Be Careful What You Wish For
By S.J. Black
Since becoming a father I have learned that the term, "some assembly required" might as well be a four-letter word. Ask anyone who has been a father for long and they will tell you that these three particular words grouped together has a tendency to make them cringe.
More often than not, fathers do not dislike this term because the toys are difficult to put together. Granted, my children have received a few toys in the past that made it seem like an engineering degree would have been useful for the assembly. However, more often it is when the little ones try to "help" with the assembly or become impatient waiting that it can get really frustrating.
Last weekend one of my children received a drum set from his Grandparents for Chanukah.
If you have never tried to put together something like a drum set with a three-year-old "helping" rest assured that it is an experience. They are so eager to play with the new toy that they often try to declare the job complete before you are anywhere near done with the assembly.
When the covers were put on the bass drum one of my children decided that the work was done and it was time to play. He did not seem to realize that if he were a little patient that the set would work much better when the assembly was completely finished.
Adults are smart enough to see that a toy or whatever works much better and is more fun to play with when it is completely assembled. However, little ones in their excitement and eagerness can only see the here and now at that particular second.
As I was trying to distract a three-year-old and assemble a drum set at the same time a thought occurred to me, how often are we shortsighted in this manner with God? How often do we ask God for something and then later praise Him for not answering our shortsighted prayer?
Reading is something that I spend a lot of time doing. One area that I try to spend some time reading about periodically is the latest false teachers and their doctrine. There is certainly no shortage of false teachers these days teaching all sorts of misleading heresy. I try to stay informed so that if someone asks a question I might have the information to help others or myself from being led astray. You would be surprised at some of the questions that I get via e-mail from time to time about various teachers, movements and so forth.
One of the biggest heresies out there today in my book is the "word of faith" movement. You might also hear this doctrine called something else such as "name it claim it", "Positive Confession" or you might hear someone refer to these teachers as "faith teachers."
You might wonder if I am being too hard on some of these "faith teachers" by calling them heretics. I don't believe I am being too hard on them at all. Stick with me for a minute and I believe it can be shown how these teachers are actually practicing and teaching others to practice sorcery or witchcraft if you prefer to call it that.
Recently, I was reading up on one of these so called "faith teachers" and I was shocked at one of the quotes that came out of this particular teacher's mouth. This teacher was on record teaching people that you should never say to God, "If it be thy will." This particular teacher went on to state that saying things such as "thy will be done" are "faith destroying words."
The word of faith movements today teach that anything you visualize or pray for will be granted to you if you visualize or pray with "enough faith." Some groups teach you don't even have to pray and ask God, just speak it with "enough faith." It is all about how much faith you have and they do not seem to realize that Scripture states clearly our prayers will only be answered if first we request it from God and it is God's will for us.
1 John 5: 14 -15 "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."
Now lets compare the idea of visualizing, praying or positively confessing (i.e. speaking) something into reality with what witches teach. There is a movement out there today growing in popularity that is commonly referred to as Wicca. In short, they are proud of the fact that they are pagans and call themselves witches. They admit that the name was changed from witchcraft to Wicca in order to avoid the 'negative' views associated with the names witch or witchcraft. So what do some of these people who are openly involved in witchcraft teach?
"Wiccans believe that people have many more abilities than are generally realized, and that it is a good idea to develop them. Our magick is a way of using natural forces to change consciousness and material conditions as an expression of our "True Wills". Part of becoming a Wiccan is training in our methods of psychic and magickal development."
While we are told in the above verse from 1 John that we can go boldly before the throne to ask anything of the Lord, we are also told that our prayers will only be answered according to God's sovereign will. To me there is a clear relation or similarity in what witches / Wicca teachers believe and what some of the word of faith, positive confession, and "visualization" gurus teach. Man is elevated so that we can speak or visualize things into reality based on our will and not God's will and this is practicing witchcraft and does not line up with the clear teaching of God's word.
God knows that we are like my little one sometimes and that we will ask for things out of excitement and eagerness. The Lord knows we can only see the here and now and that we do not understand that sometimes the things we ask for can harm us down the road. I can personally tell you that I have asked for things from God in the past and it is His blessing that He did not grant my request. In many cases it was not some lack of faith on my part that moved God to prevent something in my life that would have harmed me. Even though I thought it was what I needed at the time. The concept of what we think is wise or what we think we need compared to what God knows we do or do not need reminds me of something Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness" 1 Corinthians 3:19
It really shocks me that people can read scripture and then follow faith teachers. But then again many of these teachers are the same ones who teach that we are "little gods" along with many other new age mysticism minded concepts. Perhaps the idea that we are in control and our very own "little gods" appeals to the pride of some who don't like being subject to the will of God?
