Joel Hunter's Prayer


If you were watching tonight's Obama speech on broadcast television or a commercial cable network you missed it. After the usual celebratory hugs between the president and vice-presidential candidates and their families, pastor Joel Hunter approached the lectern to close the evening in prayer.

Joel Hunter is the pastor of Northland Community Church (now called "Northland: A Church Distributed"), a 10,000 member evangelical megachurch in Orlando, Florida. He is the former president of the Pat Robertson-founded Christian Coalition. He is a registered Republican.

Hunter's tenure as president of the Christian Coalition did not last long. In fact, he was gone in about four months. He resigned in November 2006 because the leadership and the base of the Coalition did not like his attempt to expand the mission of the organization to include climate change and the alleviation of poverty. Since then he has been one of the voices pushing for a broader evangelical agenda that goes beyond the issues of gay marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research. (He seems to uphold traditional views on all of these issues). Hunter is now associated with this new cadre of evangelical leaders that includes Rick Warren. He has also participated in events with the old guards of the evangelical left--Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo. He was one of the prominent participants in several faith and politics forums, including "Compassion Forum" at Messiah College last spring.

Here was his prayer:

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 principles and projects that aim higher than 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 by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Now, I interrupt this prayer for a closing instruction: Because we are gathered in a country that continues to welcome people of all faiths, let us personalize this prayer by closing according to your own tradition. On the count of three, end your prayer as you would usually do. Amen! Let's go out and change the world for good!

His invitation to everyone to end the prayer according to their own faith tradition showed this new evangelical commitment to religious pluralism and, I am certain, will irritate and anger many on the Christian Right who will not understand how an evangelical minister could encourage people to pray to Buddha or Allah. (Hunter prayed in the name of Jesus). Hunter's appearance tonight reminds us that some evangelicals are changing and Barack Obama wants to win their votes.

Cross-posted at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.


Phil said…
Interesting post, John, and thanks for the thoughtful commentary.

In a similar vein, it is also worth noting that evangelical author and activist Donald Miller (of _Blue Like Jazz_ fame) offered the benediction at the DNC on Monday night.

Here's the text of his prayer:

"Father God,

This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.

We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.

We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.

Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.

Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.

Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.

Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.

Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.

Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.

We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.

Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.

A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.

Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.

Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.

Lastly, father, unify us.

Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.

And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.

God we know that you are good.

Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.

I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.

Let Him be our example.

Wayne Ratzlaff said…
I thought there was a moment in Obama's speech that revealed an influence from Jim Wallis. Obama stated: "We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country." This was clearly an attempt to move debates on moral issues to a common ground.
Anonymous said…
The reason his prayer "ending" bothers christian, is because, as an evangelical pastor, he knows better. Jesus made no exclusions when He said "I am THE way, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES UNTO THE FATHER BUT BY ME."
Anonymous said…
There's a "traditional view" on stem-cell research?
John G. Turner said…

You could be right about the Jim Wallis influence, but that's been the standard Democratic line on abortion as long as I can remember (at least the 1992 convention & Bill Clinton).
Anonymous said…
The Dem. platform still says something about abortion being "safe, legal and rare," a phrase introduced by Clinton, as I recall, in 1992.

Tony Campolo was on the platform committee this year, but I have read that he was unsuccessful in various attempts to have the platform acknowledge the pro-life position. (I think I have this right. Somebody please correct me if I don't.)

Obama would do well to articulate some specifics about how we should reduce the number of abortions. This would show that he is going beyond the mere rhetoric of Clinton. (As a pro-life Democrat, I would be especially pleased.)

As for Obama and religion, I am shocked how much latitute has been given him to mix his faith with his politics. Many other pols have been skewered for doing half as much. Perhaps just another example of how the media dare not criticize their beloved candidate.
Anyone, and moi means ANYONE, that ends a prayer with "Amen" should watch this YouTube mini-doc.

Stay on groovin' safari,
Anonymous said…
I have attended Pastor Joel's church for years. I am heartbroken over the path he has traveled of late. The Bible states that every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that JESUS is Lord! Why give the opportunity for any other name to be proclaimed? Pastor Hunter has been deceived by the Democratic Party, and is being used in an embarrassing manner.

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