On Thursday, you may see and hear many reports of people gathering together for the National Day of Prayer. It is a day our government sets aside for people to pray for the country. The organization’s website states, “The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation.”
The idea of asking the people of a nation to pray for that nation is not necessarily a bad idea—if those prayers are prayed by Christians to the only true God, the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But, while that may or may not have been the original idea behind this day, it is now often seen as a day to set aside our religious differences and come together. Often, public prayer events are held with Christians and people of many other faiths, all offering prayers to their “god.” What may look like an answer to many of the world’s problems, is instead an offense to God.
Prayers to all the different “gods” of the world serves no purpose. There is One God: The Triune God. Prayer is an act of worship, and joint prayer services involving Christians and non-Christians elevate false gods to the same level as the only true God, violating the First Commandment (You shall have no other Gods – Exodus 20:3) And, we are warned clearly in the New Testament against this type of worship: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV) We should treat all people with respect, but we should not accept false gods and false teachers as equally valid belief systems. It is our duty as Christians to point out error, to preach and teach all of God’s Word, so that Word can work through the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Trinity) on the hearts of unbelievers and bring them to faith.
But, what about joint prayer services with other Christians? Let’s look at what God’s Word, the Bible, tells us. Why? Because Jesus Himself tells us the Bible is “truth.” (John 17:17) And Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, also tells us “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” (John 8:31 ESV) Abiding in the Word means that we follow that Word, even when it is difficult or unpopular. We should only pray together with those who also believe God’s Word—all of it. It is wrong to pray with others who deny such things as the inspiration of Scripture or the power of baptism, or the real presence in the Lord’s Supper. It may seem harsh to others, but Scripture is clear: I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Romans 16:17 ESV) “Avoid them,” not “pray with them.”
Standing firmly on the teachings of Scripture is not always popular, and many will allow their emotions or human reason to cloud the Word of God in this matter. But we cannot give up the truth or we risk losing the Gospel. The Word of God assures us He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV) and, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17 ESV)
Please do pray for our nation and its leaders. But do not compromise your faith, or cloud the beautiful message of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ with a false unity.
-Rev. Paul Fries