Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Theology of Ricky Bobby & Obama's Prayer Life

Speaking in Ohio, prior to yesterday's "Super Tuesday II" Obama confronted the claims that he is a Muslim, trying to state clearly that he is a Christian not a Muslim. In addition to saying "I’m a Christian and try to go to church as much as I can," he also tried to make a point by saying, “I pray to Jesus every night.”

Obviously, saying he prays to Jesus was intentional, trying to eliminate the broad definitions of "God" (God the Father in Christianity, Allah, the god of laundry detergent and daisies?). Yet saying, "I pray to Jesus" simply carries some funny connotations in my head.

In fact, it makes me think of the discussion in Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby explains why he like to pray to Christmas Jesus, but opens up the idea that there are different Christian options of "who" to pray to (baby Jesus, teenage Jesus, Jesus on the cross, etc.).

I've linked to the clip below.

I shared this clip recently with my small group as we discussed prayer last week. Biblically, it's not really Jesus who we pray TO, instead it's Jesus that we pray WITH.

Biblically, post resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Jesus both intercede for us and are involved in the prayer experience with us. ["the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26) and "Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." (Romans 8:34)]

I don't write this as a criticism to Barack Obama (or Ricky Bobby for that matter), but I think it's interesting and powerful to think of prayer in terms of the trinity and as something we do with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, not just as something we do independently, throwing prayers up at the ceiling as an act of Christian ritual.

I love the quote by Edwin Hui, (professor of bio-ethics and Chinese culture at Regent University) in the book Living the Story saying:

In the praying event, the praying person has an unmistakably three-facets "experience" of the Triune God as she is being incorporated by the "Spirit" into the life of the "Son" towards the "Father." It is an experience of being caught in the Tritarian life of God...of being invited in the conversation of God to God in and through the one who prays. In such a literally Godly prayer, and indeed in a truly Godly life of prayer, what else can a human person say other than "Amen."


AK said...

I thought it sounded kind of funny, too, when I heard it.

My favorite part of praying through the Trinity is the fact that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. There have been times in my life where I just was at a complete loss for how to pray and I felt great comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit knew exactly what I needed and could communicate that to God in words I would never know.

Thanks for this post!

nate said...

I agree and have always been bugged by this. There is no record in scripture of anyone "praying ot Jesus," the closest in Acts 26:29 in which the word Kurio (Lord) is used, which is used throught the NT in reference to Jesus, but also in reference to God the father...the context suggest "lord" is referring to Jesus though.

Speaking of Obama, I am so glad primary day is behind me here in Ohio; seeing as I have been receiving multiple "vote for Obama" phone solicitation calls every day, the most being 5 in a day. I hate phone solicitation.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard that you don't pray to Jesus. Jesus is God. What's wrong with praying to Him? I would suggest leaving theology to the theologians. I read this blog for movie stuff.

Anonymous said...

I love Ricky Bobby! Thankfully your parents are my Will Ferrell watching buddies :-)

Ditto AK's comment - I thought Obama's well intended comment sounded kinda funny. It's sad that people assume he's Muslium just because his name sounds Middle Eastern. As they say in Texas, bless his heart, his name is Bbarack Hussein Obama!

RC said...


1. I wish you would left your name so I could respond to you directly.

2. I believe Jesus is God as well. My point is that Jesus also intercedes for us, which I think correlates to him being our gateway giving us access to the Father. This means that we get the opportunity to pray WITH Jesus, not just TO Jesus.

3. As to leaving the theology to the theologians I specificly quoted a book writen by two theologian quoting another theologian.

4. Also, this is my blog, and if you are leaving Anonymous comments complaining about my content, don't read my blog.

5. If you read this blog for movie stuff, great. If you don't like this post, don't read it. It's not like "Strange Culture" is Variety or Entertainment Weekly.

6. If you do read this blog for "movie stuff" I have included "movie stuff" by reacting to a scene from the high-cinema-of-Will-Farrell a la Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.

7. Thanks for commenting, but I find your commend radiculous.

Anonymous said...

We are all theologians. We are just good or bad theologians. Theology deals with the knowledge (the "logo" in the Greek) of God (the "theo" in the Greek, hence "theo-logy"). Discussing anything about God is dispensing knowledge about God and therefore makes you a theologian. The question is whether you are a good or bad one, not whether you are one.

I think the theology dispensed here was good, while everyone may not agree with it, it was solidly based.

jasdye said...

leave the theology to the theologians? that's ludicrous! that's like saying, leave political talk to the politicians.


great post. truly made me think. i've always been a horrible prayer-er. but as i'm rethinking my theology (even though i'm not a theologian!), this makes a lot of sense - that we pray in concert with Jesus (and, as someone else has mentioned, with the saints) to God.

Anonymous said...

Are you guys Catholic? I'm wondering if this is the source of the misunderstanding because I'm Protestant, and I've never, ever heard that you don't pray to Jesus.

