Despite having left Jesus behind for quite some time now, due to my current circumstances, I interact with them regularly. There are good number of times when a group of them will come together and will want to pray holding hands in a circle whilst I’m around. I refuse their invitation to join them in holding hands in their circle. And recently one christian asked me why I don’t join in, why I don’t at least join hands with them, even before their prayer begins. That wasn’t the time for me to explain myself. But at least, whilst their question rings in my head for now, I can tell myself the answer.
[I do these things at times – tell myself the reasons – just to arrange my own thoughts.]
Now just to say, this is my own personal approach. Others may deal with this differently. But I believe the reasons I give are valid irrespective of what approach another person chooses to take.
One reason why I don’t choose to join hands with them in their prayer is because, many times, it is apparent to me that we don’t worship the same entity. Although at times we may mention the same words and maybe even refer to the same book (by that I only mean the Jewish Bible, the Tanach, not the alien addition christians have stuck to the end of the Jewish Bible which they dub “the new testament”). But we mean different things. It’s a bit like the word “messiah”. I may sometimes use that word, but I’m not referring to the same entity or person as christians are referring to. If I use the word “messiah,” I’m referring to the promised Davidic, literal and political, human king who will rule Israel who has never walked this earth yet. They normally refer to Jesus. We are not referring to the same thing. I would not join in giving kingly honour to a person who is not king, even if others do.
In much the same way, when I refer to “God,” a lot of times I’m not referring to the same entity that christians refer to. When many christians refer to “God”, they are referring to an entity has certain characteristics that my “God” doesn’t have. Christians generally ascribe to one or more of the following as characteristics or actions of their “God”.
- He had a biological son with a virgin.
- He is three in a unity.
- He changes to become corporeal, become a man.
- He died.
- He abolished some or all of his own Torah/Law.
Some of these differences are more crucial than others. But in order to be faithful to the principles I uphold, faithful to the God I worship, who is indivisibly one, has no literal son, doesn’t change, who is literally undying, who keeps his word, I distance myself from those who pray to the other god. Holding hands in a prayer circle with christians who are praying to a different god sends the wrong message, much like joining a prayer circle to Baal or to Chemosh.
Another reason why I stay away from christian prayer is because christians have a tendency to pray “in Jesus’ name.” Now a lot of times, I doubt even they understand what they mean by this phrase “in Jesus’ name” or “in the name of Jesus,” even though it’s a script that they attach to the end of their prayers or intersperse within their prayers. For me personally, “in Jesus’ name” has two possible meanings (amongst others). One meaning is that of authority, that believers in Jesus pray to God with the authority that they believe Jesus to have had. Another meaning involves placing Jesus as the mediator or intermediary between a man and God when he prays. (I won’t even go into how nonsensical this becomes when they sometimes believe that Jesus is God as well.) And in both of these meanings, it would be hypocritical for me to join hands, as if in agreement which such an act symbolises, in such a prayer group.
When I consider the meaning of “authority” when it comes to Jesus’ name, I reject the idea that Jesus had any special authority to speak to God any more than any human being. As the wonderful Psalm says, God is near to to all who call him, to all who call him in truth. No ancient Israelite, actually no ancient person at all, who called on God had to take on “in the name of so and so” to get their prayers heard. No Jew had to say “I pray to you in the name of Moses” or “with the authority of a priest I pray to you.” As with Noah or Abraham, a person goes one-on-one with God, nothing in between, when it comes to prayer. It wouldn’t matter if the real anointed Davidic king came; nobody would be obligated to pray to God “in the name of” this king.
As Jesus had no special authority, praying in that authority means absolutely nothing. It wouldn’t even matter if Jesus was messiah or not – and it’s plain to me that he’s not – praying in this authority means nothing. Everyone is responsible for their own deeds and for their own closeness with and communication to their Creator.
So since I reject this authority, showing agreement when they pray in that “authority” would be hypocritical.
When it comes to praying in Jesus’ name, as if this means that Jesus is the “go-between” between man and God, again, as I’ve said above, God is near to all who call on him, no mediator needed. In fact, it places a foreign element between a man and his God. God gave a universal principle when he gave this command to Israel: “you shall have no other god upon my face” or “you shall have no other god in front of me”. When an Israelite, when any human, goes to Almighty in prayer, there shouldn’t be some superhuman being in front of God, between a man and his Creator. There are no intermediaries involved. This becomes even worse when that intermediary is given worship and prayed to, acknowledged as a god or God, as this is idolatry for any human.
So for me to share hands with believers that place this man between themselves and God would one show my agreement to something that is, in principle, falsehood and that is potentially idolatry for any human. So once again, it would be hypocritical and self-defeating for me. So I stay away from it.
Although may be other reasons I shy away for taking part in such a prayer group, these are the two that are in my head right now.