Yesterday I volunteered at the campaign headquarters for a candidate who is running in the the Republican primary for the 14th congressional district seat in Ohio. State Rep. Matt Lynch is challenging Congressman Dave Joyce, who replaced Steve LaTourette (of Mainstreet PAC fame). Lynch’s campaign has an uphill battle against incumbent Joyce, who is being heavily funded by LaTourette’s SuperPAC (more than $80,000 to date). In fact, Lynch only decided to run against Joyce when LaTourette’s daughter, Sarah LaTourette, filed to run against Lynch for his seat in the Ohio House, ending the Ohio Republican Party’s de facto ban on challenging incumbents. (Yes, these Mainstreet folks really are working that hard to eliminate conservatives).
I had never met Lynch but showed up at his campaign headquarters today after seeing a plea on Facebook for help to get a huge mailing out. I decided to help with the campaign after listening to the Plain Dealer editorial board’s interviews with Joyce and Lynch. A devout Christian and running on a platform of “Faith, Family, and Freedom,” Lynch sounds less like the preachy moral majority candidates of the past and more like Mark Levin with a bit of a religious bent. Dave Joyce sounds like President Obama with a Republican bent. I enjoyed spending time with an enthusiastic group of volunteers who were committed to the conservative movement.
At lunchtime Rep. Lynch showed up with pizza and asked one of the volunteers if he would bless the food. The man recited a quick prayer he had memorized. Lynch held up his hand and said he would like the opportunity to pray for all of the volunteers. It was clear that he is a man who is no stranger to prayer. He prayed naturally and from the heart. After we all said, “Amen,” a man in a uniform (who had stopped by on his way to work) put his arm around Lynch and said he would like to pray for him. So we all prayed again. Lynch was obviously touched by the gesture.
It was such a natural, spontaneous moment. It wasn’t scripted, but everyone seemed to know what to do and it wasn’t a bit awkward. And yet, as I consider the current environment in this country with religion (and in particular, Christianity) under attack, it was in some ways a remarkable moment. Here was an elected official taking time from the heat of the campaign trail to seek God. No “Freedom from Religion” bigots could stop that prayer and certainly, no government official could censor it or demand that it be religiously “neutral” (as if such a thing were even possible).
While we’ve always had one form or another of a civil religion in America, the true heart and soul of our country has always been individuals and groups praying quietly in their homes, churches, and other meeting places. James 5:16 says that “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” God takes no pleasure in coerced prayers or prayers led by those who are not his true followers. In Proverbs 15 King Solomon writes, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.”
We don’t need to demand prayer in schools or in city council meetings — or even in Congress — to find God’s favor. Indeed, in this modern era of “Coexist” it’s likely that such prayers would be offensive to God and would make things worse. We simply need men and women, boys and girls — and elected officials — who are committed to praying and honoring God in their private lives. Such a commitment to private prayer and faith will naturally flow out of the homes and into the public square and in doing so, will positively influence public policy as Americans are drawn closer to God.