Policemen praying before a meal-Pinterest
Note: This post is not meant at all to draw attention to myself and to my prayer life. I’m just sharing some insights I recently had on the topic of prayer in public.
Truth to be told, I often eat at home because in the cafeteria there’s way too much food on the tray and the consequences of eating too much at lunch time are usually seen in the afternoon: in 6 years of uni I took more naps in class than I can remember. However, yesterday, for the first time in a long time- a very long time, I had to eat at the cafeteria with some friends. As people sat and start eating their entrées and undertook the task of gobbling down their cheeseburger, I looked at mine. What do I do ? I want to thank God. The first Person that I want to thank, and honor before that meal is the Lord. I rested my head upon my hand, said a quick prayer in my head and as always, people started asked me questions: “Are you okay ? Do you have a headache ?” “I’m okay, thank you !”. Though I have the habit to pray silently when I’m alone, I sensed that I had taken the posture I usually adopt when I try to “shrink”, to hide; had anybody seen me he would have never known I was praying. Yet I pray even when I’m alone- I am not trying to display it in public for the sake of being seen. Prayer is an integral part of my life. After the last lecture of the day, I tried to recollect my thoughts.
I had the privilege to grow up in a praying family, and, for as long as I can remember, we have always prayed before meals. And everytime, we thank our mother for preparing it, and our father for having worked hard to provide that food. Thanking our Heavenly Father for that food and His daily goodness, and my parents is something that is completely natural to us.
Even in restaurants, yep. A friend of ours is a chef in a restaurant and when we go out to eat at his place, since he knows we are a Christian family, he will wait till we finish our prayer before serving the food. A couple of times in my life, I’ve been encouraged by praying families, or I had friends over for dinner and prayed before the food. But these situations took place in the context of family gatherings or at home, where you do “whatever you want to do”. A Catholic family invited me for a meal once and I was very surprised when they told me, “Stéphanie, we are used to say grace before meals”, and the whole family stood up before their chairs and said a short prayer, crossed themselves, and I told them how delighted I was to see that prayer was part of their daily lives. That habit of theirs opened a wonderful conversation around Christianity that day. Another time, I had a good friend of mine for dinner -A French girl, baptized in the Catholic Church but who is not a practicing Catholic (which is the case for a lot of French people it seems to me) and I prayed before the meal, aloud, which surprised her, and again, it opened a conversation around the gospel.
But-what about when you are alone ? In the KFC after a long day of work ? In the school/high school/university cafeteria ?
What do you do ? I won’t speak for anyone here, as I said in the beginning of the post, I’m just sharing some personal insights.
One thing I know is that as a Uni student, thanking God for the food and acknowledging that it comes from His hand was something I have always done-even when I’m alone in my appartment. I’m saying this to make something clear: the issue of prayer in public is not primarly about others because the point in praying before meals is to thank God, and it’s something I do in the privacy of my own appartment. I thank my mom for preparing the food both in the privacy of our home, and when having people over for dinner. Just like my mom, God is not something in my head. He is real. And I want to thank Him. But I struggled with how to do it in public.
The man who dared to pray-whatever the cost
Today, I read someone’s story- someone who had the habit of praying, who then happened to learn that prayer to God was now forbidden where he lived, and who nevertheless went against that forbidding:
“It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”- Daniel 6:1-10
Daniel in the lions’den is a classic, just like Noah’s ark. You’ve read it lots of times, but this time, it takes the prayer in public thing to another whole level. Let’s sum up what happened in that chapter:
- Daniel was a man of prayer: “giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” and praying was a part of his daily life. It’s something that you can see throughout the whole book of Daniel where you can see Daniel praying a lot of times, on various occasions.
- Though I’m sure that Daniel knew that there was time for private communion with God (Matthew 6:5-7), he was committed to openly honor God in private and in public. He was not trying to hide his faith, and to confine it to the private sphere. I doubt that Daniel opened the windows to for the sole sake of being seen. It was his habit.
- Daniel knew that prayer, at this point, could cost him. A lot. It could cost him more than his position, his reputation, the approval of his “colleagues”. It would cost him his life. It is really interesting to see that honoring God, for Daniel, was something that was to be treasured- more than life itself.
- “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent”. Mmm. What a good characteristic that should mark the conduct of a Christian: “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4). In France, we live in an environment where practicing your faith in private is okay-but try to not make it apparent, okay ? Well I think that Daniel could be a good example to Christians in France: you could not find any fault in his conduct, he was above reproach. The only point that could be attacked was his faith- a faith that was publicly displayed.
I will reiterate what I’ve just said: I’m not praying to show off. It’s part of my daily life and I will keep praying in private, and before meals. I will thank God before the sweet potato I will eat for my lunch, today, and next time I head to the cafeteria, I will make a point of honoring God and offering Him thanks for the tray on the table. People might be surprised. Ask questions about my faith, which would be really cool. Maybe they will look at each other, raise they eyebrows, look around to see if anybody looks at the weirdo that is sitting with them. Maybe, though I doubt that, they will leave the table. And never eat again with me. I never thought about the possible outcomes till today, and, looking at Daniel, I now have an example-no matter the threat, keep praising the Lord, keep honoring the Lord. Upon finishing my prayer, I will start eating normally and won’t look around to see people’s reaction. But I have a greater example than Daniel.
I’m not ashamed
2000 years ago, a Man was brave and loving enough to die for sinners like me. He braved the shame and the pain of the Cross-for me. He gave me everything-Jerusalem saw Him, Heavens saw Him, His ennemies saw him- This is my Lord. This is my God. He bore my shame in public. I will honor Him in public and in private. Every time I fall, He is my Advocate in Heaven. And my heart breaks when I think of each time I failed to honor Him. This earth is not my permanent place. I am an ambassador here, the permanent city is to come. I won’t be ashamed of my Redeemer.
I’ll finish this post with a video posted by Desiring God where John Piper adresses the issue of persecution (WordPress won’t allow me to post videos here).