Oklahoma’s governor is asking citizens to pray Oct. 13 for the state’s oil industry, a major contributor to the economy recently in a downturn as crude oil prices dropped to the lowest levels in 15 years.
Gov. Mary Fallin proclaimed Thursday “Oilfield Prayer Day” to coincide with the sixth annual Oilfield Prayer Breakfast, last in a series of five “Praying for the Patch” events conceived by Tom Beddow, oil patch chaplain for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
“The oilfield is experiencing an economic disaster with catastrophic impact on the industry,” Beddow, coordinator of the statewide affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Oil Patch Chaplains ministry, recently told the Baptist Messenger. “The most recognizable need is for the recovery of economic loss, but the greatest need in these depressive times is hope — the hope that comes from God.”
The Oklahoma chamber of commerce identifies the oil and gas industry as the state’s key job engine and the largest source of state tax revenue. A supply-driven downturn in energy prices for the past two years – along with tax cuts and tax breaks to business – contributed to $1.3 billion shortfall in the state’s budget this year.
“The faith community is experiencing the same economic disaster, and it seems to have the same need, the recovery from financial loss,” Beddow said. He described Praying for the Patch “as a biblically based plan to meet the spiritual needs of both the oilfield and faith communities by bringing believers and non-believers alike together for the purpose of ‘prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,’ so needs and requests can be made known to God.”
The governor originally issued the proclamation specifically urging Christians “to thank God for the blessing created by the oil and natural gas industry and to seek His wisdom and ask for protection.” After complaints it excluded non-Christians, Fallin revised the proclamation Oct. 10 to refer to “people of faith.”
The reworded proclamation says Oklahoma “is blessed with an abundance of oil and natural gas” and that people of faith “acknowledge such natural resources are created by God.”
“Whereas people of all faiths are invited to thank God for the blessing created by the oil and natural gas industry and to seek His wisdom and ask for protection; now, therefore, I, Mary Fallin, Governor, do hereby proclaim October 13 as ‘Oilfield Prayer Day’ in the state of Oklahoma,” the proclamation concludes.
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said dropping specific references to Christianity does not solve the proclamation’s problems and urged Fallin to rescind it while there is still time.
“Encouraging residents of your state to pray on a specific day violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – a document you have sworn to uphold,” Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ wrote the governor Oct. 11. “Your action sends the message that non-believers have no place in Oklahoma; in essence you have established belief in God as the government-endorsed viewpoint in your state.”
Bruce Prescott, a retired Baptist minister who successfully sued to have a Ten Commandments monument removed from the Capitol grounds, said it’s not the governor’s responsibility to call anyone to prayer.
“That’s a minister’s responsibility,” Prescott told the Associated Press. “Another thing that’s an irritant on that one — there are a lot of things that could be prayed about in this state, and the oil field is not at the top of that list.”
Tomorrow’s Oilfield Prayer Breakfast in Oklahoma City follows similar events beginning in April at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Cushing, First Baptist Church of Enid, Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church in Woodward and First Baptist Church of McAlester.
Beddow told the Baptist Messenger in September that Gov. Fallin had made preliminary plans to attend the prayer breakfast in Oklahoma City.