Praying on Tape

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

July 16, 2009

I believe that alot of the so called Christian leaders on television have had such a negative impact on me that seeing something like that on the screen makes me not want to believe it or think that it is just for show and for the one who is acting out whatever they are doing. True worship as most know can happen anywhere at any time and when you worship God he does and will help you through whatever it is you are doing. Speaking in tongues always has someone to interprete what is being said so that all may know the works or words of God. Never feel that you can't participate in worship as God loves you more than you can imagine and he wants you to worship him in all ways. In God's Grace John

July 16, 2009

Yeah. Lots of interesting questions in this issue.

Churches work hard to be transparent and that's a good thing, especially as levels of suspicion regarding the church increase. At the same time all of us in church know there are important things we don't do in public like counsel and pray with people regarding intimate and personal things.

Part of this is also the voyeuristic nature of video. The camera transports us to see what we would never see and in that way creates a third thing that is itself but isn't either the thing being recorded nor the observer observing.

Film makers have been pushing limits on what to film, exploring the boundaries. Feeling a bit weird about watching is probably a sign of health and realizing the presence of a third thing.

July 16, 2009

I would feel awkward if someone were filming me as I worshipped in the Spirit. That’s a holy moment between God and I. Sadly, most people will think these worshippers are mad. As Paul says “If the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?” That’s predictable.

There are times though when you are just so caught up in the majesty and awesome holiness and goodness of God in corporate worship that sometimes you slip into softly praying or singing in the Spirit. But as Paul says, if everyone in the whole church jabbers out loud in tongues, that’s a misunderstanding of the private devotional gift. He said that in his own private devotional life, “I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand. For if you praise God only in the spirit, how can those who don’t understand you praise God along with you? How can they join you in giving thanks when they don’t understand what you are saying? You will be giving thanks very well, but it won’t strengthen the people who hear you. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you.”

So unfortunately, most viewers are going to think these sincere Christian people are nuts. Oh well. They thought Jesus was demon possesed or nuts too. It’s just that you don’t want to bring persecution on yourself needlessly for your own lack of wisdom.

July 16, 2009

I would submit that video portrayals cannot be a realistic portrayal of real life, and we should not expect them to be. This explains why a viewer of intense spiritual scenes might feel like a voyeur. The viewer IS a voyeur. Let me explain that from the opposite end of the telescope. Some years ago, I watched the movie HOFFA, and was bothered by the constant profanity. I thought to myself, but it is realistic, Jimmy Hoffa and his close male associates probably did talk like that. Then I realized that, while he may have talked like that in private, in male company, he would never have talked like that around his wife and young children, nor in large public gatherings. Doing a "realistic" portrayal of his private conversation on a public screen in a theater filled with perhaps a few dozen, or perhaps hundreds, of men, women and children, would have horrified him. Video is art, not life, and it can never be life. It is not necessarily so that every private scene from life should be included to be "realistic" or even to be "complete." The same could be said for intimate bedroom scenes in movies: yes, that is part of life, but that doesn't mean it is necessary, appropriate, or even esthetic in art. Ecstatic worship may be admirable, like sexuality in marriage, but it may not be appropriate to portray such intimate private moments on the screen. Let's also remember to live, and understand we can't live every moment of other people's lives.

James Zwier
July 16, 2009

I think you're on to something about how prayer on film looks and feels different. It also makes me uncomfortable to hear a prayer on the radio or see it on a screen.
Worship leaders constantly struggle with balancing the personal and presentational sides of public worship. After all, isn't all public prayer in some way a show put on for others? How different is that than capturing with a video camera and watching it on screen?
Maybe the difference is in how much the medium used allows for us to participate in the act of worship or prayer -- video is not well suited for this. It's the responsibility of the worshipper to choose to participate in the worship service, and that makes all the difference.

July 17, 2009

I agree with Jenkins, above. Great perspective.

