Question: The April 1999 issue of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family magazine carried a full-page promotion of the National Day of Prayer, directed by Shirley Dobson. The suggestions for participation included: “Light a scented candle in your home to remind you to pray. Put a lit candle in your window to encourage and remind neighbors of your commitment to prayer. Make a candle-lighting ceremony part of your prayer observance.” Is lighting of candles in conjunction with prayer biblical? Will evangelicals now burn candles in their churches? If lighting candles has value, why should it be confined to the National Day of Prayer? I’m confused.
Response: We have already dealt with the unbiblical nature of the National Day of Prayer. It would be understandable for unsaved leaders to promote a day when everyone would pray to “the god of his choice.” But for such an invitation to go out under evangelical leadership and that those who know the only true and living God would join in prayer with those calling upon false gods is incomprehensible. As for suggesting “a candle-lighting ceremony” as part of a “prayer service” for Christian families, perhaps it reflects the growing embrace of Catholicism.
We do not wish to be critical, but neither can we ignore the spread of unbiblical practices in the church. Putting “a lit candle in your window to...remind neighbors of your commitment to prayer” may seem innocent enough. However, it suggests worldly promotion and solidarity with neighbors who likewise burn candles to show they are praying to their gods. To thus advertise that one is praying seems also to violate Christ’s clear injunction: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father...in secret...” (Mt 6:6).
The lighting of candles in conjunction with religious observances is a pagan and occult practice. To make it part of a “prayer service” would turn prayer into ritual and give the impression that candles play some role in obtaining answers from God. If not, what is the point? I am shocked and saddened to see Catholicism/paganism embraced by evangelicals!