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August 28, 2008

Joel Hunter's Benediction

Yes, he prayed in Jesus' name. But I don't think I've ever seen that long of a preface to praying in Jesus' name.

Not familiar with Joel Hunter? Francis FitzGerald had a recent profile in The New Yorker that's worth reading.

A transcript of the benediction after the jump, along with a few words from Hunter's blog about why he accepted the invitation to give the benediction even though he's a Republican.

We are all here to devote ourselves to the improvement of this country we love. In one of the best traditions of our country, would those of you who are people of faith join me in asking for God's help?

Almighty God, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us a reverence for all life. Give us a compassion for the most vulnerable among us. The babies. The children. The poor. The sick. The enslaved. The persecuted. For all of those who have been left out of the advantaged world.

Give us a zeal to clean the environment we have polluted while we create an economy where everyone who can work can have a job. Help us to honor those who defend our country by working harder and smarter for peace. Help us to counter those that incite fear and hatred by becoming people who are informed and respectful and are known for the principles and projects that aim higher than merely our own group's benefit.

Guide Barack Obama and all of our leaders to be agents of your will and recipients of your wisdom. And grant that all of us citizens will continually do our part to contribute to the common good so that we can truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Now I interrupt this prayer for a closing instruction. I want to personalize this. I want this to be a participatory prayer. And so therefore, because we are in a country that is still welcoming all faiths, I would like all of us to close this prayer in the way your faith tradition would close your prayer.

So on the count of three, I want all of you to end this prayer, your prayer, the way you usually end prayer. You ready? One, two, three.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Let's go change the world for good.

Hunter's blog notes that he was the "the proverbial 'elephant' in the room" tonight -- he's a Republican. So why did he accept the invitation? He responds:

"Because I was asked. ... As Evangelicals, we need to make ourselves available, because the church has untold resources that can help solve the problems of the world. Jesus told us to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21). I've always believed that when our elected leaders call upon us and we answer, that we are fulfilling that command from Scripture. That is why I accepted their gracious invitation. I would accept an invitation from the Republicans as well, or any major government activity that would feature prayer, as was included in the founding of our country. ... I'm not endorsing either candidate. I'm encouraging people to voice and vote their values as I always have.


Ok, I just thought the "1,2,3 in Jesus name" was odd.

Finish the verse Mr. Hunter, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Matthew 22:21

I cannot believe you encouraged attendees to close the evening with a prayer to Jesus, Mary, Buddha, Allah, the Anti-Christ, Satan, or Whoever. Anyone want to pray to their big toe? Hey, go for it! It's all okay!

Stand up for the Truth...
John 14:6 "I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one cometh unto the Father, but by ME." -Pretty sure Jesus said that.

I agree with Hunter's decision to accept the invitation. I am a Republican, and have prayed the opening prayers on two separate occasions for the Iowa House and Senate - at the invitation of a Democrat.

I think that Pastor Hunter shows the same boldness and courage and wisdom and humility that Jesus consistently demonstrated and modeled for us. Indeed, Jesus may have taken opportunity to be even more emboldened but then again, may have been so very deferential yet wise, as to simply kneel and write something in the blue carpet hair of that platform.

I so very much commend this demonstration of shrewd humility and as well as an engaging witness. He covered the bases in so many ways yet made, even with the way he concluded the prayer, the Name of Jesus, glorified and pronounced. That is what God smiled to hear as well!

Way to go Pastor Hunter! Blessings to you!

I applaud Hunter for accepting the invitation. I deplore the fact that he invited his hearers to end the prayer in a manner consonant with their own "faith tradition". This encourages the notion that Jesus is not the only way to God, something every evangelical ought to reject wholeheartedly if we truly believe Scripture and if we really care for people's eternal destinies, not to mention their welfare--spiritual and otherwise--here and now.

Pastor Hunter shows great courage to go to a Democratic platform, as a register Republican, to be a witness for Jesus, to pray for the future of this country. Maybe is time that more Christian get into politics not to support a particular party, but to change both parties toward a Christ vision of Goverment. Both parties need Jesus Christ, and if more Christian were working with both parties, maybe the choice would be for a more Christ like party and not one againt the other.

