Text of my Radio Broadcast on KW FM 99 on Sunday morning 11 Nov 2012
n the days of Jesus, there were the Scribes and the Pharisees, who pride themselves as the custodian of religious worship. They took pride in praying in public places; at the corners of streets in order to be noticed by men (Matt.6:5) They had the laws of God contained in a little booklet called phylacteries round their forehead and arm (Matt. 23:5) to indicate that they were holy.
Unfortunately their behaviour was in sharp contrast to their outward show.
Jesus was deeply disturbed by their indifference to the need of the people. They would protect "the law" to the neglect of mercy and human need. (Mk 3:5).
He called them hypocrites, snakes! sons of vipers and He pronounced woe on them (Matt. 23 vs 25,33)
I have therefore chosen for my sermon today the topic "Hypocritical Prayer"
Let us pray
The behaviour of many of us today in Nigeria is not any different from those of the Scribes and Pharisees just described. We are mostly religious. We attend all the Sunday Church services and Friday Jumat prayers, but we remain selfish, unmerciful, unkind, indifferent to the needs of our fellow Nigerians; we defraud our fellow citizens. We cheat them, we cut down their lives if their positions will obstruct our ambition; yet we do not miss any prayer times.
Recently I watched on the TV our ogas in Abuja holding a prayer, which they called "Breakfast Prayer meeting" While some would find their prayer meetings laughable, in my own case however, I sobbed inward. I sobbed because it appears to me that they were trivilizing the problems confronting many citizens. I find their prayers a mockery of the general poverty that pervades the nation.
I saw the program as a tactics of the devil to seer their conscience from facing the reality of the problems facing the nation.
Who needs their prayer? Is it positive actions, which will take away our national reproach that are needed from them or their prayer?
Millions of youths graduate only to return to their parents to be fed. Most of our inter-city roads and even those in towns are killers. Our people die of unserious ailments due to lack of money to fund their medical care. The monthly take home pay of many people can barely last them a week.
With all these realities, a group of people who have been accused of a yearly salary of N290m without denial, gather together to pray.
The World Bank had said that the government is only 1% of the population, yet they consume 80% of the wealth of the nation. The Central Bank of Nigeria said the Legislative arm consumes 25% of the wealth. Simple arithmetic implies that if the Legislative arm consumes 25% then the ruling arm consumes 55%.
I have pondered over and over again what the meaning of their prayer could mean; ridiculing i.e making fun of our poverty? or trying to fool us to think that they care for the general poverty or terrible outlook of the nation?
If the latter is the case, i.e if by their prayer, they want us to believe that they care for the terrible situation of the country, then their prayer is the last thing the nation needs. Their prayer is nothing but hypocritical.
What they need to do urgently is to first of all cut down their salaries and emoluments to be at par with those of other civil servants. They are not serving better than Civil Servants. In fact if they take "seating allowance" alone, it is not too much a sacrifice.
Imagine how many young school leavers can be put to work with their monthly salaries.
The Members House of Assembly in the defunct Northern Region under the leadership of Sir Ahmadu Bello, took £60 (pounds)/month, which was the basic salary of a Nigerian University graduate as of the time. Those were Honorouble people.
The scenario today is similar to the one at the time of Prophet Isaiah as recorded in the book of Isaiah chapter 58. The people went to the Temple every day. They acted pious! and seem delighted to learn all about God. They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They asked God to take action on their behalf,
pretending they wanted to be near Him.
- 'We have fasted before you!' they say.
'Why aren't you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don't even notice it!' Then God responded
"It's because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
- What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
- You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please me?
- "No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
- Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
- "Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind.
- Then when you call, the LORD will answer.
'Yes, I am here,' he will quickly reply.
"Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
- Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The only reply God has for the prayers of those Abuja ogas; our 'prayer warriors' is "Shed your excessive weight, slash your salaries and bring out all wealth acquired from the state for the good of fellow citizens"
We shall be astonished should they make public, what much they spend of the State fund, every year on their hypocritical, God condemned breakfast prayer meeting
In this nation, we are religious but we do not match our religion with our deeds. Our deeds are inconsistent with our religiosity.
