A NASCAR Prayer, Parody or Blasphemy?

Below is a transcript and video of the invocation “prayer” that Pastor Joe Nelms of Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN (near Nashville) recently gave at a NASCAR event. I’m not sure how to respond other than to scratch my head and think of this in light of the state of American Christianity. Of course, he had to be Baptist, but atleast he’s not Southern Baptist as far as I can tell.

So was Nelms offering a prayer, a parody or blasphemy?

Heavenly Father, we thank you tonight for all your blessings. You said in all things give thanks so we want to thank you tonight for these mighty machines that you’ve brought before us. Thank you for the Dodge’s and the Toyota’s. Thank you for the Ford’s and most of all we thank you for Roush and Yates partnering to give us the power we see before us tonight. Thank you for GM Performance Technology and the RO7 engines. Thank you for Sunoco Racing fuel and Goodyear tires that bring performance and power to the track. Lord, I want to thank you for my smokin’ hot wife tonight, Lisa. And my two children Eli and Emma, or as we like to call them the little E’s. Lord, I pray and bless the drivers and use them tonight. May they put on a performance worthy of this great track. In Jesus name, boogity, boogity, boogity, Amen!

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tagged as , in Baptist,Christianity,Church Issues,Culture,heresy,morality,Prayer,theology

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris Roberts July 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

I need to stop thinking that there is nothing left that will surprise me.

2 Joe Blackmon July 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm

NASCAR=Non Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks

3 Dave Miller July 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm

It did not seem to me like this was a prayer that gave glory to God.

4 Mark July 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Chris, it’s sad that I wasn’t really surprised.

Joe, I don’t care who you are – that’s funny!

Dave, not in the least. What if we prayed like this in all situations? How ridiculous would that be?

5 Doug July 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks…

6 Scott Welch July 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I don’t even know what to say. Did you notice in the video that some of the drivers were looking at each other laughing during the…well…whatever it was? I don’t even think they thought the prayer was legit…

7 wmc July 25, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Watched “Taladega Nights” once too many times, I think.

8 Bill July 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm

So a pastor has humor in a prayer and it isnt a prayer? It was as much a prayer as praying for victory over your opponent in a football game. An oppopnent who happens to also be Christian. Lighten up people. God gave us humor as well. If we cant laugh a little in troubled times, then we take ourselves much too seriously to do the Lord’s work.

9 Heath Lloyd July 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm


10 Mark July 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Bill, are we relativists now? This has nothing to do with a football game, but even if it did I’ve never heard a prayer for football thanks the equipment makers, etc.

Can you point out any part of this prayer that was reverent?

11 Christiane July 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm

strange culture, this

I thought it was supposed to be a joke, but that the ‘joke’ was in very bad taste.

Maybe the poor man didn’t really know any better than to do this.

12 Ian July 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Everyone needs to lighten up…….
This is good clean Nashville fun…..Nascar
Did not Elijah pray this way when he encouraged the prophets of Baal to shout louder so he could them. Obviously trying to be humorous!
God is a God of humor too!

13 Michele July 25, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Good Grief…its a prayer…he’s giving thanks, isn’t that prayer is about? Would you have preferred him say boogety boogety can the reps and dems come up with an agreement? I weigh in not blasphemy…If all preachers made light of prayer like this i might consider going to church.

14 Chris Roberts July 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm

There is a difference between a prophet of God mocking false idols and a pastor making a mockery of the true God.

15 Ian July 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Please show me how he was mocking the True God? I do not see it! I could see it if this was in a house of worship but what is wrong with contextualization?

16 Mark July 25, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Ian, do you believe the prescription for prayer in the Bible only applies when in some form of corporate worship?

17 Mark July 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Hi Michele,

I’m curious, what about this type of prayer would help you consider going to church? Also, what is it that prohibits you from attending church now?

18 Ian July 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm

No…Please show me what part of the prescription you think was violated.
I know this another topic but do not most Southern Baptist hold to description rather than prescription for prayer.

19 Chris Roberts July 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm

There is a difference between mocking and making a mockery. He wasn’t mocking God, but by the irreverent nature of his prayer he was painting God as the buddy down the street you call up to talk about racing engines and smokin’ hot girls. And boogity boogity boogity? Does that even need comment? In Scripture, those who came into the presence of the Lord fell on their faces in fear. In Jesusanity, God is your buddy who is as brutish as you.

20 Ken July 25, 2011 at 9:57 pm

This “pastor” seems to have forgotten one basic truth about prayer: we are speaking to the holy, sovereign God of the universe. It is not for the entertainment of the listeners or so that people will remember what we say. If I were a member of his church, I would ask the deacons to remove him. If they refused, I’d pack up my family and move to a church were the pastor has some spiritual sense.

21 Ian July 25, 2011 at 10:34 pm

whether you eat or drink do all things to the Glory of God. As a Kuyperian how does a Nascar driver or fan glorify God.
Do you object to Johnny Hunts discussion of Jeff Gordons Nascar Glory of God?
Do you object to Francis Chans eating a Snickers bar to the glory of God?
I must correct one thing you said……He did not talk about smokin hot girls! He said smokin hot Wife. Big diffference!!!

I admit I did not know what boogity boogity boogity meant but as researched it a little I found out it was a Nashville tradition that Darell Waltrip used at the green light. Basically like Play ball in Baseball.

22 Chris Roberts July 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Do everything to the glory of God, including race cars. Absolutely. Everything is to be done to the glory of God. But doing everything to the glory of God does not mean pray irreverent prayers that cheapen the glory of God, diminishing God’s majesty to next door buddy.

