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This morning President Obama speaks to the National Prayer Breakfast. It is an event dating back to 1953 — an era in which Communism drove U.S. leaders to more publicly affirm the Divine including adding “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Not surprising, when dealing with religion and politics, there is controversy. Some progressive religious leaders say the event’s sponsor — a secretive group of high-powered evangelical religious and political leaders — has ties to a harsh anti-gay bill in Uganda.

So alternative events, called the American Prayer Hour, have been planned in various cities across the nation.

This public display of division is but one of reasons why I am generally uncomfortable with the whole idea of “sponsored” prayer. It seems too much like an attempt to capture God for one’s own political or religious agenda.

When it comes to prayer,the words of Nike seem more appropriate: “Just do it!”

The late Frank Stagg, a wonderful Baptist New Testament scholar, wondered back in 1976 if the White House prayer breakfast reveals “a nation on its knees before God” or “the church on her knees before Caesar.”

Much later, Andrew Daugherty (a Texas pastor and former staffer with the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty) wrote: “The only prescription for prayer proffered by Jesus himself is: Don’t do it in public; rather do it in private.”

Just do it. Just do it.

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