Great prayer for our country and for Senator Obama and his staff. Prayer makes a difference. I would suggest at the end of the benediction to say, ”I invite you to pray in your tradition as I prayer in mine." Then say in Jesus name. The one, two, three thing was weird and confusing.

Freedom of religion means just that. Joel Hunter was "politically correct" and correct otherwise, even if his prayer didn't meet the approval of everyone. My bible teaches that God has given to each
of us the knowledge to discern right from wrong, evil from good, and a free will to make whatever choice we will. Each person lives with the consequences of his or her decisions. There was nothing
wrong with his prayer from a biblical standpoint. Prayers are really meant for God's hearing and not for mammon's. All the things he asked for are to be hoped for by every Christian of whatever political persuasion. Amen, Bro. Hunter.

John 14:6 = Jesus said I am THE WAY / THE TRUTH / THE LIFE. NO ONE comes to the Father except thru ME. I don't recall seeing any exceptions in any Bible that I have ever read.

Thank for your time and reading this and have a Blessed Day.

I applaud Pastor Hunter's inviting all faiths to participate in the prayer at the convention. It showed a respect for the beliefs of others that is often, indeed usually, missing in Evangelical worship. Though my guess is that he didn't intend this meaning, it opens up the refreshing possibility that Christianity, particularly as defined within the Evangelical community, may not be the exclusive truth. Why can't Christians conceive of the idea that the truth may be larger than one belief system? Why is that such a threatening idea?

What I meant to add is: A clinging to an insistence of Biblical inerrancy and a belief that all other religions are by necessity false does not, for me, indicate faith but rather the opposite. Faith, to me, means believeing in God even when the rug is pulled out from under one, even when all the pieties and credos and truths that one has received are challenged. In short, faith is not belief when one is handed a bulletproof explanation but rather belief in the face of doubt, uncertainty, and mystery.

OK, off my soapbox.

Concerning the prayer at the convention, I think there is more here than meets the eye. Preachers are always asked to change things or make a written statement of what they are going to say. I am not completely at home with the idea that we as Christians must publicly share our space in prayer with other faiths. However, it seems like this is going to be happening more and more if we expect to keep the freedoms we have. When the day comes that we are put in jail for praying in Jesus name publicly - then I think we can get mad. In anticipation of the day that another unholy gavel may fall - we should look to have some deference to those that want their beliefs at least to some measure or degree respected. In my view, prayers to false gods do not consume the sacrifice. Elijah watched the sons of ba'al work themselves into a frenzy and then he wet the wood until it was soaked then God sent fire down from heaven in front of everyone. I think if we pause for a second and look at this method - does it encourage people to want to hear more about what we believe? Prayer to All'ah, Ba'al, Buddah, or anyone else but Yah means nothing to me. He sees the hearts of men. If you doubt what Hunter believes, let him answer publicly about how one is to be saved. If he denys the resurrection and the sufficiency of the cross, I will have to conclude that this is 'another gospel' that Paul talks about. Until then, I know what he teaches as I have sat under him for 8 years. The question is why would Hunter upset his base by risking praying like this? He either is dumb or feels like God have him a solution to an emerging problem. I wonder how this would play if Muslims came to Northland wanting to pray to All'ah. I have already seen that. Some Arab Christians call Jah All'ah because they say it is just 'a name for God.' This comes from their translation of Scripture than needs revision. Many Arab Christians reject that All'ah and Jah are the same. This is a convoluted matter and I am interested to see what Joel says about it this weekend.

I heard Dr. Hunter on Sun. evening before his appearance in Denver on Thursday evening. I see what he was trying to do in the prayer that night. He believes in religious freedom; he did not compromise
his strong belief in the centrality of Jesus.

Discounting the ending "One, two, three. . ." The benediction was extraordinarily clear as to Hunter's personal beliefs, which echo mine as a Christian. And I am thankful he absolutely ended with "In Jesus' Name." "O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth." Indeed, "There is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved." If we accept the Bible as God's written Word, we cannot overlook that meaningful passage.

