Joel Hunter at the DNC or "Land of Confusion" - Genesis

Not to keep the DNC prayer controversies rolling, but... On the closing night pastor Joel Hunter of Northland Church in Florida gave the closing benediction. I honestly didn't hear the prayer live or had ever heard of the guy before this controversy. At the end of his prayer he pauses and says, "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 our own tradition. On the count of three, end your prayer as you would usually do…one, two, three __________ (“in Jesus name”) AMEN!"

Here is the video of it:


And here is are Joel's comments on his church blog to explain his prayer:

Open Letter From Dr. Joel C. Hunter—Benediction Prayer

There are several things to remember when praying in a public setting:

1. Prayer is not a speech with a hidden agenda; it is a direct request to God for help. Therefore, it demeans prayer to use it to get points across to an audience other than God. My prayer was my request to God and an invitation for the people of all faith traditions that our country welcomes to join me in it.

2. Prayer in public is not a tool of evangelism, but it has a tone that will set the stage for evangelism by taking people from where they are in their faith (Acts 17:22) and making possible follow up conversations. I am hearing accounts from many Christians who were in the stadium (including my wife) who had conversations with non-Christians that resulted in Kingdom progress. I have many responses from non-Christians saying, in essence, “Thank you for including us in the prayer, I thought evangelicals only cared about scoring points for their faith. You made me think you cared enough about me that we could have a conversation.” And I have also received responses from non-Christians who thought it was wrong for me to say “In Jesus’ name” because I had the microphone and those are the words that rang out through the stadium and resounded throughout the convention as many Christians scattered throughout the crowd voiced “In Jesus’ name” as well.

3. Christians must not be afraid to be the Truth in the midst of other religions. Truth will always win, but it will be constrained if we “insist on our own way” of approaching the universality of Christ. John 14:6 is true; how some can realize that Truth must come from a broader conversation than “my God is true; your god is false”.

4. I did not ask people to pray to another god; I asked them to finish a prayer according to their faith tradition. This may be a small point linguistically, but it is a huge point theologically.

5. Creating an environment where people can cooperate without having to compromise their core beliefs will eventually win more people to Christ than pronouncing Christ over them at the end of a prayer.

6. As I said in worship, to protect the integrity of “in Jesus’ name”, the person praying must make sure that either a) He or she is only emphasizing their own ending to the prayer, as Donald Miller did when he ended “I pray this in Jesus name” or b) He or she does not misrepresent people that they have asked to join them in prayer. That would be taking the Lord’s name in vain.

I could go on from here, but you get the idea. As you may imagine, I prayed long and hard before feeling like God had given me the precise words for this prayer. I believe that He in His sovereign way will use it to bring people to Himself.

I also hope that you will see the mention of other religions as an opportunity to lift up the one true God, not as a threat to His universality.

With appreciation and blessings,
Joel

I am still processing his response. At first look I was ready to throw out his prayer as a piece of universalism garbage. But he does bring up some good points in his reasoning as to why he chose to end his benediction the way he did.

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