OF GODLY PRAYER!
Should We Dogmatically “Name it and Claim It” When We Pray? Do We Note This Approach Within the Holy Bible?
Understanding How Opening Ourselves to Vulnerability is the Godly Way to Pray!
Perceiving the Errors of 'Positive Confession' and the 'Name it and Claim it' teaching.
A man e mailed me recently with the intention of posting a prayer request, but his request showed the huge influence of the 'positive confession' teaching. The man's wife had sadly left him and he told me that he was now “claiming her to return to him in the name of the Lord”. The man wanted me to join him in “claiming her back” because, after all, she belonged to him, didn't she? I certainly prayed for this couple but I could not join that man in his 'name it and claim it' approach toward prayer – in fact, I cannot find a single place in Scripture where the men and women of God adopted this approach! The Scriptural approach we see toward prayer is of humble men and women coming before the Creator God and pleading Him and intreating Him to hear their prayer and to intervene for them in some manner or way - if it should be His will to do so. But sadly many modern believers are losing touch with a truly biblical understanding and approach toward prayer. We have to understand that - in bringing a matter before God in prayer - we must place ourselves in a position of vulnerability.
When the apostle Paul prayed for healing from his 'thorn in the flesh' (2 Corinthians 12:7 - no point in speculating what this problem might have been because we simply do not know, although it appears to have been a physical health problem), Paul makes it plain that he 'besought' (NKJV) 'pleaded' (NIV) the Lord three times to take this affliction away from him. These words come from the Greek 'parakaleo' meaning 'to beseech', 'implore' 'plead' 'invite' 'exhort' or, 'earnestly desire' for something to happen – this is plainly not what is now called the “positive confession” approach to prayer of 'naming and claiming' what we want, then not fretting and expecting the ruler of the universe to comply with our desire – just as long as our own words are positive! Those 'three times' of Paul's passionate request to be healed from his affliction might well have been three concentrated periods of prayer, perhaps each covering a few days – we should not see Paul's beseeching of the Lord to act as just three short, simple prayers of a minute or so each!
I have searched the Bible from cover to cover and I cannot find positive confession-type prayers!! But I certainly can find a more dogmatic approach where the Creator God has already revealed to His servants what and when He (the sovereign Creator God, that is) intends to bring a certain thing to pass. Just prior to the crossing of the Red Sea, for instance, Moses certainly had faith that the Lord would deliver the Israelites from a seemingly impossible situation (Exodus 14:13-14), but it was the Lord who told Moses what He specifically planned to do (Exodus 14:16), after which Moses could act boldly in his knowledge of the Lord's will (Exodus 14:21, 26-27). Moses could boldly claim that the Lord is a Great Deliverer (and we too should be unafraid of proclaiming this), but Moses – of himself – could not “pronounce” or “claim” that the Red Sea would part!! Yet a few 'positive confession' people (well-meaning though they occasionally are) hold up Moses at the Red Sea as an example of what our positive confession-type prayers can also accomplish! To put it mildly, this is very, very sloppy biblical interpretation.
The man who contacted me “claimed” his estranged wife back and he felt that as long as his words were positive she would indeed return, yet I would suggest that this only amounts to having faith in the power of one's own words or one's own desires. I told the man that I would pray for a happy outcome to his predicament, but that he and I should mostly pray that the Lord's will should be done and that eventual good – for all those concerned – should come from this very sad situation. But he wanted me to “agree with him in prayer” that his wife would certainly return – which I simply could not do. The Bible gives no such promises and, in fact, when we adopt this approach we are attempting to impart divine sovereignty.......to ourselves! There is no humility in this, and yet humility before God is a vital key to answered prayer.
Understanding the Vulnerability of Prayer
Now let us understand that when we come to God in prayer, we must adopt a vulnerable and humble approach. What do I mean? Well, we are placing a matter before the Creator and Ruler of the very universe and we are directly involving Him in whatever problem or need we may face. In effect, we are saying, 'Please God intervene here and make your will known, show me your path, please become directly involved in this matter!' Now God will certainly do that but He will reserve the right to intervene in His way and work things out in His own way. This necessarily places us in a vulnerable position because the divine choice in this matter may well be different to what we are looking and hoping for! Expect surprises, because you will almost certainly get them!!