So you might ask, am I making it up that these teachers claim we are all "little gods" or that we are equal with Jesus? No, I wish I were making this up, but consider a few quotes that I found without much effort from some of these teachers digging around on the internet at Biblebb.com word of faith
"You don't have a god in you, you are one."
"Are you ready for some real revelation knowledge....you are god"
"Pray to yourself, because I'm in your self and you're in Myself. We are one Spirit, saith the Lord."
Does the position that we are "god" or "equal with Jesus" really line up with what Scripture says? Well there are a couple of verses that are quoted often that everyone should recognize:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life". (John 3:16)
"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11)
There are many other verses one could look at, but is there really any debating that saying you are the same as Jesus or a "little god" is anything other than just flat out heresy? Isn't this the exact same lie that Satan used in the Garden with Adam and Eve?
"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)
I have a personal opinion that some of these teachers are not Christians at all, but in reality proponents of humanism masquerading as Christians. "New age" gurus teach that a person dies and is reincarnated over and over again. According to their theory each time someone is reincarnated they get one level closer to being "god like." They think Jesus was a man who had been reincarnated so many times that He had reached the highest rung of the ladder. They think that each time someone dies they get one step closer to being "like Christ."
Do you see the relation between the teachings of Wiccans, New Age types, and Word of Faith teachers? Wiccans use incantations to "change consciousness and material conditions." New Age folks meditate to visualize positive change into reality in their lives and surroundings. New age teachers think Jesus was an "ascended master" and that each of us can become an "ascended master" if we are reincarnated enough times. Word of faith teachers preach that you are a god and can speak or visualize things into reality. In short, all three views in some fashion say we can "be like God" and that we can speak or visualize things into reality contrary to what Scripture clearly says.
The word of faith teachers are misleading people with the same theology the humanistic minded False Prophet will preach; "and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon" (Revelation 13:11). In other words, having an appearance of Godliness (Jesus the Lamb of God/ trying to appear Christian) but in reality speaking Satan's (the dragon) humanistic message.
It is certainly true that Jesus made statements such as, "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do" in John 14:13 but that does not mean we can override the will of God for our lives. Scripture certainly has much more to say and many more examples regarding prayer than just one verse.
I find it odd that word of faith teachers would argue that anything we ask regardless of God's will should be granted to us provided of course you are asking with "enough faith." I guess it is always good to have an excuse that cannot be measured when someone tries what you teach and it doesn't work out so well? Maybe if you send the false teacher a few more dollars worth of contribution to "plant a seed of faith" it will work out better next time? How convenient…
Faith teachers could learn a lot from a lesson that Peter once learned the hard way. This lesson is recorded for us in Scripture so that we might learn from Peter's mistake.
Peter tried one time to rebuke Jesus for saying that He was going to die on the cross. I can see where it seemed logical from Peter's point of view at that point in history that the Messiah should not be killed, especially given the Jewish view of Messianic expectation. However, despite perfectly good intentions, Peter received a sever rebuke from Jesus. He even referred to it being Satan inspiring Peter's request. Peter as a man was incapable of seeing the "big picture" from God's viewpoint. I find it interesting that Peter also had selective hearing and didn't seem to notice that Jesus said He would rise again in three days. We find this lack of understanding God's plan by Peter in Mark chapter 8, verses 31 to 33:
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
If it had been up to Peter, we would all still be practicing the law for our salvation because he did not see that something that appeared undesirable like our Messiah being crucified was actually designed to pour out Grace on us that we can barely even grasp with our little minds. Makes me wonder, when we go to God in prayer with our 'wish list', how often are we "not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men?"
What about Paul? He gave up his way of life as a Pharisee to travel about living as a tent maker and spreading the Gospel where he went. Paul also was put to death eventually for his witness regarding Jesus. One could argue Paul had a lot of faith.
Did Paul ever pray for something with a lot of faith and not get what he requested of God? The answer is yes Paul did not find deliverance after praying for an issue but in addition God specifically said no because He had a purpose in the affliction from which Paul suffered.
"Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)
Another question to consider is whether or not Jesus taught or believed that praying things such as "thy will be done" is the equivalent of "faith destroying words?" You can tell a lot by what a man teaches but you can tell even more by what a man does. Especially what he does when he is under pressure, in an emotional situation or in a stressful situation.
Sorry to disappoint the faith teachers but Scripture does not support their position in looking into these questions either.
First, it is important to note that while Jesus was fully God, He was also fully man when He was here with us on earth. He felt emotions, pain and so forth just as much as any of the rest of us.
That being said, isn't it safe to assume that if anyone has ever been under pressure that when Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane before being arrested that He might have been under a bit of pressure?
Scripture tells us that at one point He began to sweat blood and we see in Matthew 26:38 where He told the disciples, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death."
In this case and at this time, if Jesus believed that it was "faith destroying" to pray that the Father's will be done it is safe to assume that He would have prayed something else.
However, we read in Matthew 26: 39: He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."
Not only did Jesus pray in a time of stress "thy will be done" but He prayed in this manner a second time in Matthew 26: 42: "Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done."
This really is no surprise that Jesus would pray this way. Jesus was not a "do as I say do and not as I do" sort of heretic. He was God come in the flesh, the only man to ever live without sin.
The way Jesus prayed that night in the garden is exactly the way He had instructed the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:10, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
It would appear pretty apparent to me that Jesus taught and practiced that we should certainly take our request before the Lord in faith. However, part of faith is to trust that if we pray "thy will be done" God will give us an answer to our prayer in His way and in His timing. Faith is not assuming that we know more than God or that we are better able to see the grand scheme of things and how our request will ultimately play out in our lives.
God always answers our prayers, but sometimes that answer is no. We might not understand why the answer is no at the time, but rest assured it is because the Lord has our best interest in mind.
We should pray and James even wrote that sometimes, "…you do not have because you do not ask." (James 4:2)
However, we are not "little gods" who can order the God of Heaven around like some little puppy. We are fallen man and at times we do not understand the purpose or the plans of God.
There is no magic formula or particular way we need to pray in order to see results; other than we should pray to the Father in Jesus name. We should not pray to ourselves or anyone else such as Mary or some saint. They were sinful men redeemed by the blood of Jesus just like the rest of us. There is no magic level of faith that we need to reach in order to see a prayer answered. We just need to pray and believe, believe that whatever the answer God has our best interest in mind as an all-knowing Father who sits on the Throne in Heaven.
We exercise and show our faith in going boldly before the throne to ask in the first place. If we don't believe and have faith that prayer works, why would we do something that we thought is a waste of time? Personally, I have prayed in the past for things because I knew "that is what we should do" but at the time I was privately thinking to myself, "No way, against these odds?" For example, praying that the Lord would heal someone with a bad cancer prognosis. I think that sometimes the Lord will answer our prayer in these situations because of our lack of faith to show us exactly who He really is and exactly how much power He really has. Sort of a subtle reminder we need sometimes of the fact that when we pray, we are praying to the God of the universe and this makes anything and everything possible. James 5:16 states, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." And as we noted earlier 1 John 5: 14 tells us that the Lord hears us when we ask according to His will.
Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6; "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;"
My personal rule of thumb for prayer is to keep it simple. Don't try to put on a show for the Lord with trying to speak in some fancy way. The Lord knows you better than you know yourself; He is well aware of your faults so why bother with the pretense? Praise Him, tell Him your needs, ask Him for guidance, lift up others in need and confess your sins to Him. You might as well confess your sins; you are not hiding anything from an omniscient God. He already knows before you tell Him.
We can go before the Throne of God and ask Him boldly for anything. Often we will receive what we ask for if it is His will. If we truly need what we request God is faithful to provide, even if He provides in a manner that is different than we might have requested. Maybe you didn't get the job you prayed for after interviewing for the job this week. It could be that you didn't get that job because God knows a better job opportunity is going to become available in two weeks. He certainly is able to provide for your needs for the two weeks in between. It doesn't mean you lack faith, it means God knows the future and you don't.
In all things related to prayer, take to heart what Jesus said when teaching on the subject in Matthew 6:8, "…For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him."
If God does not answer prayer right away in the way you request, don't worry it means God has a plan and it merely hasn't been revealed to you just yet.