benefited man beyond compare, but that the more knowledgeable we get, the more caution we should employ.

This is no more apparent than in genetic engineering. While its promises are golden, surely there are risks when it comes to creating new forms of life never seen on earth before.

I believe that research in genetic engineering should be carefully monitored and that the public is entitled to know what direction such research is taking. Genetic engineering, especially when new life forms are contemplated, raises a number of questions of morality, faith, ethics, and safety. Such questions and answers should be explored publicly; there is always someone willing to take risks not only for himself, but for all the rest of us. There is always someone who will weaken under the pressures of ambition and/or greed. The scientific community has not been altogether immune from such temptations in the past and surely will not be in the future. Therein lies the hazard for us all.

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Asheville, N.C.

Progress In Dialogue

You are to be commended for one of the finest editorial statements on evangelical-Jewish relations I have seen. The very fact that you decided to write a major editorial piece on the subject is an indication both of how far we have come in the dialogue and how much we have yet to accomplish.

While the statement may not be the watershed event that the Nostrae Aetate Catholic document of Vatican II Council 1963–65 was, the notion that anti-Semitism is abhorrent to Christian sensibilities and true doctrine is central to both documents, and is, therefore, most welcome. To be sure, we Jews may not agree with the editorial in its entirety. Of special concern to many of us is the subject of Messianic Judaism, which was treated at length in the same issue. And yet, while there is very little if any common ground on the subject of Messianic Jews, the thoughtful manner in which the editorial was written and the sincerity it conveys cannot but open up further possibilities for mutual understanding.


Anti-Defamation League

Chicago, Ill.

You have done the Christian world a real service by sharing these thoughtful comments. For obvious reasons you were focusing on the Jews alone, although your frequent references to anti-Semitism provided an excellent opportunity for expanding your comments. Perhaps you would rather share others at a later date.

It is easy to forget that the Jews are not the only Semites and that they are not the only persons who suffer discrimination and injustices. In fact, Palestinians, Christians as well as Muslims, suffer injustices at the hands of Jews as well as at the hands of the rest of the world.


Richmond, Ind.

Paisley’S Efforts Lauded

I was keenly disappointed by J. D. Douglas’s article concerning Ian Paisley [“Clubbing Catholics with the Gospel,” April 24]. At a time when political issues of great importance are current in America, Christian people need to be enlightened, not confused.

The greatest inaccuracy was probably the statement, “Toward Roman Catholics his attitude is ambivalent.” It is unthinkable that a man who should have the discernment of a Scottish Christian would fail to understand the difference between the system of Rome and the people of Rome. The former is suspect because of the political threat it musters against the Britishness of Ulster; the latter are, as properly stated by Douglas, fairly treated as constituents by Ian Paisley, and they are continually led to the Lord in Free Presbyterian circles.

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Having lived for several years in Ulster, the situation there without Ian Paisley is unthinkable, even though many American fundamentalists could not completely agree with his efforts. These efforts are a product of a unique situation into which has come a strong-willed, loud-speaking, Bible-believing Christian whose crusade is certainly worthy of a more scholarly and practical consideration than it was given by Douglas.


San Jose, Calif.

Setting A Precedent

Your editorial, “A Bill to Ban Abortions” [May 8], presented Stephen Galebach’s legal theory by which Congress might overturn the Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decision. Several issues are crucial for Christians to consider before supporting the theory.

First, Galebach’s interpretation of the Roe V. Wade decision is questionable. While passages in the opinion say the court is not deciding when life begins, the result prohibits state legislatures from criminalizing abortion. In making abortion a crime, the legislature must decide when life begins. So the result is that state legislatures may not decide that life begins at conception. Since no reason exists to permit Congress to decide this issue while not allowing it to a state, the basic premise of Galebach’s theory is weak.

More important, evangelicals need to consider the precedent that would be set if a majority of Congress is allowed to overturn a Supreme Court decision. The Bill of Rights protects individuals and minorities from ill-intentioned majorities of our legislatures. Evangelicals constitute such a minority, and even though the political trend presently appears to be running in our favor, that could easily change. The Bill of Rights would become vital to protect our interests.

Do we want to set a potential precedent whereby a majority of Congress could limit these rights? Are we willing to pay this price? Perhaps we are, but we must realize the implications of the Senate bill before we support it.


Columbus, Ohio


I wish to correct several errors that appeared in a brief news article in your April 24 issue. The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. has never at any time encouraged the Metropolitan Community Church to apply for membership. No one on the NCC staff has ever stated that there would be no difficulty in accepting this denomination into membership. In fact, the Metropolitan Community Church has not as of this date applied for membership.


General Secretary

National Council of Churches

New York, N. Y.

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