Why I Can’t Participate in the World Day of Prayer

The World Day of Prayer falls on the 8th of March this year and I will not be in attendance. This paper is my attempt to explain the reasons why I cannot participate. As always, I welcome your feedback, and pray that these thoughts would be carefully and prayerfully considered.

Prayer is an essential activity for the Christian. Every believer should participate in prayer, both privately and corporately.[1] Failure to do so is to live in disobedience and drift from close communion with the Lord. Since prayer is vital to Christian living, and corporate prayer is exemplified in the Scripture, why am I not supportive of The World Day of Prayer? After all, isn’t it a good thing for people to get together to pray? As a pastor, should I not be excited at this movement whose aim is to “bring together people of various races, cultures and traditions in a yearly common Day of Prayer?”[2] Hopefully the thoughts that follow will provide a biblical basis for why I cannot participate in the World Day of Prayer.

Understanding Prayer in the Context of Worship

Over the years, I have defined prayer as “our heartfelt dependence upon God expressed.” In other words, prayer must always issue from a heart that is humble, sincere, and reliant upon the Lord. After all, this is the means by which a person is saved.[3]

The very nature of prayer implies a genuine connection with God. Prayer is not merely something we do; it is an essential part of worshipping God. In this way, prayer must submit to the biblical precepts and principles of worship. Perhaps the clearest text on this subject is John 4:24 which says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” In this context, Jesus is explaining to the Samaritan woman that God being spirit – invisible, immaterial, and incorporeal- is by His very nature worthy of worship, and this worship must be offered with the proper heart attitude (“in spirit”), and in accord with the teaching about His character (“in truth”).

Herein lies the first problem for me when it comes to participation in the World Day of Prayer. If my biblical conclusions on this subject are correct, then the World Day of Prayer is a time of worship demanding a sincerity of heart, and a comprehension of truth. The question that looms before me is not about the genuineness of those participating, but rather the doctrinal and theological positions that they subscribe to. The World Day of Prayer seeks to unify people around prayer (worship), but no consideration is given to whether there is a harmony of doctrine and theology.

Since the World Day of Prayer is managed by ecumenical representatives from the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions,[4] it is very clear that there is little or no concern for unanimity on the major theological tenets of the faith. In other words, the Catholic who prays (worships) next to me in this meeting advocates, amongst other errors, praying to Mary and dead saints, justification by works, transubstantiation, and papal authority. On the other side of me may sit one who hails from the Orthodox church. This individual actively denies the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Scriptures, believes in the possibility of salvation after death, and subscribes to theosis (the belief that Christians can be deified and participate in the divine nature).

As you consider The World Day of Prayer, I counsel you to prayerfully ponder the implications of participating in corporate worship with those who have serious theological differences and may not even worship the same God.

Ecumenism: A Movement Where Truth Doesn’t Matter

Ecumenism is simply the principle or aim of promoting unity among the world’s Christian Churches.[5] My concerns about ecumenism and its relationship to the World Day of Prayer have already been intimated in the previous section. However, let me unpack this thought process a little more.

Most advocates for ecumenism cite Jesus’ words in John 17:21 as the basis for bringing unity to the diversities within “Christianity.” The text reads, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” This portion is taken from what is commonly referred to as “Christ’s High Priestly Prayer.”

The Ecumenical Movement is global and seeks to achieve universal Christian unity and church union through interdenominational organisations that cooperate in matters of mutual concern.[6] The World Day of Prayer is one of the verticals in this movement, and one that has gained significant traction in the past five decades.

The great problem with ecumenism is that it completely ignores the New Testament teaching regarding the importance of unity in the truth. In fact, the very text which has become their mantra (John 17:21) has been unceremoniously ripped out of its context. Just four verses earlier, Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”[7] God never intended unity to exist in His church apart from biblical truth. This is precisely what the aged Apostle John was referring to when he wrote, “For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth”.[8]

God has made it clear that His church is the pillar and buttress (foundation) of the truth,[9] and because of this, we must be very careful to uphold all that God has revealed in His Word. Whilst ecclesiastical unity is a lovely notion, the reality is that true biblical unity is founded upon truth and expressed in love.[10]

According to a document produced by The World Day of Prayer entitled, Understanding World Day of Prayer – Some FAQ’s, the state committees are made up of representatives from the following: Anglican Church, Baptist Union, Christian Brethren, Churches of Christ, Congregational Church, Lutheran Church, Pentecostal Churches, Presbyterian Church, Roman Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventist, The Salvation Army, Uniting Church, Australian Church Women, Indigenous representatives, and others.

