The flat prayers at public events are to a nondescript deity and ask for a general blessing for a generally good people from a generally decent Benefactor.
The best prayers to God are full of agony, blood, division, sorrow, grief and bright flashes of redemption. Such is the prayer of Chris Eaves, an elder at Resurrected Reformed Baptist Church in Chattanooga, at the opening of the city council meeting Jan. 8.
By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7
This transcript of his prayer drops a few “Lords” and fragments of no consequence. But it stirs the soul to hear of the high charge God has for even city councils.
Their authority in the American system is civil only (not touching criminal jurisdiction See City of Chattanooga vs. Davis). One could say their authority doesn’t touch on crime, punishment, restitution and the high claims of God upon justice.
Still, cities operate in the moral realm because their ordinances and controls are religious decrees of right and wrong, authority and submission. They make claims against God’s law in the area of property rights (zoning, rents, taxation, police enforcement, bans, morals controls). By running police departments, cities put hundreds of people in jail every year and do much to ruin the lives of African-Americans, immigrants and the poor via a judicial setting and also administratively (plea bargaining with State of Tennessee).
Because government is about law, all matters about the civil realm are in the end inherently and demandingly religious in nature.
Law is religion externalized.
Law is worship of God or a god written down in a code. That’s why Christian people are ordered to be part of the fight for liberty and the abolition of all means of human slavery, starting with laws and ordinances that deny liberty and prosperity.
Here, now, Rev. Eaves’ prayer about Chattanooga.
‘Pleas for mercy’
Heavenly father, Lord, I pray that you hear my cry tonight. I pray you would give attention with your ear to our pleas for mercy.
First, one gets God’s attention, and goes on to praisingly describe His holy attributes.
You are sovereign. You are holy. You are righteous. Like you there is none other. You know our hearts; you know our thoughts; you know our actions — each and every one. You are omniscient. As such Lord you know where we stand before you. You know our sin. You know our unrighteousness. You know our own godliness.
God is absolutely sovereign over the affairs of men, a point rarely made in public prayers. Sovereignty implies omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence.
Your wrath is just upon us. And as we consider the world around us, or we consider the violence that is there — the unrest, the poverty and the want, but Lord we know that since we stand here today living and breathing that you have been merciful to each and every soul in this building.
A good prayer always shows man in his heart and his society at its worst.
You have graced us with a council with leadership within this city who sit at the gates and make decisions regarding the welfare of each never soul within this city. They are here to restrain the evil that has beset us this day.
Every act by governing body affects individuals, identified here as souls. And because mankind is infected with sin, the fruit is everywhere and leads to debasement, broken families, poverty, ignorance and self-centered short-term perspectives.
The one and the many
I pray you a give each and every man each, each and every woman who sits on this council tonight and for this year — give them wisdom, give them discernment that they might know righteousness from unrighteousness. Lord give them understanding, that they might know truth from error, that they might know your way from man’s way.
A good prayer always exudes antithesis. Truth from error. God’s way vs. man’s way. A weak prayer drones with synthesis and harmonization within man; it avoids conflict.
I pray with that wisdom that you’ve given them that that you would grant them faith, that they be obedient to your call, to your word —
A true prayer makes governing authorities subject to God and His law.
that you would grant into them love, so that when opposition arises, either from from within or from without, that we would be forgiving, merciful and graceful, and that you would grant them hope,
Public office requires huge amounts of grace the office-holder is to extend to the citizen and the critic.
that they would persevere, that the difficult times that we know will lie ahead, and, Lord, in the end, whether the day is said to be good whether the day is said to be bad, that we would be thankful, as you have told us to be thankful in all things.
A good prayer admits days might be bad, they might be good, and that if the people and the government are to please God, they are to be thankful to Him. A thankful spirit to God is a wonderful source of peacemaking and generosity. Here, now, the end of Mr. Eaves’ petition.
I pray that as you have been good to us, you have been merciful to us and you have been patient with us, that Lord that we would turn in repentance unto you — in these things I ask, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who has a sovereign king over all.
Repentance — city’s greatest need
Repentance before God is what Chattanooga needs to reduce the burden of the curse upon its people, its economy and its civil administration. My own prayer is that city council, which ostensibly represents the people to the government (and not the other way around), will attend to my notice about the city’s daily violence against inhabitants and visitors through its illegal and unjust enforcement of the transportation statute (Tenn. Code Ann. § Title 55) against people not involved in transportation, with the chief victims being blacks and the poor, whose driver licenses are not in order and who cannot afford compulsory insurance for operating a motor vehicle.
Ignoring my transportation administrative notice of Feb. 20 bears with it not just legal peril for police officers and the city coffers when lawsuits begin. Ignoring it comes with moral peril, too, because illegal use of police power is oppression, banned repeatedly in the Word.
Hear Eaves prayer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voqc0mEpb8g. Starts at 0.50