Ravi Zacharias responds to NDP criticism

In his first public statement on the controversy surrounding his prayer as Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer, Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias strongly responded to criticism that his prayer intentionally excluded the name of Jesus while a guest on The Paul Edwards Program in Detroit.

The transcript is below. The audio is here.

EDWARDS: You conclude your book, Dr. Zacharias, The End of Reason, by saying that “in the end the choice we face is really not between religion and secular atheism” but rather “between Islam and Jesus Christ,” a very bold statement for Jesus Christ. I know that you are a man committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and committed to the person of Jesus Christ, you have defended Jesus Christ ably as a Christian apologist around the world. I don’t know if you are even aware of the controversy that’s surrounding the National Day of Prayer and the way that prayer was concluded. Could you bring some clarity to us around that issue?

DR. ZACHARIAS: I don’t read and track all those things because…you know there’s a story, Paul, that when Christians are attacked, how they react. One of my friends years ago told me, he said, “Ravi, remember how donkeys fight and how horses fight.” He says, “When donkeys are attacked they turn their backs to each other and face the oncoming onslaught and end up actually kicking each other to death. When horses fight they form a circle, face each other and kick against the attacks.”

Whatever attacks have been coming, they’re fighting, really it’s a donkey-type battle; and it is so tendencious, so distorted, so false that it’s really not worthy of my response. I have not read them directly but people, my friends, have sent it quoting to me. Some of my Indian convert friends are horrified at this kind of behavior by so-called “Christians,” and they even wonder, you know, if some of them would have ever come to Christ if this is the version of Christianity they’d seen. This is the version of Christianity, by the way, Mahatma Gandhi saw, this kind of hostility even within the ranks. If they had an issue I think they could have dealt with it in a gracious way.

Here’s the story, Paul: When the National Day of Prayer was formed, Yvonette Bright struggled with bringing this in, and after President Reagan got it through – barely got it through in time, Evangelical leaders got together and realized that the ONE prayer that had limitations, just the one prayer of the Honorary Chairperson, would be limited because it goes into the Congressional Record; that no distinctive name could be used that would make it appear that Congress is supporting one religion over against the other, face a law suit and it would be finished.

My messages are not controlled. All of the venues that people pray, all of the other prayers there are not controlled. The Honorary Chairperson is restricted in this one protection, this distinctive, so that it doesn’t get banned. And people like this who cry out don’t realize the privilege we have of being there. And if they keep on crying out we’ll be evicted and ultimately it will be a hostile voice and a foreign voice of a different god that will take over in a totalitarian way.

I began my prayer with “Holy Father.” No other worldview will begin that way. And actually the way I prayed it at the White House itself (it was the only venue I prayed it at) was “In your precious and Holy Name.” And “God’s Holy Name” is revered. And “Holy Father” has only one Name. It is not the Islamic god. It is not the pantheistic god. It is no other reference. It is, I think, people who really want to argue on the minutia and forget the bigger picture. They want to win a battle and lose a war.

I risk my life every day, Paul. When I’m overseas (I could play some of my voicemails to you), threatened because of my defense of Christ all over the globe. To be hit by a group like this is so pathetic that I have received letters from friends all over the world, especially those from other faiths, who are shocked at what they hear. And the comments I will not even repeat sometimes on the air because of what it is they have been astounded it at.

I’m sorry that this has happened. They will not hear from me. You are the first one to ask me publicly on this and I appreciate it. But I don’t go to their blogs. I don’t go onto the Internet at all. If they want to make a living off something like this it’s their perogative. My staff is just shocked at it. We will march on. Christ is the only way to salvation and we only come to God through His Son, and that’s why we call Him, “Holy Father.”

EDWARDS: One blog actually reported, Dr. Zacharias, that you did not pray in the National Day of Prayer official event, but you’ve just said that you did.

DR. ZACHARIAS: I prayed at the White House. I prayed at the White House, which is the only place where it officially then actually goes into the record. I went from there over to the Pentagon, Paul, to be rushed through there. We got in late. It was raining. I literally had one minute to sit down.

When I finished at the Pentagon we were whisked back, Beth Moore, her husband, my wife and myself; got in to the Cannon House (Office Building). I was to come on in half an hour, so even the program was not given to me. And I just leaned over and noted quickly… said, “Will you be able to deliver your keynote right now?” So I quickly picked up my Bible and notes and delivered the keynote. I didn’t even know I was supposed to pray. Had I known I was suppose to pray I would have been happy to do that. No problem with it, because all of the other prayers were going to be given the liberty, mine was going to be “In God’s Holy Name” or “Your Holy Name” after I addressed Him as “Holy Father.”

It was thirty minutes later after I sat down when I was looking at the program and finally asked why and where all this was adjusted and found out Congress people could not show up, that I found that it said, “Message” or “Keynote and Prayer.” I had no idea. I was just given…my idea was to pray at the White House, to speak at the other two (the Pentagon and Congress). Had somebody even whispered and said, “Could you please close in prayer with your prayer?” I would have been happy to do it.

How these contingencies are taken and distorted into the image that is given, it just tells you what a deadly force the media can be when they take issues and distort them.

