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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






04 March 2006

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.

9/11A: 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.

Yankee StadiumWhen 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.

OprahI 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.

SikhsWere 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.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Bruce786 said...

WHY CANT YOU GET IT INTO YOUR HEADS THAT ISLAM IS THE RELIGION OF ABRAHAM, MOSES, JESUS AND MUHAMMAD (PEACE BE UPON THEM ALL).
THINK ABOUT IT HOW COULD AN ILLITERATE MAN INSPIRE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AND 1400 YEARS LATER STILL BE HAVING AN EFFECT ON THE WORLD.

WAKE UP FEAR THE GOD OF ISRAEL AND THE UNIVERSE.

AS A WESTENER THE RATE OF ISLAMS INFLUENCE IS SKY ROCKETING ESPECIALLY IN EUROPE. SO STOP BURYING YOUR HEADS IN THE SAND (no pun intended) LIKE OSTRICHES.
STOP DEMONISING THE FUTURE FAITH OF MANKIND.
IF ISLAM IS AN ARAB RELIGION FOUNDED BY AN ARAB IT WOULD NOT HAVE SPREAD FURTHER THAN MECCA OR MEDINA.

YOU MAY READ THE TORAH AND THE BIBLE BUT I DARE YOU TO READ THE QURAN JUST AS A PURELY INTELLECTUAL EXERCISE.
WE IN THE WEST PREACH THAT WE ARE CIVILISED AND AN ADVANCED SOCIETY. EVERY DAY I WITNESS SCIENTISTS WHOM I WORK ALONGSIDE ABANDON SIMPLE LOGIC AND REASONING WHEN IT COMES TO MATTERS OF FAITH.

05 March, 2006 08:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Pr. Snyder for this clear answer and correct answer.
Blessings! Craig

05 March, 2006 14:33  
Blogger The Terrible Swede said...

Dear Pr. Snyder,

Thank you for blogging about this.

The baseball analogy is awesome - I'll be sure to mention it to the Mrs. Swede. She loves baseball!

05 March, 2006 14:53  
Blogger Kelly Klages said...

Good post Pr. Snyder, you're absolutely right. If only all those who really believed in the exclusive claims of their faith regarded the Yankee Stadium problem with this kind of clarity.

05 March, 2006 22:17  
Blogger Bob Waters said...

Because, Bruce, Islam is not the religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses. That God is a personal God,of much higher morality and much greater compassion than the god spoken of by the Koran.He gave His Law to Moses, and Shariah is not it.

It certainly is not the religion of Jesus, Who is the very God worshipped by Abraham, Isaac and Moses- and the only means by which human beings can approach their Creator.

Bruce, it is precisely because many of us have read the Koran that we recognize it as a purely human, self-contradictory, often immoral document, contradicting also the Torah and the New Testament at point after point. Allah is an idol. He is not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your arguments are logically very weak. Karl Marx's teachings have affected even more people that Mohammed's. Does that make Marx right? Everything you say about Islam is also true of Christianity- including the spread of its influence in the Third World. And yes, immigration from Islamic countries has greatly increased Islamic influence in Europe, and it is precisely the willingness of naive Westerners to buy into nonsense about how this inherently violent and imperialistic religion
is a "religion of peace" and to fail to recognize it as the threat it is
which has permitted it to achieve that influence.

Those of us who are better acquainted with Islam have no desire to face a future as dhimmi. You are entitled to your religion. We will make no attempt to force you to give it up- though for your eternal welfare, I hope that you do
come to your senses and allow the peace Christ bought for us with His blood to be upon you, too.

The more acquainted Westerners become with Islam, Bruce, the more fiercely we will resist its violence, intolerance, backwardness and immorality. You worship an idol; we worship the Living God. We who know the difference are not content to equate the two.

God- the real God- is in control of history, Bruce. He will not allow the abomination called Islam to prevail. But you, and all Muslims- like all human beigns- will be called to give an account of yourself befort His Throne some day, and Christ is the only reply that will acquit you.

