Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Interfaith Prayer

We are all faced with times where we are asked to pray with other religions.  Whether it be something as grand as the National Day of Prayer or a small interfaith prayer service, we all have those situations in our lives.  We often go along with it or justify that we are not really praying with them but to the real and living God, but I think the Bible teaches differently.  There are other times when we may be at a funeral or wedding or some other occasion where we are in a service with someone of another faith, and sometimes we even join in their rituals again justifying it by saying to ourselves that we are really praying to God.  I think we should not entangle ourselves with prayers with other faiths.  The reason is that it by joining them in prayer, you are equating Jesus with their false god.  You are elevating their false religion by joining with them in their prayers. 

Our God must be distinctive as the only true God.  Here are just a few examples of what the Bible says about God's distinctiveness.
"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."  Acts 4:12 NKJV
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  John 14:6 NKJV
"And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth.  Exodus 23:13 NKJV
Our God is a jealous God.  We are not to join Him with false gods in prayer nor are we to give place to false gods in our prayer.  Look at what God commanded the Israelites regarding the people of the land of Canaan.
"Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods. You shall make no molded gods for yourselves. " Exodus 34:12-17 NKJV
The road to idolatry begins with the existence of idols.  Now I realize that we are not in a place today to go around and destroy the buildings and idols of other faiths.  That is just not right in the country we live in today.  There will come a time when the Lord Himself will return and all idols to false gods are destroyed.  But just because we are not to go around breaking altars to other gods, does not mean we should welcome them into our own prayers.  We already live in a world and nation where other gods are worshiped so we already need to be more diligent.  While the rest of the world plays the harlot to false gods, we must not join with them.  We must hold fast the line of only praying to our Lord and only with other believers playing to the Lord, otherwise we start down the road to idolatry. 

The first step in falling to idolatry is interfaith prayer.  This is that general prayer we hear at many occasions.  It is not meant to be specific to any god but only a general prayer to some general god.  That is not how we are to pray.  Everyone sort of prays to whatever god they believe in.  They are not praying in the name of Jesus and they are not praying to the Father.  They do not know the Father nor does the Father know them.  To be led in prayer that is not a prayer to the true and living God is allowing yourself to be led into idolatry.  How can you be led to the throne room of God by someone who has no right to be there?  We can not follow someone in prayer who is not praying to Whom we are called to pray to.  As for leading interfaith prayers, that may be even worse.  You are directly giving weight to an imaginary god by not leading prayer to the true and living God.  I know what the argument that we are not allowed to pray in Jesus name in those situations or we can not make direct reference to our God and only some general god.  We sometimes think that compromise is better than boldness.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This is the first compromise.  We either are led in prayer to a general "god."  I know we are not praying directly to another god, but we are praying to no god at all.  We are just praying to "god" whatever that means.  The first compromise in leading prayer is that you do not pray as the Lord commands you.  Instead of leading a prayer to God your Father and in the Name of your Lord Jesus Christ, you lead a prayer that allows the followers to think of whatever false god they want to believe in.  You are bringing idolatry into your prayer, even though you do not mean to. 

Once we move that line by praying in some general way, the next step is to pray in the custom of another faith.  In the land of Israel, before the temple was built, the people built altars on the high places in the customs of the people driven from the land.  It may have started with the best of intentions as even Solomon received his wisdom from the Lord after praying at a high place.  Over time, though, the old gods crept back into the old customs and those high places became altars not to the Living God, but to the gods of the nations they drove from the land and the gods if of the nations that surrounded them.  Here is how it began:
Meanwhile the people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days. And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places.  1 Kings 3:2-3 NKJV. 
Solomon was worshiping the Lord, but the Word is clear that it was wrong to do so in the same customs of those who worshiped false gods.  Our prayers to THE God need to be distinct from those to a "god."  Solomon began with just worshiping in the customs of foreign gods, even though it was to the true God.  Many in Israel worshiped God in that custom at that time.  This is where it began.  We all know that Solomon eventually began to worship foreign gods, but how did the rest of Israel end up?
There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the LORD had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger, for they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, "You shall not do this thing."  2 Kings 17:11-12 NKJV
What began as worship of God but in the customs of false gods became worship of false gods.  We must not worship our Lord in the custom of other false religions.  A Christian should not pray to Mecca even if he is praying to the Lord.  This is where we need to be exceptionally careful in how we attempt to Christianize pagan rituals.  It distracts us from the true meaning of what we are trying to commemorate.  That is why Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny are more symbolic to Christmas and Easter than Jesus is.  But that is an aside.  Worshiping in the custom of false religion leads to practicing false religion.  That is why Yoga is not appropriate for a Christian.  Yoga is a form of worship for a false religion.   

In the end, we are called to be separate from the world.  Praying with other faiths joins the one true faith with lies leading people to Hell. We must be separate.  The example for us is the example of Israel.  God called them out of the world and to have nothing to do with false gods and the customs of worshiping them.  We are called to do the same.  We can not just be "another" prayer in a group of prayers nor should our prayers be directed to some general idea of a god.  Not very long ago, I wrote on being unequally yoked with a nonbeliever.  I did not mention it in that post, but interfaith prayer is part of that message.  This is even worse than the just a dating relationship or business agreement as praying with other religions is a spiritual agreement.  You are agreeing in prayer with worshipers of false gods.  By just being another part of their prayer, you are diminishing the one true God and elevating all of their false gods.  Our God should never be joined in prayer or in any other way to false gods.  God really spoke to me the passage I am closing with today.  The true God has no fellowship with false gods and therefore our prayers to the real God should have no fellowship with prayer to false gods.  Think on being yoked not just physically, emotionally, morally, or even financially with a nonbeliever, but think on being yoked spiritually.  Meditate on what this passage is telling us about even our prayer lives.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you." I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty."  2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. I'm reminded of the prayer that was offered by the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, during President Obama's inaugural ceremonies that began "O God of our many understandings…"