From K. Heersema of Redlands, Calif. I received the following communication:
“I am coming to you with a question for the Standard Bearer that has to be answered sooner or later in our circles here. Therefore, I bring it to you as a thing that is preached in your churches. For me it is an issue as I see it now. So, kindly receive it, and if you think it worthwhile, please, place it as it is timely for Redlands.
“Many a time I heard this taught and practiced: pray not for the world; based on John 17:9.
“Chapter 17 of John is called the high priestly prayer. If this is correct, I ask the question: is every preacher praying in office a high priest?
“Hoping you receive it well, and with thanks and wishing you God’s blessing,
Your brother in Christ,
- In my answer I must needs distinguish between the matter of teaching and practicing the words of the Savior: “I pray not for the world,” and the conclusion brother Heersema draws from this matter: that one, particularly a minister who so teaches, acts as if he were a high priest. It is clear that in his question the brother draws that conclusion. And if I should answer the question in the negative, he might get the impression, and so might our readers, that I also thereby condemn the matter itself. But the conclusion is by no means warranted. Does one who practices and teaches the words of our Lord, even though they are found in a prayer of His, thereby declare that he places himself on a par with the Savior Himself? Of course not. Brother Heersema himself will see at once that this does not follow. That would, indeed, be a terrible ism!
- Hence, the first part of my answer, having reference to the conclusion of brother Heersema, is decidedly: No! We are all priests, and among the general priesthood of believers the officebearers in the Church occupy, no doubt, a special place; but we are no high priests, nor is any one in particular, whatever his position in the Church may be, a high priest. We have only one High Priest: our Lord Jesus Christ.
- But we do teach and practice the words of the Lord Jesus in obedience to Him, also when they occur in the sacerdotal prayer, and in as far as that sacerdotal prayer contains precepts for our own life of prayer, we practice it too. The Lord said: “I pray not for the world.” Would anyone have the sad and evil courage then to say: “Yes, but I do”! The “world” in these words is the wicked world, standing in rebellion against God, doing the will of the flesh, of the prince of the power of the air, pursuing and realizing the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. For that world the Lord does not pray. Nor do we. Nor, I am confident, does Mr. Heersema. Let him but try it. Perhaps, he would say: yes, but I pray that the world may be saved through Christ! Very well, but then he is not speaking of the same “world” as that mentioned in John 17:9; he is then praying for God’s world, or, as the Savior expresses it: “for those whom Thou gavest me out of the world.” Shall I give brother Heersema a nice illustration, a concrete example of praying for the world? Let him try this: “O Lord, I remember before Thee that dear Hollywood, and all those dear men and women that fill all our country with the lust of the flesh, that Thou would prosper and bless them in all their undertakings, and that our millions of American people may enjoy themselves through the fruit of Hollywood’s corruptions, and be blessed in their enjoyment, etc.” You say that this is blasphemy? I agree. It is common grace to the extreme. But so is praying for “the world.”