In fact, here's a Christianity Today post that addresses the topic.

I disagree that we're all theologians--or, at least, that's a much looser use of the word than the way I use it. A theologian to me requires lots of training, studying and understanding--not just someone who interprets the Bible the best he or she knows how in his or her own life (as most of us do). Theologians understand the history behind the Bible--what the writers likely meant in context with their times--and the arguments for different potential interpretations and why certain people believe certain ones. They understand the complexities and try to figure out just what this and that means and why.

My point was, I signed up for this blog to read about movie stuff (make fun of the term if you want) in a religious context. I'm taken aback when I read an entire post that is espousing, to me, incorrect theology. I'm not interested at being preached to by someone who doesn't seem to know what she's talking about. I thought you wrote the blog for your readers--customers, in a way--and you would be interested to know what one customer thinks.

But I realize now that this may just be a case of misunderstanding; perhaps Catholics believe something I didn't know they did, so you're just saying what you've always believed to be true, just as I was.

I am surprised at the reaction to my post. Someone disagrees with you, and you tell them to get lost? And then your friends come to your defense because apparently you need to be defended against a sole poster who deigns to disagree, briefly, with your oh-so-wise post?

I didn't realize this blog was only for people who agree with you. I apologize for intruding. I will ride off into the sunset now. It was nice reading for a time.

Anonymous said...

my guess is that anonymous will still read because anonymous will wan to know if someone has responded to anonymous' last comment.

Just So You Know . . . said...

I began reading this blog as it was connected to the YouVersion Bible on a passage of scripture I didn't quite get. I was hoping to find an insight from someone else in the Body of Christ that could help me understand.

As I began reading, I was intrigued and inspired by your take on prayer to/with Jesus. It was very uplifting to mentally picture Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and myself all talking with the Father - kind of like we are all talking with one another now. I can't see any of you, yet we communicate.

Then, we hit THE SNAG - the snag that Jesus so adamantly warned us about. The snag of disunity. The fact that we are all different should come as no surprise. God made each of us unique. Our similarity is that we are all created in God's image, but that image gets expressed through many different personalities. But when you consider one of Christ's last prayers on earth, it was completely focused on the issue of unity - that we would all be one, even as He and the Father are one because He knew there would be THE SNAG. And the only way we can possibly derive unity from all our diversity and avoid THE SNAG is by the command He gave as the most important one - to love one another. He said it would be the earmark of our union with Him: Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other.” (John 13:35 GWT)

Our love is what is not easily offended (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) and what overlooks a sin. As God so aptly puts it in His word: Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering (Proverbs 10:12 TMSG).

And as far as who constitutes a theologian, let’s face it, no matter how long we study, even if we lived to 200 years old and spent every waking minute studying God’s Word, we would only have scratched the surface of who He really is and be maybe an inch closer to the full revelation of God than we were before we began. And the worst part of all is that if we look at Him only through our own perspective for those 200 years, then we end up with only a one-dimensional view of who He is. If, instead, we set aside our uniqueness, and embrace the unique views of each other, we will have a multi-faceted look at our Heavenly Father. But even better than that, we’ll see Him smiling because of our love for one another.

And just in case you’re thinking that I’m some kind of new age freak, I’m not. I’ve been a believer for 25 years and have studied and taught God’s Word to women for 17 of them. I am extremely fundamental in my doctrinal position, but outrageously practical in my demonstration of that belief. If I believe every word of God is true, then I must live as if that is so. That means that every person’s opinion is to be valued, even if it differs from my own. I have learned as much about God’s love and grace from those who don’t yet know Him as I have from my own study of Scripture over the last 25 years. And the one thing I have learned more than anything else is that I don’t own the market on being right. In fact, I’ve been wrong probably more than I’ve been right. But I do know that when I esteem others better than myself, when I turn the other cheek, and when I am slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to wrath, I’m more of a believer than when I’m just teaching those principles in theory.

Well, I’ve babbled on enough. I’m praying that we can all heed the Words of Jesus to live in peace with one another as much as possible because I was so thoroughly enjoying the blog up until THE SNAG. I loved each of your input, even Anonymous. And I’m sorry to have lost her contribution. I really think that what we all have to share is part of the bigger picture as the Holy Spirit is guiding us and teaching us about God (1 John 2:27).

Thanks for your kindness in hearing out the heart of an older saint (only by His Grace) in Christ. And thanks for your love which allows us to commune, rather than just communicate.


Anonymous said...

Is there still some doubt about Obama maybe being a muslim?

I suppose I liked the New Yorker's cover of he and wife as muslim terrorists too much, but he does have some seriously bad Christian theology.

Perhaps there is some hope that he will be outed as a AK 47 carrying Mohamed cheerleader.

Osama does go very well with Obama. Maybe there is a reason for the similar names.