PRAYER is a 6 part series taken from Dr Nichterlein’s Essay presented at the South Australian District Convention, ELCA, held at Adelaide, South Australia, March 3-9, 1949, that has been adapted for the web by the ELCR webmaster Helen Kilpatrick. All original content has been preserved with images, extra divisions, headings and formatting being added for ease of reading. The full original un-adapted article is available for download on the archives page.
This article follows on from the previous article – Part 2 Why Should We Pray?
Prayer is an act of worship. Whom are men to worship? Him who says, “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me.” As Christians we heed the words of Jesus, “Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” That means that we should pray to no other deity than to Him who has revealed Himself in His Word, who has spoken to men through Jesus Christ, the world’s Redeemer, who has declared Himself to be God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This is the God whom we worship in the Christian Church. Only those who honour the Son and receive Him as their Redeemer worship God. For “all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”
Not to idols.
The heathen pray to other gods. Those who are not of the household of God, not members of that great family in heaven and earth of which He is the Father, not believers in the blood which cleanses us from all sin, are not able to pray to God. Their so-called prayers are an abomination to Him. He has no pleasure in them. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Even when praying, Paul declares that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God (1 Cor 10: 20). And that refers also to the sacrifices of the lips. When the priests of Baal called upon their god, there was no god to hear. It is as the 115th Psalm says of the gods of the heathen. “They are the work of men’s hands.” More often they are productions of his brains, conceptions of his warped mind. “They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not. They that make them are like unto them: so is everyone that trusteth in them.”
When, therefore, men pray to a deity who is not the Triune God of the Bible, whether this be done by the pagan people of China or Japan, or whether it be done in the midst of Christendom by such as deny the Trinity, deny that Jesus is the true God begotten of the Father from eternity, as is done by Unitarians and Modernists, or in modern lodge worship, such prayer is not only useless, it provokes God to anger.
In masonic lodges they utter this prayer:
“Supreme Architect of universal nature who by Thy almighty word didst speak into being, the stupendous arch of heaven and for the instruction and pleasure of Thy rational creatures didst adorn us with greater and lesser lights thereby magnifying Thy power and endearing Thy goodness into the hearts of men, we humbly adore and worship Thy unspeakable perfection. Teach us, we pray Thee, the true love of Thy great, mighty, and terrible name. Inspire us with a firm and unshaken resolution in our virtuous pursuits. Give us grace diligently to search Thy word in the book of nature wherein the duties of our high vocation are inculcated with divine authority. May the solemnity of the ceremonies of our institution be duly impressed on our minds and have a happy and lasting effect on our lives.”
The prayer is not addressed to the God of the Scriptures, but to some imaginary “Architect of the Universe.” It asks not for enlightenment through the written Word but through the book of nature. But the book of nature, though it declares to us the majesty and almighty power of God, tells us nothing of Christ crucified and, therefore, cannot make us wise unto salvation. Any religious or semi-religious society that ignores the cross of Calvary is outside of the pale of Christianity, and its worship, so also its prayers, are pagan.
Not to saints.
It is also nothing short of gross idolatry when the Roman papacy addresses its prayers to saints and angels and to the Virgin Mary. Here are a few samples of such prayers as we find them in the Roman Catechism. After Mass the priest and the people are to pray together in a loud voice: “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope, to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O holy mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promise of Christ.” In a further prayer connected with the same ceremony the people are taught to say: “Blessed Michael, Archangel, defend us in the hour of conflict, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil,” etc.
Concerning such prayers we ask in the first place whether angels and saints are present to hear our prayers. Omnipresence, as also omniscience, belongs to God alone. Are those that have reached the home above conscious of what is going on on earth? It is the Lord only who looks down from heaven and beholds the children of men. To Him Isaiah says, “Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer” (Isa 63: 16). We do not doubt that both Abraham and Mary are with God in heaven. It is useless, therefore, to address prayers to them. And even if they could hear, what help could they render? But above all, when we are warned not to worship the creature instead of the Creator, but to worship Jehovah and to serve Him only, that settles the matter for us that prayers to saints and angels are nothing short of gross idolatry and an abomination to God.
Romanists may tell us that they do not worship Mary, but only adore her. However, what is the difference? The word “adore,” from the Latin “ad,” to, and “oro,” I pray, means to pray to, to worship. Although the word may often be used in a figurative sense, as when we say that a mother adores her child, in Rome’s worship it is used in its literal sense.
Who should we direct our prayers to then?
Our prayers may be directed to the Triune God as such or to any individual person of the Trinity. Jesus prayed to the Father, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” If Jesus is worthy to receive worship from the angels in heaven, then surely men should not hesitate to worship Him. The modernist, who denies the diety of Jesus, deprecates the idea of offering up prayers to Him, and yet does not refrain from joining in when others are singing, “Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly.” Although it would be difficult to quote from the Scriptures a prayer addressed specifically to the Third Person of the Godhead, yet the Church has from the earliest times not found it inconsistent to pray in these or similar words, “Come, Holy Ghost and Lord, be now Thy graces all outpoured.”