July 17, 2009

I'm pleased that this comment thread has so much attentiveness to the nature of film as a medium. I think the way actions are mediated (including the way they are verbalized or translated even when you are in the same room as someone) makes a difference in how they mean, and I think that's an important piece of this puzzle. And when you think about media and context that way, in light of Rick's quotation from Paul, we can see that this is a difficult issue across the history of the church. Carry on!

July 22, 2009

There is a difference between a personal devotional tongue which is directed to God, than a Gift of Tongue, the prophetic kind where Christ speaks to the believers. The latter requiring an interpretation.
This is very hard for believers to accept and understand who haven't experienced either. Most haven't experienced it due to negative fleshly opinions of man from the pulpit, or one doesn't want to crucify their will and yield to and receive from God the Holy Spirit.

July 23, 2009

The original gift of tongues was that people from many nations, in fact Jews who came to Jerusalem from homes where they spoke many different vernaculars, could all understand the Apostles in their own language. That was the miracle. It was not about speaking apparent gibberish which could then be "interpreted" by someone who knew what it meant. How could we ever know if the interpreter had it right, or made it up?

July 24, 2009

Almost there.
The Apostles and disciples and believers who were in the upper room, were Glorifying God direct with devotional tongues. When people saw them acting out of the ordinary, and they came to see what all the commotion was about; they could hear them in their own language. Not that the disciples started talking to them direct in their own natural language and God switched it. There is a difference between interpreting and translating. When the Holy Spirit moves upon someone to use the Gift of Tongues the Holy Spirit would quieten down all those speaking in a devotional tongue. The Gift of Tongues would be a message from God which would be interpreted not translated; ie The tongue brought could last for 45 seconds and the meaning of the messege spoken in 10 seconds.

People use to preach the world was flat; but try and tell someone who experienced it was round.

July 25, 2009

There were people who knew the world was round 500 years or more BC -- and measured the circumference quite accurately. There were people who had a vague notion it was flat living in American in the 1800s -- and thought it came from the Bible. It was never a prominent feature of church teaching that the world was flat, nor did individuals "experience" that it was round. Even most geocentric views of the universe were built around a round earth.

As to exactly who was doing what in the Book of Acts, if you weren't there, I find this detailed account highly speculative, since Luke didn't give a lot of detail.

December 23, 2009

I have seen a few clips from "Jesus Camp". Why is the female leader of the group showing the kids how to speak in tongues? I thought this was an act that was executed because of a spiritual gift received by the Holy Spirit? Why does another human need to teach another human how to use a gift that is given by the Holy Spirit? Doesn't the Bible say that not everyone gets every spiritual gift? Maybe the leader knows that and "teaches/practices" with them so they don't feel left out. I actually heard in a sermon a child say that he was going to camp and while there he was going to learn a "new language".

December 23, 2009

Not all have the gift of speaking in tongues in a public congregation with an interpretation. This is the functional equivalent of the gift of prophecy. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 14 to allow 2 or 3 speak in the congregation with an interpretation. “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.”

Yet everyone can pray in the Spirit or pray in tongues at any time as a private devotional practice. Paul says “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all”. Jude also tells us that praying in the spirit builds up our faith and keeps us aware of the love of God.

The point he is making is that it is not edifying for the entire congregation to be loudly praying in tongues all at once. Christians who are not familiar with the charismatic gifts and non-Christians will think we are crazy. “Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”

I haven’t seen the film but I can possibly guess what she might be saying. Often times, believers are afraid of spiritual manifestations and imagine they will be over-powered by God and babble uncontrollably. It helps to reassure people that when praying for the fullness of the spirit one can speak or pray under their own volition as Paul says. Overly rational western Christians often need encouragement to speak out and profit by hearing an example. It is completely natural and under the control of the believer. As he says later in 1st Corinthians 14, “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.”

October 12, 2010

Your article is interesting and made me think about a recent radio journalist who wanted to record my religious group's worship. The problem was that we are Quakers who worship primarily in silence with only a few who feel lead to speak. Weighing intrusion on worship vs. the desire for more in our community to learn about Friends Ways was on our mind. We discerned as a group to allow the journalist in who ultimately decided not to air what was almost an hour of stillness.

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