Around the World: “Prayer Is No Longer An Act of Worship In The LCMS”

The notoriety given to the prayer offered by LCMS Atlantic District President, David Benke, at Yankee Stadium has led LCMS officials to admit that the LCMS no longer regards prayer as an act of worship. Benke was suspended from the LCMS by acting LCMS President Wallace Schulz for praying with pagan clergy in a “prayer service” at Yankee Stadium called “A Prayer for America.”  Also, those who participated in “A Community Gathering of Remembrance, Repentance, and Renewal” at Valpo Chapel, on Sept. 11, 2002 with vested Lutheran, Jewish, and Moslem clergy, claim they did not worship, even though they prayed.  Those defending Benke, including LCMS President Kieschnick, argue that it was not a worship service because praying prayers with Jewish, Moslem, Sikh, Buddhist, and Hindu clergy is not worship.  Question 201 of the LCMS 1943 Catechism asks:  “What is prayer? Prayer is an act of worship.” …The new LCMS Catechism published in 1991 no longer identifies prayer as worship.  Question 194, in the new LCMS Catechism asks:  “What is prayer?  Prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts.”  The LCMS may be the only church body in the world (Lutheran or non-Lutheran) that claims that prayer is not an act of worship.  Since the beginning of the LCMS, members have been taught that prayers by children before bed, at meals, in private, as well as in public, no matter where the prayer was offered, civic or church events, were acts of worship. …But now, prayer in the LCMS is no longer considered an act of worship unless it takes place in a church-related event led by ordained clergy.  In Valpo Chapel, Imam Akram Kholoki prayed: “Allah is great. I bear witness that there is no god apart from Allah.  I bear witness that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger.  Come to prayer.  Come to Salvation.  Allah is great.  There is no god apart from Allah.”  The President of Valparaiso [University] claims the vested LCMS pastors did not worship with the Moslem and Jewish clergy because prayer is not an act of worship (unless, of course, the pastor says it is worship)….

(From an editorial appearing on the Web page of Concord—An Association of Confessional Lutherans in Texas, September 28, 2002)

“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”(Galatians 5:9).  This is precisely what has been happening to that once orthodox Missouri Synod.  The above excerpt was taken from an Internet site containing literally scores of examples showing how that little leaven of false teaching which appeared decades ago has been leavening the whole body of teaching within the Missouri Synod.  The change in the 1943 Catechism eliminating the words, “Prayer is an act of worship,” opens the door to —and excuses— the unionistic services in which so many Missouri Synod pastors have been, and are,  participating.  We note as only one example the much publicized incident involving LCMS Atlantic District President, Rev. David Benke,  who partook in a unionistic prayer service in Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2001 with Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, etc.  Dr. Wallace Schulz, the second vice-president of the LCMS, very courageously and properly suspended Benke because of his public offense for which he refused to repent.  But instead of the pastors and laymen (and officers) of the Missouri Synod rallying about Dr.Schulz with one united voice,  we find that he was dismissed from his position as the Lutheran Hour speaker which he had held for 25 years.  Moreover, Behnke has all along had the full support of  Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, president of the LCMS.  When we examine the position of the Missouri Synod concerning prayer in its former years, we find that what was stated in the 1943 Catechism, namely, that “Prayer is an act of worship,” had already appeared in the 1912 edition of the Catechism “It is an act of worship” (page 108 of the English-German Edition).  And in Eckhardt’s Homiletisches Reallexikon, which set forth the teachings of the Missouri Synod in 1909, we read that “prayer is an act of worship in which we praise God and give Him the honor” (Vol. II,  page 954).  And the Missouri Synod had always held that, before there can be any prayer fellowship (that is, joint worship), there must be unity in doctrine.  That principle,  already enunciated in the Old Testament, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed” (Amos 3:3), is repeated by St. Paul in the New Testament: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10).  The Apostle also writes, “that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans15: 6).  Joint prayer with false teachers is clearly forbidden by God.  “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans16:17).  And, with regard to syncretistic prayer (prayer with those who are not even professing Christians but are pagan heathen), Paul warns: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?  And what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial?  Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing!” (II Corinthians 6:14-17).  This is what the old Missouri Synod used to teach but now has unfortunately surrendered to the liberals within its midst, as it now officially tolerates both false doctrine and false practice.