We take advantage of the weak and poor; we employ them to do our services but we pay them ridiculously, taking advantage of the poor economic situation and woeful unemployment situation in the country.
We worship, yet we are selfish, we buy materials and do not want to pay for them; not caring if the business of the other person collapses.
We worship, yet we lie, we defraud; we buy materials for people and inflate the cost; we sell materials for people and do not give the fellow his/her share of the profit.
We pray and fast, yet we steal properties of our employers.
We fast yet we are very dishonest to our clients, we rob them with straight face.
We pray and fast, yet we see our roads killing people every day and we have no commitment to repair them rather we divert the money budgeted for repair and construction into our private use while we travel by air in our own case.
We fast, yet we see millions of youths roaming about the streets, having no job, when our own children are living in luxury in the best countries of the world cruising about in private jets purchased with State stolen money.
We fast, yet we see our schools in dilapidated condition while our own children study in the best schools abroad.
We fast but only children and relations of senior government officials and relations of party members get government jobs.
We fast, yet we leave our health care delivery in shambles while we take our own children and relations to the best hospitals in the world including for minor illnesses like head-ache or even circumcision.
We fast, yet we watch individual businesses collapse due to lack of electricity because we import obsolete spare parts for the Power Stations.
We fast and we pray yet no file moves out of our table without receiving gratification.
As Police Corps and Officers, we pray and fast, but we display brutality to fellow citizens, we write false allegations against citizens. The one who offers the larger amount of gratification is justified when really he is the one on the wrong side of the law.
We are men of the Customs; we fast and pray but we steal the goods of fellow citizens. We accost on the highway, goods, which duty have been paid for and we demand money from the owner of the goods. We sieze the goods and go ahead to share it among ourselves in the office, yet we attend all night vigils that take place on the Express ways.
We are officers of the Drug Control enforcement, we fast and pray, yet we will not allow a passenger who has little food stuff for personal consumption abroad in his luggage, until we squeeze money from him.
We are revenue officers at whichever post, we pray and fast yet we must be given money before we issue whatever license.
We acquire wealth from cheats and frauds, yet we fast and pray. We console ourselves though falsely that, "It is the way, which God had opened for us to prosper".
We are Program Officers, we divert Government's fund budgeted for programmes to benefit the citizens into private pockets, yet we pray and fast
Streets and corners are full of places of worship while the reproach of sin is ever on the rise in the communities.
House owners do not feel complete until they have erected inside it, a place for congregational prayer.
The high rate of corruption, dishonesty, decadence, decay, injustice, cheating, bribery, extortion, stealing and looting of government treasuries with full participation of many who congregate for worship at one place or the other, hiding under the cover of 'gospel of prosperity' fail to justify the ever increasing number of places of worship in the communities.
You think God notices your fasts and prayers? Forget it.
What you need is repentance and it is urgent.
The large majority of us, one way or the other is responsible for the prevalent hopelessness of this nation and we must all repent and seek God in earnest.
Jesus said "What does it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world but loses his soul (eternal life) in the process? For is anything worth more than his soul? (Matt.16:26, Mark 8:36).
Accept Jesus Christ today in all sincerity and He will give you the power to live right and you will start getting concerned for the welfare of the other fellow. Then your name will be written in the book of life and you will be able to live with Him in Heaven after you die. You will as well be happy to see Nigeria prosper and look like other nations of the world, where we want to live.
The Bible states it clearly "Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach" I pray that you will be able to forsake all the evils in your hands so that the reproach of Nigeria can be gone for once and you will be able to have a place with God after you die.
The book of 1Timothy 4: 8 confirms this "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come."
Accept Jesus today as your Lord and savior and you will be saved from hell. Do not delay it.
Let us pray.