Two Examples From My Own Life
Two years ago we were attending a large place of Christian worship which had initially seemed fine, in fact I had for some while recommended this place to anybody visiting our city; but it became increasingly obvious to my wife and I that some things were seriously wrong in this place: money, success and affluence seemed to be esteemed, as did youthfulness. 'Worldliness' (which the New Testament continually warns Christians about) seemed to be somewhat well-regarded and 'image' was also highly regarded (the leadership continually strived for a “youthful image”). Eventually I took this matter to God in prayer – I knew that I was opening my wife and myself up to a degree of vulnerability in doing this because now I could expect direct intervention (just as Paul knew that in beseeching God for healing he was placing himself in the vulnerable position where the answer could be clearly 'No' – which, in fact, proved to be the case). I prayed that the Lord would clearly reveal to us whether we should continue to attend this place. Wow! God did indeed intervene dramatically!! The Lord clearly showed us that we should discontinue attendance at this place of worship. But (as always) His intervention was in a totally unexpected way! Very shortly afterwards we were involved in a deeply hurtful incident with a member who overstepped his authority (actually he had no authority in that place of worship), this man made an allegation based on the “evidence” with the consistency of shifting desert sand which directly affected a young lady who attended with us at that time. We quickly knew the allegation was incorrect and so it turned out to be but it amounted to a very hurtful, deeply wounding and regrettable incident. By the way, I may say that this man never came back to us with an apology. Sadly, the pastor did not want to get involved, preferring to carefully keep his head safely beneath the parapet, although the man should have experienced church discipline. So, it became obvious and inevitable that – at least for a while - we should not attend that place. Then suddenly I recalled my prayer – the Lord had spoken. Yes, we should not always expect our Lord to act in a gentle manner when He brings things to pass in answer to prayer. So when we involve the Ruler of the universe in our problems we place ourselves in a vulnerable situation – we must expect this!! Do we want the Lord's input or don't we??
On another occasion, I sat down and said a prayer with a man whose son was desperately ill in hospital. Although the young man was seriously ill the expectation was probably that he would pull through, however, the moment I started my prayer the Lord appeared to show me that the young man would die and that I should be very careful with my choice of words, so I carefully checked my words, mainly praying for this family to have the strength to go through the ordeal which lied ahead. The young man died two days later. Here, then, was vulnerability! When we plead for the direct involvement of the Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth, we necessarily place ourselves in a vulnerable position. All the great men and women of faith within the Holy Bible understood this, and we must understand it.
Am I saying that God will never give us exactly what we most request? Not at all. Sometimes He does that, but He will grant what is truly best in the situation and from the perspective of eternity, but as C.S. Lewis once said, 'We see so little down here.' Where the need is specific and urgent our gracious God may indeed give exactly what we have requested, but He will always work things out in His own way - and where the need is less immediate - perhaps over a longer time period than we may be looking for, but this will still amount to a clearly answered prayer.
The positive confession people are not interested in the will of the Eternal God – just in the power of their own positive words, and in their own will – they always want an outcome which they themselves choose! But faith is not like that, humility is not like that, and prayer is not like that. But why, it might be asked, would God want us to place ourselves in a vulnerable position? The answer was given to Paul....
God's Strength is Made Perfect in Weakness!
Let us rehearse what the Lord told Paul when Paul had prayed for healing from his 'thorn in the flesh':
' But he said to me, “My grace is sufficent for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”'
(2 Corinthians 12:9).
God is not looking for supermen and superwomen to work with. Why did God work with David but not the tall and handsome Saul? Why did He work with Elijah who ran away because of the threats of a woman? Why did He work with the confused and unreliable Jonah? Because His grace is always sufficient and His power works better in weaker people. Please check out 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. During this age of the Church God primarily works with the 'lowly things of this world' (1 Cor. 1:28). There is something about the Holy Spirit of God which clashes with the human spirit of the proud, famous, successful and mighty of this world. Truthfully our God is always looking for vulnerability among His people: yes, vulnerability, humility, and meekness. He will – yes, He will - intervene for such people. I actually think that the flawed 'positive confession' teaching has become so pervasive that some people are not even recognising true answers to prayer when they come (because they are mistakenly only looking for their exact 'name it and claim it' requests).
is not looking for proud and
triumphalist people to approach Him in prayer and proudly tell
Him what they require Him to do on account of their
own positive words!! He seeks humility and
vulnerability - for His grace is always sufficient for His people
– yes, even if they should stumble ten times a
Please carefully note and read the following biblical descriptions of the sort of people whom our God is prepared to dramatically intervene for: Psalm 34:18; Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2; Daniel 10:12.
'...This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.'
(Isaiah 66:2, NIV).
How we should all rejoice to know such a God!!
Robin A. Brace, 2005.
You may also wish to read All About Faith; What Is It? What Isn't It?
MUSELTOF COUNTERCULT AND APOLOGETICS