Detroit Church Fasts and Prays for a Bailout for Automakers

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Huffington Post
Photo HT: Huffington Post

The Greater Grace Temple in Detroit had a Sunday service devoted to God moving Congress to grant a bailout to the auto industry. With 3 SUV’s on the stage Charles Ellis organized a service to encourage members, many of whom have pensions from the auto industry and to pray that God would work things out. Reuters quotes him as saying, “We have never seen as midnight an hour as we face this week.” referring to the impending decision that will probably be delivered this week by the House and Senate.

When I first heard this I have to admit I was floored. It is disturbing to see those SUV’s on the stage with people worshiping all around them. It just gives me flashbacks to the foot of Sinai and the all too easy temptation of seeking the kind of God we want at the foot of the mountain, a powerless, lifeless God of golden paycheck materialism. All the while the real God is on top of the mountain in all his glory looking down on this display of egregious mistrust of the sovereignty of God. God doesn’t need Congress to fulfill Matthew 6:19-34. God doesn’t need the Senate to fulfill Psalm 33:4. If the bailout fails, God hasn’t failed. If this is the worst “midnight hour” this preacher has ever faced then he must not deal with people living in sin very often. I am also tempted to question the priorities of believing God must work through the government for Christians to survive.

Here is a quote from Reuters

“At one point, Ellis summoned up hundreds of auto workers and retirees in the congregation to come forward toward the vehicles on the altar to be anointed with oil.

“It’s all about hope. You can’t dictate how people will think, how they will respond, how they will vote,” Ellis said after the service. “But you can look to God. We believe he can change the minds and hearts of men and women in power, and that’s what we tried to do today.”

Then there is the other side of this minister facing those in his congregation who have depended on their pensions for their income and are greatly troubled at what the ramifications of this week might bring to their lives. Should we pray for pensions? Should we pray for unions? Should we pray for bailouts? Or maybe we pray God’s will be done and that we will humbly submit whatever answer he has for our lives. I still believe in Matthew 6 even if the bailout fails. That is easy for me to say since my pay doesn’t come from one of the “Big 3.”

Last, is this just another example of praying for the hands of the doctors to heal someone (which is heard in the prayers at many congregations on a weekly basis)? Would it be the same if brought in a bunch of doctors and nurses to stand on the stage as we prayed for the sick of the congregation?

0 Responses

  1. I can see the possibility for idolatry here but I have also met people 70+ in age still working full-time because their pensions were swallowed whole when the company they spent all their life working for decided to fold. I am not sure what the answer is, how we should pray and what the content of those prayers should be. I probably would not pray standing over an SUV but that is because, like you, I see how this can become idolatrous.

    One thing this makes me think of is how the scriptures teach us to care for the “widows and orphans.” In our culture we do not need to worry about this too much because of the social-care provided through the public and private sector. If worse comes to worse, we Christians might need to consider selling our temples (church building) and use the money and energy we spend on that to take care of our seniors (and other poor) who do not have the economic resources to take care of themselves.

    In other words, our prayer is that God would provide. Perhaps God will do so through the government once again. However, is the church open to the idea that God is/will provide but through an ancient form that is new to us like the church? I have been mentioning this to the congregation I serve with on occasion. I remind them that God will always provide and our problem is that too often we are so locked into one particular way that we cannot see God at work in ways that we consider less than conventional.

    Grace and peace,


  2. Wow. Thanks for posting this. This is really a tough issue. I can see how the people would be terrified under the present circumstances, and it’s really easy to tell another person, “Just trust in God; not in material things,” when THEY are the one loosing their possessions, while you still have your own.

    It does feel like some sort of line is being crossed here in bringing cars to the center of the worship service. At the same time, I don’t believe there’s anything that is actually wrong to talk to God about. They are right to pray for their members who are fearing, and they are right to pray that God will care for them. I think the part that makes this questionable is that they are viewing having the auto industry continue as a moral issue, when I believe it is not.

    I really feel for these people.


  3. Let’s put this in perspective. How do you think God would respond if Paul prayed over a tent asking for better business? For some reason that seems a little shady to me. But, we don’t seem to object for people praying for a harvest as it seems more directly related to God (rain, sun, etc). So if Boaz prayed for a good harvest would we blame him? We might even extol him as depending on God for a good harvest. How does that relate to people praying for the auto industry to do well and for God to intervene if necessary, especially when the people who will hurt the most from these decisions had nothing to do with corporate irresponsibility and mismanagement?

  4. I’m reminded of Romans 8:26…

    “In the same way, 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.”

    I hope that in the midst of their prayers that God finds something worth honoring. I hope he finds humble, contrite hearts that are seeking His will who are simply ask him to stand in the gap to help his people in a helpless time.

    The SUV’s up on the stage is a little grandiose for my taste, too.

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