Written by Don Byrd
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has proclaimed Thursday, Oct. 13 “Oilfield Prayer Day.” The economic woes of the oil and gas industry in the state prompted the Governor to ask for prayer, but to ask whom?
Initially, the proclamation invited Christians across the state to pray. Following some criticism for being too exclusive, the Governor agreed that it should be amended. Now, it calls on “people of all faiths . . . to thank God for the blessings created by the oil and natural gas industry.”
It’s especially inappropriate for an elected official to issue a call on people of just one faith to save the state with prayer. But even then, this is a role the state would do better to pass on, as Baptist religious liberty advocate Bruce Prescott argued in a Washington Post story on the controversy:
Bruce Prescott, a retired Norman minister who successfully sued to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the Capitol grounds, said it’s not the governor’s responsibility to call anyone to prayer.
“That’s a minister’s responsibility,” Prescott said. “Another thing that’s an irritant on that one — there are a lot of things that could be prayed about in this state, and the oil field is not at the top of that list.”
Our elected officials surely mean well, and I certainly have nothing against prayer to address the problems we face. In fact, it’s central to my faith. But because it is such a profoundly personal act of conscience, it’s not for government to tell us when to pray, or what to pray for.