We begin with a brief lesson in biblical theology. In the ancient world we often encounter the idea of doing something or saying something “in the name of” someone else. The most familiar for Christians, of course, is praying in Jesus’ name.
This was not intended as a magical formula that somehow makes a prayer super potent. To act or speak in the name of another means to act or speak in a manner that is consistent with the values of the person whose name we invoke.
Technically this means that we don’t actually have to say the words “in Jesus’ name,” we only need to be sure that the words we pray reflect the truth that Jesus embodied. Prayers in Jesus’ name are the kind of prayers Jesus himself would have prayed.
This brings us to the prayers of the Rev. Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif. You may remember him as the running mate of American Independent Party presidential candidate Alan Keyes. He also served a stint as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In a recent Fox News Radio interview, Drake let it be known that he was praying for President Obama to die.
During the interview, syndicated talk show host Alan Colmes gave Drake every opportunity to clarify his remarks.
“Are you praying for his death?” Colmes asked.
“Yes,” Drake replied.
“So you’re praying for the death of the president of the United States?” Colmes asked again, clearly amazed by the pastor’s stance.
“Yes,” Drake said.
When Colmes asked Drake if he was worried that his comments would land him on the Secret Service watch list, Drake had this to say. “I think it’s appropriate to pray the Word of God. I’m not saying anything. What I am doing is repeating what God is saying, and if that puts me on somebody’s list, then I’ll just have to be on their list.”
Now this is the part I find interesting. Drake asserts that he is simply repeating what God is saying. So that means that God wants President Obama dead, which raises some troubling questions about God’s power. Does Drake believe that God is incapable of doing one of us in without a thorough prayer meeting beforehand?
And why would God speak to Drake in a way that contradicts Jesus? Jesus taught us to “judge not.” Apparently Jesus thought only God was competent to render ultimate judgment on anyone. Jesus also warned about the dangers of deciding whether someone was right with God. That too has long been the exclusive domain of the Almighty.
I strongly suspect that any prayer offered by Drake would include the words “in Jesus’ name.” But is praying for someone to die consistent with the values and truth that Jesus embodied in his life and ministry?
In fact, is there a single example of Jesus teaching us that we should pray for the destruction of anyone? How can we be faithful to the commands to “love your neighbor” and “love your enemy” if we are praying for them to die?
But who knows, maybe Drake is getting fresh information from on high. Maybe a stint as a vice president of America’s largest Protestant denomination and a run for vice president of the world’s most powerful nation have prepared Drake to be vice God.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.
James L. Evans is a retired Baptist preacher living in Alabama. Over 35 years, he served churches in Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. In support of his pastoral work, Evans published 5 books including “First and Second Corinthians: Immersion Bible Studies” (Abingdon Press (2011).