The Island County commissioners may decide to begin their meetings with prayer. Let us pray that they don’t.
Board Chairwoman Kelly Emerson will make the prayer proposal Wednesday, to be discussed with commissioners Jill Johnson and Helen Price Johnson.
The history of prayer opening sessions of elected public officials suggests it simply doesn’t work. Look at Congress. They have a paid chaplain. Still, we are trillions of dollars in debt, the number of poor people is expanding, the rich get richer and our military machines roam the world, collateral damage be damned. It’s just a guess, but God probably doesn’t approve, and if He’s offering guidance, it’s being entirely ignored.
The Washington State Legislature also opens with prayer, with scant to show for it in terms of the Almighty looking favorably upon us. Again, we get debt, tax breaks for the rich, money doled out to special interests, and the mentally ill are left to suffer in the streets, literally. The Legislature can’t even finish its work on time, requiring a special session that started with a prayer. There’s no sign that one is working, either.
On Whidbey Island, only the Oak Harbor City Council opens with a prayer. The military may spread its bounty on thee, Oak Harbor, but otherwise not much is going right. The council prayed and yet ignored expert advice to hire an archeologist before digging up Pioneer Way. God didn’t show them the way. The council ignored the advice, spent millions of dollars making up for their mistake, and is now being sued for millions more by the Tribes, who have more faith in lawyers than prayer in the public arena. It cost hundreds of thousands more to placate employees who were fired when the new mayor took office. They didn’t have a prayer of keeping their jobs.
South Whidbey gets along quite well without a prayer to start any public meeting. Mistakes are made, but not because of diving retribution, and progress is made, but not because of divine providence.
Prayer is indeed needed when publicly elected bodies gather: Voters should go to a private place, as Jesus suggests, and do the praying. “Please, Lord, don’t let them deprive us of more liberties and take more of our money.” Nothing else has stopped them, so maybe a little prayer would help.