I’m not ashamed of that prayer. I hope and pray that they ask me again someday, and I will comply wih their strictures again, for the privilege of preaching the Gospel. Next Thursday Focus on the Family will be broadcasting that message. Anybody who has a problem with that message, and thinks the trade-off is not worth it, then I will just take issue with them and wish them well on a different path. It is not mine.

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13 Replies to “Ravi Zacharias responds to NDP criticism”

  1. As I have stated before; The man is brilliant. I submitted texts to support the use of Jesus name in closing a prayer. But that is my responsibility to God for my own actions. No intentions here to judge, him nor his reasons.

  2. I think Ravi has rightfully earned our trust, and I see no reason not to trust him on this small issue as well. A man like him, that goes throughout the world, in some of the most obscure places, in some of the most dangerous places to be a Christian, and he is ready to give his life at any moment for Christ, should be an example for us. It’s sad to see again that we’re so eager to find flaws in people.

  3. I think finding flaws is a huge part of some people’s walk with Christ.

    In the past month I heard Christians bully Jimmy Carter and Pat Robinson. The attacks were not informed or constructive simply re-hashed Limbaugh-like rants. How does Pat Robinson’s concern over the global climate justify attacks by Christians?

    On a more happy note – as we celebrate Pentecost, the church’s birthday – I wish you all a very happy and joyous birthday.

    Pentecost is a good time to reflect that we are One!

    One in the Love that we share
    One in the Cross that we bear
    One bringing Hope in despair.

    Now go blow out those candles All 2000 of them!

  4. My problem with the NDP was that my Pastor , Steve Mays from Calvary Chapel South bay was also invited to pray and also prayed without invoking the name of Jesus , BUT around five or six years ago , when a local city council would not allow us to pray in Jesus name at thier townhall meetings , Pastor Steve said ,” we will not go if they dont let us pray in the name of Jesus ” I remember the applause and joy we all had , for we believed that we stood for Christ and that no one could take that away from us. what is breaking me up inside is what happened between then with a small city council meeting , and the white house . WHAT CHANGED PASTOR STEVE .

  5. Jesus said: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
    It is very wise for us as Christians to pick our fights. If he prays “Our Father which art in heaven…”, would that cause the same uprise? Is the prayer that Jesus taught us not biblical? Ravi used “Holy Father”. That is a sign of being shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

  6. “My problem with the NDP was that my Pastor…was also invited to pray and also prayed without invoking the name of Jesus”

    When I read these words, some troubling thoughts come to mind concerning the words ‘invoking the name of Jesus.’ While I understand, public invocations and the usual purpose, I think just maybe, instead of attacking the person we need to consider just how and when we use the name of Jesus. While we all cringe when we hear our preacious Lords name paired with expletives, many times we seem to overlook the use of His name as a “talisman”. We all know that His name is POWERFUL and at His name every knee shall bow. Using His Name without expecting something to happen IS using His name in vain. Possibly the outrage that has been expressed at the pastors who prayed at NDP events has a deeper root and meaning to our spirits than simple omission. Maybe we each need to examine how we ourselves use the name of Jesus.

  7. Valid point Nancy.
    Much of the abuse by the TV charlatans prove this very point.
    Just because one invokes His name doesn’t necessarily make it appropriate.
    Here is one example of how to use His name.

    My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
    For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
    My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

    I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
    And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
    I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

    I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
    And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
    And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

    In mansions of glory and endless delight,
    I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
    I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
    If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

  8. [“Holy Father” has only one Name. It is not the Islamic god. It is not the pantheistic god. It is no other reference…] RZ

    Sure it has other reference: the Pope. Over a billion Roman Catholics refer to him as “holy father”…as do an increasing number of ecumenical “protestants”. Thanks to our President George Bush, who repeatedly called the Pope ‘holy father’, the whole world (with the exception of Ravi Zacharias?) knows this. The NDP webpage prayer is a serious blunder.

  9. I wonder what the consequences would have been if the disciples compromised the Name of Jesus Christ only once in their lives when they were commanded not to do so.

    Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Act 5:28-29.)

    Note carefully, they did not proclaim the Gospel in the Name of the Holy Father. They proclaimed the Gospel in the Name of Jesus Christ. Ravi Zachiarias excuses Himself with these words.

    I began my prayer with “Holy Father.” No other worldview will begin that way. And actually the way I prayed it at the White House itself (it was the only venue I prayed it at) was “In your precious and Holy Name.” And “God’s Holy Name” is revered. And “Holy Father” has only one Name. It is not the Islamic god. It is not the pantheistic god. It is no other reference. It is, I think, people who really want to argue on the minutia and forget the bigger picture. They want to win a battle and lose a war.

    The fact remains that Congress was satisfied when the Name of Jesus Christ was not mentioned in Ravi’s prayer. This proves without a shadow of a doubt that “Holy Father” did not in the very least compromise their position on religious pluralism and allowed them to sail safely through the rough seas of potential threats such as law suits. Ravi Zacharias may try to duck and dive as much as he wants, the fact remains that his “Holy Father” prayer did not offend Congress or any other religious group, especially the Jews. Has he forgotten what Peter wrote:

    Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 1 Pe 2:7-8)

    Ravi is trying to remove the offense in certain circumstances which is akin to being ashamed of Jesus Christ (Mark 8:38). Being ashamed of Jesus even ONCE begs shame and repentance.

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