Rick Warren: Invocation's Unity Message Wasn't a Response to Controversy

Warren says he crafted his conciliatory invocation message before his inauguration role was announced.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

The biggest theme in Rick Warren's inauguration invocation—before it culminating in the Lord's Prayer—was the importance of unity and mutual understanding. It included such kumbaya-esque lines as:

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us ... When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

That led me and many others to wonder if Warren was responding directly to the controversy over his role at the inauguration, trying to reassert his image as a uniter after being portrayed in gay and liberal circles—and by some news media outlets—as a culture-war-fixated divider.

Not so, says Warren' spokesman Larry Ross, who gave me a ring today. Ross says that Warren wrote up most of the prayer shortly after the Obama Inaugural Committee invited him to give the invocation on December 6, 10 days before the announcement was made public— and controversy ensued.

Ross said that Warren tweaked the prayer after his role in at the inauguration was announced, but that he didn't make big changes. "The direction and framing he did almost immediately after getting the invitation," Ross said.

"When I pray, I'm not praying to a crowd," Ross said Warren told him after he gave the invocation, "but to an audience of one—God."

The major change Warren made after hashing out the invocation, Ross said, was adding the Lord's Prayer and the recitation of Jesus' name in four languages: English, Arabic, Hebrew, and Spanish. Warren added those parts during a period of "prayerful reflection" that included consulting other church leaders, Ross said.