Excellent benediction. I attend Northland and sincerely feel that Dr. Hunter has very strong conservative beliefs and is guided by the teachings and spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am a Liberal Democrat born and raised in NYC and have spent three years listening to his words and watching Dr. Hunter actions. I have gone from feeling alienation and suspicion to knowing that I am in a church that is blessed by God's guidance.

Like others I applaud Hunter for conducting this, but I his interruption was distracting to me. His twist on personalizing a closing to its inter-religious correlates seemed contrived, given he had the microphone and spoke over everyone else. I am sure he wrestled with this. Yet in retrospect, I wish he would have just closed, "In your matchless name we pray, AMEN." Lord help us as Evangelicals live out a public theology that brings honor to your name, not just our own identities.

Yeah, I thought the disclaimer before the end was a little weird. I would have just _SPRUNG_ it on them. :-) I mean, who else would/should we be praying to? Worrying about offending folks is un-Christ-like behavior.

But I'm glad he accepted the invite all the same.

>> I would like all of us to close this prayer in the way your faith tradition would close your prayer...

What in the world was that? Can anyone imagine Paul going to Mars Hill and encouraging the pagans there to pray with him and close it in the name of whatever god it was that they normally pray to?

I agree with his reasons as to why he did it, and I agree with accepting the invitiation. I DO have problems however with the (seemingly gratuitous comments) regarding "the environment" (which somewhat implies that man has the power to cause global warming and plays into the only "religion" that many Democrats currently serve -- environmentalism), the "so that everyone can have a job" (which almost implies that the current administration is responsible for joblessness that until recently has been at record lows), and the "pray in your tradition" which implies that there are several avenues to Salvation.

I really know that this was NOT Joel's intent, but I do have some issues with his delivery which could be construed by those who don't know any better as pandering and missing the point.

I seem to remember a group of other Christians who called themselves evangelical but who preached a social gospel and who saw Christianity as merely the particular "faith tradition" they believed in while accepted that whatever faiths others believed in was just fine as well, and who felt that it wasn't necessary to preach the law and the gospel when they appeared in public. The were the modernists or liberals of the 19th & early 20th century and they were the precursors of the abominations of the mainline churches of the 21st century. Now we have the same movement reborn in the midst of the very evangelicals who claimed that THE GOSPEL and NOT the SOCIAL GOSPEL was what the world needed and the church needed to preach.

Congratulations evangelicals, you've managed to reinvent the same heresies your forefathers once stood against. When will we understand that a solar energy and universal health insurance aren't of much use in Hell.

Encouraging people to send the prayer to any deity they choose is a clear violation of the First Commandment. Joel Hunter is an excellent pastor and a wonderful human being, but as a regular member of his congregation, I can say that he he sometimes does not serve his flock well by soft pedaling the need to obey the commandments and his reluctance to elaborate on the consequences of sin. His congregation is largely liberal, the women generally dress in sexy atire for the services, the music during the service is practically a rock concert, he never denounces homosexuality and rarely does he specify what constitutes sinful behavior nor does he acknowledge the wrath of God. I believe that the majority of his congregation that is not independently seeking the truth through other studies is being led straight to Hell. I believe that the service is generally a music show and people mistakenly attribute the spine tingling sensations of the musical crescendos to a spiritual happening.
You probably wonder why I go there. Its because when I started going there I was going through a painful divorce and Dr. Hunter said exactly what I needed to hear - and consequently I felt that God had a real presence there and that's why I continue to go. But I rely on self study, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and other reformed theologists to guide me thru the narrow path to salvation. Hunter is too politically correct, timid and perhaps even afraid to scare off a portion of his congregation to delve out the hard truth, which is that to worship God through Jesus, we must know Jesus. When we worship a figment of our imaginations (that we call Jesus), we are doing just that, worshipping a figment of our imagination. The Bible is specific, we cannot pick and choose the parts we agree with, for when we do we distort the personality of the deity we worship, and consequently we then are not worshipping the deity specified in the Bible. And the punishment for that, regardless of our intent, is Hell.