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After receiving divergent comments on my question Why do Jehovah's Witnesses not pray with people of other faith?, I feel I need to ask the follow-up question that really should have been the first one:

Do Jehovah's Witnesses object to joining in prayer with other Christians?

Reading “Prayer—To Whom?” in The Watchtower, October 2010, gives me the impression that prayer is generally condemned if not directed explicitly to Jehovah. Does this, in extension, mean that prayer without a proper understanding of who God is is considered not praying to Jehovah?

And in “Prayer—Does It Matter Where and When?”, The Watchtwer, October 2010, it says

When servants of God assemble and pray together, their petitions can be effective. If the group is united in spirit and the prayer offered in their behalf reflects Scriptural principles, God is pleased.

Is “Scriptural principles” here supposed to mean a proper understanding of God’s nature?

Is there a general guideline how to behave in the following situations:

  1. What should a Witness do when meeting Mormon missionaries who ask to have a prayer together?
  2. Would prayer be an option (or recommended) when meeting a Mormon in his home to teach him?
  3. Would prayer be an option (or recommended) when meeting a Catholic (or other Trinitarian Christian) in his home?
  4. When meeting with a Jew, can/will they pray together?
  5. When meeting with a Muslim, can/will they pray together?

Summary

In essence, is there an official objection to praying with people who have a different understanding of who God is?

  • Just a note that I've expanded my answer since you accepted it. – TRiG Dec 17 '14 at 21:37
  • @TRiG Ok thanks, this adds to the answer :-) – kutschkem Dec 18 '14 at 7:19
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Your questions 1 to 5 are all about praying with people of other faiths. Jehovah’s Witnesses would not distinguish between Mormons, Catholics, Jews, or Muslims here: all are equally “other faiths”. As such, these all collapse to one question*: Do Jehovah’s Witnesses pray with non-Witnesses? The answer is No, they don’t.

Praying with members of other religions is practising a form of interfaith, which the Witnesses strongly condemn:

A clearer deliniation of what does and what does not count as interfaith activity from a Witness perspective is in the article “Would it be a form of interfaith to purchase a building from another religious group and convert it into a Kingdom Hall?” in The Watchtower, October 15th, 2002. While the article is specifically about the situation described in the title, the content does actually clarify their definition of interfaith activity better than anything else I can find from them. (There is no article on Interfaith in the Insight book, for example.)

Certainly, prayer with another religious group would count as interfaith activity, and would therefore be condemned. See also, Why do Jehovah's Witnesses not pray with people of other faith?


* There is one possible exception:

Would prayer be an option (or recommended) when meeting a Mormon in his home to teach him?

It’s the last few words which give this one a slightly different flavour. Witnesses spread their message to strangers, both on the streets and by working from door-to-door (and in sundry other ways from time to time, but those are the main two). This is initial contact. However, once someone has expressed interest, Witnesses will probably call back. If someone wants to learn, they will establish a “Bible study”. This is a semi-formal arrangement, in which the Witness will regularly (weekly, perhaps, or whatever suits everyone’s schedules) call back to the person and work through some material explaining Witness doctrine.

In the eyes of the Witnesses, at least, this is a one-on-one educational programme. (Well, usually. Sometimes a couple or even a whole family will study together. Often, the Witness will bring another Witness along, but that might be a different person each time, while there’ll be one regular conductor of the study.)

The “interested person” may or may not see themselves in the role of a student. They might see themselves as an opponent in a debate, or merely someone interested in discussing alternative worldviews. Whatever.

Once such a study has progressed a certain amount, the Witness is likely to open it by praying aloud. So once a regular educational arrangement is set up, yes, a Witness would pray in this situation. At this point, though, they’re seeing the person as a prospective convert, not a firm Mormon, so they wouldn’t see it as praying with a Mormon. Furthermore, it’s unlikely they’d be comfortable with the other person leading such prayers, though doubtless they’d encourage them to pray privately (and with their minor children).


That was a long footnote, but I have one further elaboration. There’s a difference, a big difference, between praying with someone and praying for someone. If someone asks a Witness to pray for them, they probably will, maybe even aloud and right there and then. I have heard of Witnesses doing their general door-to-door work, and having the door opened by a distressed person who saw someone religious and asked immediately for a prayer. In that situation, the Witness will probably pray. And if the other person joins in (who knows how a stranger will react? and people praying aloud together, talking over each other, is the norm in some religions, so the person might do that), then that means that, technically, the Witness is praying with someone of another faith.

I don’t know exactly what the theological reasoning is which says that this is acceptable. I do know that I’ve seen anecdotes including such spontaneous prayer on demand described approvingly in Witness publications. If someone asks a Witness to pray, in a private situation, they’ll pray.


Summary

  • Organised interfaith event: No.
  • Bible study with someone who’s not a Witness but may be heading that way: Yes, with caveats (the Witness would offer the prayer, generally speaking).
  • When asked by someone who seems distressed: Sort of (this is praying for, not praying with, but if the other person joined in and converted it into praying with, then the Witness is unlikely to complain (especially if the person is distressed)).
  • This is a well-written answer. I only have my personal experience to add. For months Witnesses came to my home and prayed with me each time. I will add that they had no reason whatsoever to believe I was a potential convert, not even remotely so. Now I wonder just how comfortable they felt in doing so. – Matt Cremeens Aug 28 '15 at 20:17
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The crux of the issue depends on who wants to offer the prayer.

Generally speaking, there is never an issue if the Jehovah’s Witness is being asked to offer a prayer, regardless of the beliefs of the one asking. The issue arises typically when a member of another faith wants to say a prayer for the group (of which the JW is a part of), or they wish to ‘lead the group in prayer’ or something similar. That’s where the issue arises.

We (JW’s) view that as a serious issue because whether not other person views it this way themselves, we essentially believe in different Gods - and would therefor be praying to different Gods. In my experience the vast majority of the time the person wanting to offer prayer has a very different opinion on the identity of God.

JW’s for example don’t believe in a triune god. A significant majority of Christendom, however, does. Thus, pretty much anyone claiming “Christianity”, other than JW’s are going to be praying to the Triune God.

Now, if that’s what they believe, fine, let them believe what they want. But we respectfully decline to allow them to pray for us to what we believe to be a false representation of the person of God.

Another element of the situation that should be considered is the setting.

For example I have been discussing the Bible with people in their homes, and it’s the first time I’ve met them, and at the end of the discussion they wish to pray. If we are guests in their home and they wish to prey, even out loud, we are guests and have no right to tell them not to pray in their own home. So we should not try to prevent them. I find that even trying to go into a long explanation isn’t even very productive.

I just say “that would be fine” if they ask to pray. We would not hold hands with them during the prayer, nor would we say “Amen” audibly or inaudibly in our own minds. We simply would either say our own personal silent prayer at the same time. Or just pause and let them pray.

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  • 2
    Your answer would be improved if it included some references to official sources of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Welcome to the site! – Kris Jul 18 at 12:17
  • Hi, I broke up the "block of text" and made a few edits the clean up the prose. Please edit again if some of those changed your intended meaning. While you are here, please take the tour and visit the help center to see how to get the most out of an SE Q&A site. – KorvinStarmast Jul 18 at 20:44

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