23 Mark July 25, 2011 at 11:50 pm


I agree with Chris on this one. It seems that Mr. Nelms took some prayer lessons from the movie Talladega Nights which is apparent from the many references around the web identifying this prayer with the movie. I would then say there is one point of irreverence.

Regardless of what or who the “boogity, boogity, boogity” referred to it was not to Christ though it was placed in between “in Jesus name” and “Amen”.

As to the rest of the prayer and its intention, I can’t help but wonder if this prayer was more for public approval in violation of the principle of Matthew 6:1 (ESV) “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

It might also be argued that more praise for this prayer is coming from non-Christians than Christians, but I’m not going to run around and count them, etc.

Reading through Kuyper’s own works on prayer I’m not sure he would support the type of prayer in question either. (Cf. XXXIX. The Essence of Prayer.)

Of course, you don’t have to agree, but I’m offering reasons for my position.

24 ricky bobby July 26, 2011 at 12:34 am

Boogity boogity boogity, let’s go racin’ boys! Maybe not the greatest way to approach this but.. have any of you tried to visit his churches website? Overloaded with hits. You can’t even get on it. Look up some of his sermons or other prayers. Hes not to bad. This has probably reached out to more sinners then all of the criticizers on this forum put together. You know, all most people need is a little incentive to hear gods word. You should be a little ashamed how you are downing a man who has put his neck out on national television to reach out to a crowd that usually wouldn’t even know that anybody just prayed. Look back on your lives and tell me you never skipped an opportuny to spread gods word or were never to afraid to say “in Jesus name” in a crowded place. This man isn’t afraid… may god bless you all and give you all the ability to forgive Bro Joe for his unorthodox ways.

25 RL July 26, 2011 at 8:38 am

What is wrong with thanking God for the manufacturers? I think thanking God for cars, tires, engines, etc is precisely where the reverence of this prayer lies. Those are the things that excite and entertain race fans and, while on the surface, the speed and power of the cars appears to be the product of human effort and engineering coupled with the skill and bravery of the drivers, the minister was able to see the hand of God at work in all those things. You don’t sense the reverence in that?

26 Joe White July 26, 2011 at 8:55 am

I was wondering if you folks had read his response; and what your thoughts might be on it. Here is the link… http://hamptonroads.com/2011/07/pastor-defends-invocation-says-he-didnt-want-give-cookiecutter-prayer

27 Michele July 26, 2011 at 9:19 am

because it has humor and its not in your face fire and brimstone.

28 Mark July 26, 2011 at 9:46 am


When is the last time you visited a church? My church isn’t fire and brimstone, but we have a high view of God’s Holiness. Have you ever listened to John Piper? You can find some of his most popular sermons here. Or how about Matt Chandler who uses humor often in his sermons which you can also find online here.

I’m just giving examples of popular preachers who are much more well-known than Mr. Nelms. More importantly, online sermons are no substitute for a local church family. You should be able to find a local church at the 9Marks site.

Can you give me an example of what you mean by “in your face fire and brimstone”?

29 Mark July 26, 2011 at 9:47 am


Please see my comment below.

30 Mark July 26, 2011 at 9:47 am

Thanks, Joe. I had not seen that.

31 Mark July 26, 2011 at 9:50 am

ricky bobby,

Let’s say you’re right about him reaching sinners. What is he reaching them with and bringing them to?

I don’t recall anyone downing the man across the board. It is this one very public prayer that some of us take issue with. This is not to discredit his whole ministry. I’m not sure how he “put his neck on the line” as you stated since he basically made a joke of a prayer and got some laughs.

32 Chris Roberts July 26, 2011 at 10:36 am

“Let’s say you’re right about him reaching sinners. What is he reaching them with and bringing them to?”

Had a discussion with someone recently about a popular Christian band. I commented that while there was nothing particularly wrong with their lyrics, there was also nothing particularly Christian. His response was that the lack of overtly religious language is what would lead non-Christians to listen to the music, receiving its message. My concern with such things is that while they might listen, what they get is a message so sanitized that nothing of the gospel remains. Does it really matter if unbelievers hear us if what they hear bears little resemblance to biblical Christianity?

33 Chris Roberts July 26, 2011 at 10:38 am

He admits his prayer borrows from other sources, so in what sense is this from the heart and not rehearsed?

34 Larry July 26, 2011 at 12:54 pm

If he was being given a hard time today because he’d prayed before a large group like this and held up the glory, majesty and exclusivity of Christ I’d be rejoicing for him. Blessed are those who are persecuted for His name’s sake. However, as it is I’m just embarrassed for him. Sad to have blown such an opportunity by trying to be the class clown.

35 Mark July 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Larry, excellent point.

36 Christiane July 26, 2011 at 2:35 pm

somewhere between the ‘humor’ and the ‘lack of fire and brimstone’, I still couldn’t see a ‘prayer’ in what he said.

His words were clearly aimed at his audience, not towards heaven, so that is why I thought it was a joke in poor taste

37 Lynn July 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm

I’m not sure what I find more disturbing – that this purported pastor prayed something that I would call inappropriate, not to the Glory of the Lord, and just downright flippant, the fact that so many thinks it is funny, or the fact that his wife said their daughter laughed about it. I also found it disturbing that he would quote something from a movie like “Talladega Nights.” Yes, I rented it, but turned it off within five minutes. Lastly, the fact that so many found this amusing disturbingly shows the signs of our times.


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