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I came across this comment on another site of the Stack Exchange network posted on a question discussing whether it is OK for someone who is not a Christian to be participate in a Christian prayer (saying grace):

I'm Jewish in the Christian-dominated US, and even though I'm not deep in the bible belt I run into "of course you are; isn't everybody?" presumption quite a bit. As a Jew I am forbidden to participate in prayers to anybody other than our God, and that poses difficulties sometimes. Your advice to just step back if standing or silently shake your head to the people on either side if sitting is what I do. (If I can avoid being at the table I do that.) That works for me, and I find that nobody takes note of my failure to say "amen" (or any part of the prayer), either.

My (admittedly limited) understanding of the relationship between Christianity, Judaism and Islam is that the three worship the same God. Each approaches their relationship to God differently, but the God is the same. Wouldn't it therefore be permitted for a Jew to participate in a Christian prayer as long as that were directed to God and not to Jesus Christ?

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    According to Christianity, J.C is G-d. So when they pray to "G-d" they're actually praying to him. – ezra Sep 25 '17 at 17:34
  • This seems to be more a question about comparative religion than about Jewish law. – Double AA Sep 25 '17 at 17:34
  • @DoubleAA I guess it would be if the answers would depend on discussing the relationship between the three. I had always thought that all three accept that they worship the same God. Is it not as clear-cut as all that in Judaism? If Judaism holds that the Christian God is distinct from the Jewish one, that would also be fine as an answer. I am only looking for the Jewish take on this, so I don't really think a comparison is needed. – terdon Sep 25 '17 at 17:39
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    Christianity recognizes a human being as a deity and thus is considered idol worship for a Jew. This is true even if the details would allow a gentile to worship this way. This is a technical aspect of something called shituf (partnership) and requires a long explanation that cannot be gone into here. Islam requires recognizing Mohammed as a prophet which is forbidden to Judaism. Thus, they are not the same G0d for Jews. – sabbahillel Sep 25 '17 at 18:23
  • @sabbahillel thank you, that's the sort of thing I was wondering about. But that seems to my ignorant self to be an explanation of why the faiths are distinct. Does it also imply that the God of each faith is different? I mean, yes, I know each of the three mentioned faiths approaches divinity in a different way, but if all three worship the same God, albeit differently, wouldn't that make it OK for a Jew to participate in the Christian ritual of grace which is, again to my limited understanding, offering thanks to God? – terdon Sep 25 '17 at 18:28
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Christianity and Islam say they worship the same god that we do, but that does not make it so.

Christianity is the bigger problem. They say that a human being was part of God, which is shituf (think of it as heresy). That means it is forbidden for a Jew to participate in their prayers. On top of that, the trinity concept adds confusion. I am aware that different Christian denominations give the trinity greater or lesser importance. Distinguishing all the nuances calls for more expertise in Christianity than most of us have.

Islam is less problematic, in that they don't say that God took human form, but they do sanctify the Christian gospels, counting Jesus as a prophet. Like Christianity, they say that the torah was deprecated or superseded, so they are at least wrong about God, who gave us an eternal torah, as far as we're concerned. Whether that is enough for halacha I do not know, but it is enough for (dis)comfort for many, including the author of the comment you quoted. Some are also concerned about giving the appearance of endorsing another religion.

Even if you think the text of any particular prayer is unobjectionable, carefully reviewing the text (if you can even get it in advance) imposes a burden of both effort and knowledge that many aren't willing to take on. Especially in a social setting where it's relatively easy to extract oneself, it makes a great deal of sense to do so instead of trying to navigate what is or isn't acceptable.

Besides, in my experience Christians tend to extemporize their prayers, and it's very, very difficult for them to leave Jesus out of it. So your qualifier of "as long as they pray to God and not Jesus", even aside from the other issues I raised, might not stick in the moment. Rarely-needed care almost never wins out against deeply-ingrained reflex, and the phrase "through so-and-so our Lord (sic)" is a standard phrase in Christian prayer.

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protected by Double AA Sep 26 '17 at 15:47

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