To attend and participate in the World Day of Prayer is to relinquish doctrinal purity and clarity for the sake of a perceived unity which displeases the Lord. Why would we sacrifice truth on the altar of ecumenical unity?  

The Parachurch that Becomes the Parasite

The World Day of Prayer is an international, inter-denominational, not-for-profit organisation which is headed by an executive committee made up of 17 women. Until 1986, the World Day of Prayer was called The Women’s World Day of Prayer and was primarily focussed on bringing together women of various races, cultures and traditions in closer fellowship, understanding and action throughout the year.[11] The name was changed to be more inclusive, but the service and Bible study is still written by women, and the organising committees is entirely female.

Laying aside my feministic concerns for now, the World Day of Prayer is not under the auspices or authority of a local church. Why does this matter? Throughout the New Testament it is clear that the local church is the nucleus from which all ministry originates and is governed.

Biblical local churches are led by men who meet the Scriptural criteria to be pastors and elders.[12] To these God-fearing and wise men, He has entrusted the oversight of preaching, teaching, prayer, and ministry. An organisation that exists outside of the local church operates in opposition to God’s plan for building His kingdom. Furthermore, “Christian organisations” require money and manpower to function, and they find these by exploiting the energy and resources of those who should be focused on serving in their own local churches.

The World Day of Prayer is no different. The prescribed order of service includes an appeal for funds which is then collected and sent to the state treasurer. Although these monies may be used in philanthropic ways and promote a social gospel, they are not under the direction of local church leadership who have been charged with careful decision-making, and the proclamation of the gospel.

How can we support an organisation that does not come under the authority and approval of a local church? How can we redirect our money, spiritual gifts, and manpower to a parachurch movement which sucks the life, energy, and resources from the local church, which is God’s prescribed means of building His kingdom?

Serious Biblical Errors

Last but certainly not least, the World Day of Prayer produces and promotes material which contains serious biblical errors. On page two of Understanding World Day of Prayer – Some FAQs, the first biblical imperative is taken from Matthew 18:20 which says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” The use of this verse to promote their ecumenical prayer day is nothing short of eisegesis (the interpretation of a text by reading into it one’s own ideas). When this Bible passage is considered in its context, it is apparent that prayer is not the over-arching truth per se, but rather, the reconciliation between offended parties.

Another glaring example is found in this year’s World Day of Prayer Bible study entitled, “Rise! Take your mat and walk”. This theme is taken from John 5:2-9. The Christian women from Zimbabwe who wrote the Bible study material provide the following interpretation: “Our prayerful action at the end of the service will be to rise and take up the actions of love, peace and reconciliation, walking forward having been healed of bitterness and conflict”. Aside from the fact that this Bible passage records a physical miracle performed by Jesus, there is not even a hint that the application should be related to the healing of bitterness and conflict.

The final concern that I raise relates to women who teach in this collective gathering of “God’s people”. If the intention is to assemble Christians from all races, traditions, and walks of life to pray and be taught by the Word, then it is critical that we follow the instructions given in the Scriptures about those who are qualified to teach. 1 Timothy 2:12 says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” This clear-cut command must not be rejected. Now, I can hear my hecklers say, “but this is not a church”, and that is true. However, since 1986, The World Day of Prayer has invited both men and women to be in attendance and participate in the Bible study. This means that men are sitting in these settings under the leadership and teaching of women – a clearly forbidden practice in the Bible.

Conclusion

It is important to me that the reader understands that I am not against prayer, nor am I indifferent to the needs of the people of Zimbabwe, I simply want to be governed by God’s Word in all that I do. To participate in this ecumenical, unbiblical, parasitic activity is to show total disregard to the Lord and His revealed will in the pages of Scripture.

I will not be attending The World Day of Prayer and neither should you.
 

References

[1] 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Phiippians 4:6; Matthew 6:6; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:42

[2] Mission statement: https://www.worlddayofprayeraustralia.org/

[3] Luke 18:13; Luke 23:42

[4] https://www.worlddayofprayeraustralia.org/world-day-of-prayer/an-international-movement/

[5] Google Dictionary

[6] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/ecumenical-movement

[7] John 17:17

[8] 3 John 1:3-4

[9] 1 Timothy 3:15

[10] Ephesians 4:15

[11] http://www.worlddayofprayeraustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/WDP%20Understanding%20World%20Day%20of%20Prayer%20FAQs.pdf

[12] 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9


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