The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Robin L. Quillon

July 31, 2011

Pastor’s racy invocation revs up NASCAR faithful

— The Saturday before last, the Nationwide Federated Auto Parts 300 NASCAR race in Nashville, Tenn., in some opinions, misfired before the green flag dropped.

Holding to a time-honored tradition, a local clergyman is invited to offer the invocation at the start of every race.

Pastor Joe Nelms of Family Baptist Church received this year’s honor.

Pastor Nelms’ prayer was unusual, to say the least.

He thanked God for “these mighty machines that you’ve brought before us.” He thanked Him for “the Dodges, Toyotas and Fords” and for “the Goodyear tires that bring performance to the track, and engine power provided by Yates and Rousch.”

He thanked Heavenly Father for “Sunoco for its racing fuel.”

And he thanked Him for “his smokin’ hot wife ... Lisa,” adding, “Don’t forget, my two children, Eli and Emma, or as we like to call them, ‘The Little E’s.’ ”

He ended his prayer: “In Jesus’ name, boogity, boogity, boogity. Amen!”

Snickers and belly laughs rolled throughout the stadium.

Many viewers and listeners were offended by Nelms’ invocation.

And, conversely, many were not.

Last Monday, Nelms appeared on Sirius Satellite Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint” to defend his opening prayer, asserting that it was an opportunity to offer listeners something heartfelt and lighthearted.

He said he hopes his prayer may have even inspired some who wouldn’t normally do so, to head to church.

So let me ask you, did Pastor Nelms’ prayer increase your desire to attend church?

Were you offended or uncomfortable by his prayer?

None of us knows or should judge how sincere this man’s heart was when he offered his prayer. Only he and our Heavenly Father know the answer to that question.

For me, though, approaching the throne of the Almighty through prayer is not something to trifle with. I believe in the supernal power of prayer, and when coupled with faith and hard work, all things are possible.

I also believe the language we use when we address our Heavenly Father in solemn appeal reveals the nature of our relationship with Him.

I am reminded of the Scripture in Matthew 6:7: “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

I know Heavenly Father, like any parent, loves all of His children unconditionally. And more than likely, He is more offended by our lack of prayers than He is by how we pray.

When communicating with my children, I prefer our conversations take the form of a dialogue, as opposed to a monologue. And as a result, a greater exchange in understanding and edification takes place.

As I ponder my relationship with my Heavenly Father and seek to improve the “quality” of my prayers offered to Him, I can’t help but reflect upon the words of the Apostle Paul as recorded in 1 Cor 13:11:

“When I was a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Perhaps Pastor Nelms would be wise to reflect upon this passage the next time he is honored with the opportunity to offer an invocation on behalf of those in attendance.

Robin L. Quillon is the publisher of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at rquillon@tribdem.com.

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