And by the way, while not in a league with those cartoons of Mohammed, posting in all caps is rude.

Yes, Islamic society was advanced at a time when European Christianity was in the dark ages. But Islam is not, Bruce- and neither is Islamic society as it exists today.

06 March, 2006 14:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have more of a question than a comment. As christians and worshipers of the one true God. In what way do we show others that their god is not true. Its true like the pastor said that Elisha mocked the preists of Baal. But if we mock the religons of the world then how do we show them ours is true. They are meerly upset with the "infedels" and we come off as closeminded instead of caring openminded seekers who have allready found the answer and wish to share it. I am not saying one way or the other is right but again meerly asking your opinions. Please leave comments to mine.

Brantley in Lake Charles LA

13 September, 2006 00:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Snyder,

First, I truly loved the point you have made regarding the putting our One True God on the "same level," so to speak, as the gods of other faith systems. I've never thought of that before! I hope you don't mind my writing in at this late date; I see that these were all written a couple of years ago! I just happened to come across it. The concept of "Should Christians pray w/ non-Christians" is a new one for me, and struck my interest. I have recently been born again (yeayyyyyy!), and have been spending my time now in deep Bible study and research of what it truly means now to be a Christian. Anyway, I sort of had the same question that the last "Anonymous" blogger had... As I said, I loved everything you had to say about the event at Yankee Stadium; however, my only concern (and please forgive me in my ignorance as a brand-new Christian!), but my only concern was this: Could it be possible, though, for the sake of evangelism, to consider it more beneficial to have a more "gentle" spirit, and to go ahead and pray to our Lord (the One whom we, of course, believe!) alongside w/ the other non-believers, in the hopes that they will see our example, and hopefully find Christ themselves? In other words, is it possible that it could be more harmful, and thus keep more people from Christ, if we were to isolate ourselves in our prayers and service to our Lord, not allowing non-believers this uncommon opportunity to even view it? (afterall, I doubt they are attending a Christian church setting). I don't know; just something to pray about, I suppose. But again, please forgive me if my questions are not yet fully based upon Scripture (I'm still learning! :)), and please know that I enjoyed and respected what you had to say very much. Thank you for your time, if this blog is even still being read at all...

Your new friend in Christ,

LF :)

28 March, 2008 22:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Snyder,

First, I truly loved the point you have made regarding the putting our One True God on the "same level," so to speak, as the gods of other faith systems. I've never thought of that before! I hope you don't mind my writing in at this late date; I see that these were all written a couple of years ago! I just happened to come across it. The concept of "Should Christians pray w/ non-Christians" is a new one for me, and struck my interest. I have recently been born again (yeayyyyyy!), and have been spending my time now in deep Bible study and research of what it truly means now to be a Christian. Anyway, I sort of had the same question that the last "Anonymous" blogger had... As I said, I loved everything you had to say about the event at Yankee Stadium; however, my only concern (and please forgive me in my ignorance as a brand-new Christian!), but my only concern was this: Could it be possible, though, for the sake of evangelism, to consider it more beneficial to have a more "gentle" spirit, and to go ahead and pray to our Lord (the One whom we, of course, believe!) alongside w/ the other non-believers, in the hopes that they will see our example, and hopefully find Christ themselves? In other words, is it possible that it could be more harmful, and thus keep more people from Christ, if we were to isolate ourselves in our prayers and service to our Lord, not allowing non-believers this uncommon opportunity to even view it? (afterall, I doubt they are attending a Christian church setting). I don't know; just something to pray about, I suppose. But again, please forgive me if my questions are not yet fully based upon Scripture (I'm still learning! :)), and please know that I enjoyed and respected what you had to say very much. Thank you for your time, if this blog is even still being read at all...

Your new friend in Christ,

LF :)

28 March, 2008 22:35  

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