Saturday, October 17, 2015


The inter-faith prayer movement is a tsunami covering the landscape of the Church. Many want to bring the various faiths together to “discover common ground and feel connected.”

  • What happens when people of different faiths pray together? According to Gandhi, prayer is a ‘longing of the soul.’ And when individual souls come together to pray—even when their languages or cultures or religions are different—they are longing for their God while also demonstrating peace, love, and unity with all of God’s children. New research has found that interfaith prayer can be a powerful, binding force that helps a diverse group of people discover common ground and feel connected. 
Those who resist this movement are regarded as narrow, divisive, and lacking in any concern for people of other religions. Consequently, world religious leaders are trying to form connections through prayer:

  • In an effort to encourage peace in the Middle East, Pope Francis hosted the leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian worlds at the Vatican on Sunday, presenting an ecumenical gathering that joined professing Christians and Catholics together with Muslims, Jews and Druze.
About this, Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News wrote:

  • “When leaders of different religions come together and pray for a common cause, they are not only appealing to God, they also are showing the world they believe that followers of different religions are still brothers and sisters before the one who created them,”.
Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen gave his blessings:

  • “I love the fact that [the Pope has] made the Church more inclusive, not trying to make it smaller, but to try to make it larger—to take everybody in. So, that just resonates with me.” 
Certainly, it is important that Christians join hands with others. I would be glad to join with Muslim and Hindu neighbors to get potholes filled or to press for better subways.

There are many ways to bond across religious lines, but, for the Christian, inter-faith prayer is not one of them. While I would be glad to bond with my Muslim neighbor by shoveling his snow, I would not want to bond by sharing my wife or children. Besides, as Paul warned, there are also other ways that we must not bind ourselves to others:

  • Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
What does it mean to “not be yoked together with unbelievers?” Would this include interfaith worship and prayer? Evidently! The Bible gives us so many examples of God’s people justifiably refusing similar yoking.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon also wanted to unify his diverse kingdom. He had therefore commanded that all had to bow down before his statue and worship, warning:

  • Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." (Daniel 3:6)
However, three Hebrew young men refused to be grateful  neighbors and to be yoked together through worship (Daniel 3:18) but were miraculously rescued from the furnace.

King Darius of the Persians and Medes had been coaxed into passing a law requiring all to pray to him. Perhaps he too conceived of this as a good way to unify his kingdom. However, Daniel would not submit and was found praying to the God of the Hebrews. Although he was thrown to the lions for his violation, he too was miraculously delivered (Daniel 6), thereby demonstrating God’s approval for his single-minded devotion.

With the Jewish Mordechai, the stakes were even higher. He refused to merely knell down before Haman, who subsequently decided to destroy the entire Jewish nation because of Mordechai refusal to honor him. Once again, God miraculously saved His people (Esther 3--).

Does this apply to interfaith prayer – a kneeling in endorsement of other religions? The Apostle Paul had warned:

  • Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:14-16)
While we must “flee from idolatry,” does this include any participation in or any positive acknowledgement of non-Christian prayer or worship? Evidently! Paul explained that whenever we participate in any form pagan worship, we participate with demons:

  • No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord's jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:20-22)
Clearly, we are not allowed to acknowledge any other gods. When we participate in interfaith prayer, we acknowledge the worthiness of other gods and the prayers to them. This is a participation in something that arouses the “Lord’s jealousy.” To be a friend of the world is surely to be an enemy of God (James 4:4)

Those who participate in interfaith prayer might argue that this is okay with Christ, because they had their mind on Jesus the whole time. But would it be okay? Instead, it would be as if your wife caught you with a prostitute, and you responded, “I was thinking of you the entire time I was with her.” Surely, this would not satisfy your wife. Why should this thinking satisfy God!

When we participate in inter-faith prayer, we are likewise violating our relationship with our Savior. In a sense, our behavior is communicating the wrong message – that pagan prayers are just as valid as ours, even though they pray to false gods. It also says that Christ is not the only possible means of salvation. This represents a denial of the Gospel.

At this point, we need to make an important distinction. Praying with a non-Christian who is seeking or who is in need of a healing is entirely different. Such prayer does not represent an endorsement of another religion or a participation with other gods.

Interfaith prayer is an endorsement of other religions! However, prayer is unacceptable to our God if it is directed to other gods. Instead, prayer must be to the God of the Bible alone.

Even when we are praying to the right God our prayers might also be “detestable.” If we are not repentant, our prayers will not be acceptable:

  • If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable. (Proverbs 28:9)
Why then should not pagan prayers also be detestable? When we fail to respond repentantly to the One true God, we should not expect our prayers to be answered:

  • "But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. "'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 7:11-13)
When we solicit and honor the prayers of someone who refuses to believe in Jesus, we indicate that Jesus is not necessary. However, Jesus would not even respect the prayers of the Pharisees. Instead, citing Isaiah, He claimed that their worship was worthless:

  • You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" (Matthew 15:7-9)
Would we call an unrepentant adulterer to the podium to pray? No! Why then would we call someone with a different god up to pray?

You might argue that interfaith prayer is okay as long as it is not brought into the church. This, of course, this is an unsustainable distinction. What will you say to your Imam friend who requests that you upon the doors of your church to an interfaith service after you have prayed with him? If you rejected such a request, you would be regarded as hypocritical.

The closest biblical example of  inter-faith prayer is found when Elijah called upon the priests of Baal to pray on Mt. Carmel with him, but this constituted a contest to see whose prayers mattered (1 Kings 18:16--). After the contest, the people concluded that only the God of Israel was worthy of worship and prayer!

Did the Israelites ever host an interfaith prayer session with the Canaanites? This would have been regarded as unthinkable and damnable!

Let’s now put aside the question of whether or not inter-faith prayer is acceptable to Jesus. There exists another problem. Many Christians will damage their faith if they participate in something that they think might be wrong. While Paul had argued that it was okay to eat food offered to idols, even at a pagan temple, he also warned:

  • Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:13)
  • But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)
It is inevitable that if church leaders participate in inter-faith prayer, they will lead others into sin.

Once this compromise is made, the door is opened to many more. Israel had been repeatedly warned to not partake with the surrounding people. However, they did. First, they simply learned their customs, but this only led to more:

  • They mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves. Therefore the LORD was angry with his people and abhorred his inheritance. (Psalm 106:35-40)
Perhaps it started with inter-faith prayer. Once I take the first bite of the brownie, I can hardly stop. Once we begin to share prayer, it is inevitable we will also be invited to participate in ungodly services. How can we then say “no!”

Besides, how can we talk about the need for Christ once we engage in inter-faith prayer, thereby endorsing other religions? We can’t. We have already “preached” a different message. Once we have engaged in interfaith prayer, we have placed ourselves on the proverbial slippery-slope, where the only way to go is down.

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