George Hamilton, a British writer of historical fiction, sent a question my way earlier today. Referring to Pastor Joe Nelms' pre-race prayer at a NASCAR event over the weekend, he asked, "Is it allowable to laugh so much during prayer?"
It's a good question.
Laughter is a good thing, of course. The Bible often tells people to rejoice, to enjoy God and the blessings God gives. Laughter goes with rejoicing.
The Bible also says that laughter and good humor are good for us. Proverbs 17:22 says that "a cheerful heart is good medicine."
And honestly, there are times when I pray that I laugh, whether at God's goodness or my own ridiculous, sometimes pompous, behavior.
But, here's where I think humor in prayer goes wrong: When it calls more attention to the pray-er or to the manner of expression than it does to God. When performance becomes central, prayer ceases.
This is where I personally feel that Pastor Nelms may have gone "off the track," so to speak.
In Matthew 6:5-14, Jesus teaches about prayer. He warns us against praying for show. Pastor Nelms may have unintentionally created a show that caused people to yuck it up rather than to talk with God.
And talking with God, with faith and humble dependence on God, is what prayer, whether private or public, is about.