01/22/2013 03:33 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2013

Way Too Much Praying

At the public inauguration of Barack Obama on Monday, there were a number of people who were invited to participate. It was a great historic day. It happened that this public celebration of the inauguration fell on the day set aside as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It was fitting that Barack Obama publicly take office on the day set aside to remember the man who probably made it possible for Obama to become president.

This inaugural celebration has a liturgy of its own. There is an order of service that is typical. There were a number of dignitaries recognized. There were military bands and patriotic songs. There were promises made and a speech was given. The service moved along as planned.

Lost of different people have made comments about the importance and impact of the celebration. Many, many people have commented upon the inauguration address by Obama. It was the shortest address on record and there are many who describe it as one of the better speeches. There are others who suggested there was too much partisanship in it, but most agree it was a very impressive speech.

There have also been a number of people who have commented on the performers. Three outstanding singers were invited to sing, and each of them did very well. The great thing about the performances is that they each sang their song and finished. The assignment given to each singer was one song and they each sang that song and sat down. The length of time they were in the spotlight was limited by the length of the song. It was a happy treat to listen to them sing.

Perhaps it is merely a professional thing, but it seemed to me that both the invocation and the benediction went on forever. There seems to be a loss of understanding of what those two pieces of the liturgy are to be. It is not only at the inauguration that this happens. I cannot number the occasions I have been at where the invocation and the benediction have been given by someone who thought they were supposed to inform the Almighty or the congregation of everything they could think of.

An invocation ought to be an immediate and powerful calling for the Almighty to be present at the event. It ought to summon the Holy to be at work in the deeds of the moment. It is the beginning of the event. There will be others who tell us what is happening. It is not necessary to tell the Almighty the whole condition of the country. It is not necessary to tell the Holy One invited what we want him to. The invocation of the Almighty ought to leave the Almighty free to be the Almighty and do what the Almighty thinks is best. The invocation at the inauguration went on way too long.

As did the benediction at the end. The benediction ought to be the way the service is ended. The word that is most essential is "Amen." This is a sending forth of the people with the blessings of the Holy. "May the Lord bless and keep you." There is no need for telling the Holy what will happen to us if there is no blessing. There is no purpose in telling the Holy why we need the blessings. Perhaps there was a inclusive purpose in having a few words spoken in Spanish, but they could have come much sooner. The benediction was just giving too much information to the Holy that was unnecessary.

After all the fuss about who would be invited to do them, apparently nobody thought to suggest how long they should be. There is such a thing as "too much of a good thing."