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How to pray

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If President Obama follows the Biblical injunction to pray for them which despitefully use you, he's got a mess of praying to do. The Republican leadership in Congress alone is due a big bunch of prayers, spiteful as they've been. This is hard praying, too. Imagine seeking divine blessing for Mitch McConnell. Billy Graham would flinch.

But the president is not unfamiliar with prayer; he may be able to meet the challenge. He knows, for example, that prayer is not a TV reality show, that serious prayer is done in private. He knows this from common sense and from Jesus' instructions in the book of Matthew:

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

The hypocrites of today are the Pat Robertsons, the James Dobsons, and others of that ilk, who sin against the American form of government, who seek to replace democracy with theocracy, and who, when confronted, take cover in loud and ostentatious prayer. “Ilk” in this case includes spouses. It was Mrs. Dobson who upbraided the president last week for not attending any of the Religious Right's prayer orgies on the “National Day of Prayer.” “At this time in our country's history, we would hope our president would recognize more fully the importance of prayer,” she sniffed. If “this time in our country's history” seems especially perilous to Mrs. Dobson, it may be because the president is Democratic and black. Few members of either group are found in Religious Right congregations. Women are granted only partial membership.

If Obama has anything to apologize for in this prayer controversy, it's that he issued a proclamation for the “National Day of Prayer” even though he didn't participate in any ceremonies. Scratch the proclamation next year, Mr. President. The government shouldn't be telling people to pray or not to pray.

As for the president's private prayer, legitimate prayer, many others stand waist-deep in need. Rush Limbaugh gushes spite against a president chosen by the people. And there's Limbaugh's sidekick, the snarly Dick Cheney, liar, boodler and torturer. If Cheney gets all the prayer he needs from Mr. Obama, the president's likely to contract a bad case of housemaid's knee. Behind his closed door, he won't let it stop him. 

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