Would You Pray at Ground Zero?

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An interfaith prayer vigil will be held at the National Cathedral for the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It seems that no Evangelicals were invited to participate along side the “dean of the Cathedral, the Bishop of Washington, a rabbi, Buddhist nun and incarnate lama, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician.”1

Should Evangelicals have been invited? Carl Trueman addressing Southern Baptists seems to think that not being invited is a good thing since no invitation means no compromise.2 Mike Horton weighs in with a thoughtful response asking if Christians “can participate (much less encourage) such acts of “non-sectarian” worship.”3

I understand Trueman’s concerns and believe Horton spells the issues out nicely. I am almost persuaded that I would absolutely not pray at Ground Zero if asked. Almost.

My indecision lies at the feet of the interfaith aspect of the event. Interfaith cooperation does not really exist. Interfaith dialogue? Yes. Two different faiths praying together act like parallel lines running side-by-side, each proclaiming their own “truth” will never actually meeting. Such an event looks like nice on the outside and may feel emotionally satisfying, but is spiritually vacuous.

The question then becomes not would I pray, but how would I deal with the prayers of the others? What would I do during the time which the Muslim, Hindu, or Rabbi were praying? Would I bow my head out of respect? Respect for whom, the person speaking? What about respect for the Triune God? The dilemma would be how to participate without being seen as giving a nod of approval to other religions thereby inferring a denial, or at the very least a compromise, of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, I could pray to God the Father in Christ’s name while proclaiming the gospel though I’m not sure yet if I would. If I could here is an example of how I would pray.

Heavenly Father, 10 years have passed since the great tragedy of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Many have mourned and still mourn the loss of loves ones. Oh sovereign God, You are our great Comforter. You have not left us to mourn and walk blindly through this life. Father, You sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to comfort us with the good news that we are to receive by faith alone. Thank You for the good news that Jesus died on the cross in the place of sinners; that three days later He rose from the dead defeating death and securing hope in this life and in the afterlife for all who turn from their sin and believe in Him by faith alone. When Jesus ascended back to Heaven the Holy Spirit was sent as another Comforter to those who believe the good news and to convict those who don’t believe of their sin. Father, I ask that the good news of Jesus Christ go out today by the Holy Spirit to empower those who do not believe in Jesus that they will find comfort and hope in Him through their mourning. Thank you for the great hope of the good news of Your Son, Jesus.
I pray all of this in the most precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

What about you? Would you pray at this event?

For what it’s worth…
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris Roberts September 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

I don’t think I would participate. Some would say that any opportunity to demonstrate or publicly state faith in Christ is an opportunity worth seizing, but I don’t think so. In this case, any participation in this religious event gives tacit approval to the other participants and contains a measure of participation in their own acts of devotion – a problem you note when asking what a Christian should do when these other religious leaders engage in prayer.

Christianity should not be put on a stage with other religions, allowing an audience to choose the religion with which they best identify. We are to present truth, without any mixture of error.

2 Christiane September 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm

As far as I have been able to understand it, for some time since the ‘CR’, religious tolerance has NOT been an acceptable value of Southern Baptists. If I am mistaken, please correct me.

In order to attend such a service honorably, there would have to be the absence of the desire to marginalize other faiths. That is not something that I believe Southern Baptists (at least since the CR) are able to sign on to.

The Cathedral is Episcopal (Anglican) and is open to people of all faiths for prayer.

Southern Baptists are not known for tolerating or respecting that attitude, so for the sake of people invited to speak, perhaps the Episcopalians chose to BELIEVE the sincerity of Southern Baptists in their stance towards others faiths,
and to not embarrass them by inviting one of their leaders to speak.

I don’t know that. Was there any remark made by the organizers that might give insight into their decision not to invite a Southern Baptist to speak?

If not, we can only have conjecture about the reasons for the lack of invitation.

3 Christiane September 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm

would I attend?

I would.
My faith sends me out into ‘the world’ to love and to serve the Lord.
I am ‘sent forth’.
If ‘The world’ includes those people and places beyond my personal comfort zones, I must assume that Our Lord Himself set that example for all Christian people to follow.
Yes, I would pray at the Cathedral with all humility and if people were there who had come ‘from afar’,
we must remember that the ‘wise men’ were led to Our Lord from ‘afar’.
They were not received with contempt or rejection.

4 Mark September 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Christiane,

First, if Southern Baptists, and other Evangelicals, were not invited it seems the charge of intoleration and and disrespect fall on the organizers of this event rather that those not invited. The report is that no Evangelicals were invited not that only Southern Baptists were not invited. The organizers are, in effect, marginalizing Evangelicals by not asking them to participate which is a blow to the history of this country.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say the Biblical Christians are not known for tolerating or respecting interfaith prayer and worship-type services.

I don’t know why Evangelicals were not invited.

5 Chris Roberts September 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm

But one thing you never find Jesus or the apostles doing is worshiping with pagans. The call to go into the world is to win people away from idolatry to the one true way of life found in Jesus Christ. The call is not to stand in ecumenical oneness with people who continue to walk as enemies of God.

6 Christiane September 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm

This is a difficult post to read
. . . my own faith once opened a cathedral in Poland to one of the best know evangelists in the world to come and preach, so I can’t understand ‘exclusion’ in this case, myself.
Here’s the story of that evangelist and that Polish cathedral:

“. . . in 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla invited Dr. Billy Graham to preach in Krakow cathedral. They didn’t actually meet on that occasion, however. Pope John Paul I had died suddenly, and the Cardinal had to leave for Rome and the consistory which would eventually elect him to the See of Peter.
Graham preached also at the great Marian shrine of Czestochowa, and is on record as being deeply impressed by the faith of Catholic Poland.
Three years later, Billy did indeed meet the Pope, this time in Rome. He found him extremely cordial and very interested in his ministry. ‘After only a few minutes,’ he wrote, ‘I felt as if we had known each other for many years.’ The two men of God exchanged gifts. Graham gave the Pope a woodcarving of a shepherd with his sheep, crafted by a North Carolina artist.
They recalled together the words of Jesus: ‘I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own and my sheep know me… There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too’ (Jn 10:14-16). ”

sometimes not inviting people means that everyone loses . . . because doors are shut to chances for understanding and trust, even to the possibility of friendship

7 Peter L September 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

In the first place, the titel and the article address two different events. There will be a secular memorial at Ground Zero in New York City, in which Mayor Blumberg said that no religious leaders would be invited to speak. I would attend that event if I lived close enough, and be in the audience praying silently.

The event you mention is in Washington, DC. If invited to pray, I would respectfully decline for the reasons others have mentioned.

8 interpretation bible September 10, 2011 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the information. Praying for the right reasons is a great thing always!

9 Mark September 10, 2011 at 11:50 am

Peter, you are correct. I did mix up the two events. My apologies and thanks.

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