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...Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Amen!

These were the final four words of the opening invocation of a recent NASCAR race last year at the Nashville Superspeedway. Joe Nelms of the Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN offered what has been called NASCAR's "best prayer ever." In the one minute prayer, Mr. Nelms addressed God as his "Heavenly Father."

One could say that Mr. Nelms was thankful. He thanked God for "Dodges," "Toyotas" and "Fords," for "Sunoco racing fuel and Goodyear tires," and for "GM performance technology and R07 engines." If these specific references known to the racing world were not enough to cause reverently bowed heads to begin looking up over their sunglasses, Mr. Nelms brought laughter to the faces of many when he thanked God for his "smoking, hot wife...Lisa," and their two children Eli and Emmi, "who we call the little E's." Then, he closed it all by saying, "in Jesus name, boogity, boogity, boogity, Amen."

If "pastor Joe" wanted to identify with the racing crowd, he certainly accomplished his goal. If he wanted to show that professing Christians have a sense of humor, he certainly brought smiles, even laughter to many listeners. But if prayer is to be offered desiring that God's name be hallowed or set apart in the minds of petitioners, then Mr. Nelms failed miserably.

Jesus taught us to not only recognize God as our "Heavenly Father" in prayer, but also desire God's name to be "hallowed" or set apart from that which is common. If Mr. Nelms was trying to identify with his audience, why bring in his own wife and children into the prayer? Why speak of his wife as being "smoking hot?" What godly images in the minds of men did that promote? And what is this "boogity" business at the end of his prayer? The racing crowd understood the connection. In Will Ferrell's 2006 movie, Talladega Nights, his character prays at the dinner table thanking God for his "red hot smoking wife, Carley." And Darrell Waltrip, the former race car driver, now turned announcer is known for his statement to get the races going: "Boogity, boogity, boogity. Boys, let's go racin." Mr. Nelms went beyond leading others in prayer to trying to impress the crowd with his secular racing culture humor.

Paul became all things to all men in order to save some (I Cor. 9:22). But not one time did he sacrifice promoting the Holy God for humor!

-- Jerry Fite

For His Cause,
Tim Woodward