Should Christians Pray with Non-Christians?
Q: Should Christians and non-Christians pray together? I saw this happen in the memorial service at the National Cathedral and in the prayer service at Yankee Stadium following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
A: You’re not the only person still asking about this. The technical word for people having different beliefs joining in worship is syncretism, from a Greek word meaning “union” or “federation.” Whenever Israel mixed Baal or other idol worship with the true faith, God’s anger burned against them. He hasn’t started overlooking such offenses in these latter times.
Christianity was always exclusive, summed up by Christ’s words in John 14:6, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me.” To do anything implying that other gods are due equal praise is never an option for the faithful.
When Paul and Barnabas were mistaken for the Greek gods Hermes and Zeus, they quickly corrected people (Acts 14:8-18). When Paul was on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16-34), he confessed the True God was in his commentary on the shrine to the “Unknown God.” Beginning with Greek philosophy and theology, and moving to Christianity’s truth, he summed up: “He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all men by raising Him from the dead. (17:31)” This Man was, of course, Jesus. The message offended some, who mocked him. However, others said, “We will hear you again about this. (17:32)”
Some Christians are so concerned with giving offense that they’ll instead give in. A few go so far as to say that what we believe is okay for us, but others’ beliefs are right for them. This would be fine, except that false belief and denial of Jesus as Savior is a path away from the Father and toward hell. Thus, when Christians pray with non-Christians, even when they pray in Jesus’ Name, they are praying with those whose “gods” are trails to eternal condemnation. No matter the other god’s title, its true name is Satan. Early Christians often went to horrible deaths under pagan persecutions rather than allowing any other god a place in their lives.
I liken syncretism to a buffet line, where the True God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — is but one choice that people are free to accept or reject. This is especially true when no exclusive claims are made. But our God is not the Meatloaf, which you are free to take or to skip for the chicken. When Paul was on Mars Hill, he didn’t present the Father as one viable option among many, but as the only True God, Creator of everything, including those who did not know Him. When Elijah met the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40), he not only prayed to a different God, he also mocked Baal’s priests and the false god whom they served.
Watching the service at the National Cathedral &mdash and especially the prayer service at Yankee Stadium, which had more religious leaders from non-Christian religions than from those who profess to be Christian &mdash saddened and even angered me. My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save me from my sins, was given equal billing with Allah, with Vishnu, and with others. Furthermore, only one of the “Christian” religious leaders even used the names “Jesus” or “Christ” in his prayer.
Were the others “ashamed of the Gospel of Christ”? Did they not remember Jesus saying in Matthew 10:33, “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven”? And prayer, by itself, is no proclamation of the Gospel of forgiveness. Prayer is a communication with a deity people know and agree upon. The only agreements in Yankee Stadium were that a bad thing had happened and that America was a good place filled with good people who were free to worship whomever they chose.
It was fitting that this mockery of the faith took place in Yankee Stadium, an American League baseball park. The American League allows the “designated hitter” to replace the weakest batter in a team’s lineup. The “worship” was one of “designated deities,” where each speaker sent his god up to bat for the team, be it Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, or Christianity. Maybe the Christians who were not ashamed to be the exclusive children of a very choosy God should have rented Shea Stadium of the National League’s Mets and allowed their God to bat for Himself.
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
Send email to Ask the Pastor.
Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.
Technorati Tags: syncretism | unionism | prayer | pray