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by Jacob Ninan

Like many other things in Christendom prayer also seems to be undergoing an evolution. The way some people pray nowadays appears to bear no resemblance to what we have traditionally practised, what we have understood from the Bible or what experienced prayer warriors have taught us. From ‘praying’ to God to grant what they need, some people seem to be going into ‘commanding’ things to happen at their word. They talk of ‘releasing the power’ through faith, ‘commanding’ or ‘speaking’ life into dead situations, ‘taking back what the devil has stolen,’ ‘cancelling the plans of the enemy,’ etc., which those who have grown up with Biblical vocabulary cannot recognise.

We should not mind innovation, and we should not be allergic to new ideas just because they are not spelt out clearly in the Bible, as long as they are in line with what the Bible teaches. But do we not need to take a close and deep look at things that appear to be different from what centuries of Christianity have taught and practised? We cannot accept things just because they have come to us from ‘impressive’ or ‘authoritative’ sources. Since many people are not used to examining these things by themselves, it becomes the responsibility of the leaders of the churches to do this checking and pass on to the congregation only things they have satisfied themselves with.

Biblical Examples Of Prayer

In the New Testament we can think of the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13), the prayers Jesus prayed in Jn. 17 and in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:42), and the two prayers of Paul recorded in Eph. 1:18-23 and 3:14-19. What is common in these prayers is the tone of the prayer, in terms of requesting, pleading and interceding. They consist of asking God for something He should do for the ones who are praying or for others. Jesus taught us to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking and to knock and keep on knocking (Mt. 7:7). In other words, they are prayers!

Look at the prayers in the Old Testament, a lot of which are in the psalms. We find the same sense there too, that they are praying to God asking Him to do something for them. In one sense this is so obvious that there is no need to labour over the point.

The New Trend In Prayer

The notable difference that we see in the new trend is the change of tone. According to the present day trend which I am referring to we are not praying to God or asking Him to do anything for us, but initiating change with our assertive words. For example, “I speak life into this marriage. I cancel the plans of the enemy to bring confusion. I take back from the devil what he has stolen. I command healing into this body.” All this is done along with the preface or appendix, “In the name of Jesus.” But it is easy to see that it is I who now has the active role here and not God. Is this right, and is it a healthy direction?

What Does The New Prayer Imply?

We must not forget that in the Creator-creature equation, we are the creatures, and we are entirely dependent on the Creator for our being and existence (Acts 17:28). We have been created for His pleasure (Rev. 4:11). Even though He has given us a certain amount of free will, His will overrules all things all the time. Therefore it makes sense to pray to Him, asking Him to do things for us. When we pray ‘in Jesus’ name’ we acknowledge that He is sovereign and that He is our Lord, and also that as far as we know what we are praying for is according to His will.

The new prayer assumes more power and authority for us than as given above. The use of ‘in Jesus’ name’ now does not seem to have the same meaning as above because now we seem to be in the driver’s seat, commanding, speaking life, cancelling, taking, etc., making use of the power of God. We do not seem to be as much dependent on the Creator as above.

When we pray in faith we must not forget that it is not our faith that accomplishes what we pray for, but God is able to do what He wants when we reach out to Him in faith. He is hindered from doing things for us if we do not have faith. This is a restriction God has placed on Himself in the way He deals with man. Let us consider the matrix of God’s will and our faith. Nothing can happen if we pray without faith and not according to God’s will. But nothing can happen even if we have ‘faith’ and it is not God’s will! Prayers get answers only when we pray in faith and according to God’s will. If we do not have faith but it is God’s will, there is still no answer. What needs to be seen here is that even though there are two factors that need to be present for getting answers to prayer—our faith and God’s will—the final deciding factor is God’s will. There is no use trying to whip up our faith, if we are asking for something which is not according to God’s will.

Another factor to recognise in the context of our subject is that our faith has no power of its own, and it does not ‘release any power’ for making things happen. Power belongs to God (Ps. 62:11). And so also does sovereignty (Ps. 115:3; 135:6). He has granted to us a limited authority and power, e.g., over demons and to heal diseases (Lk. 9:1). But it is easy to see that power still belongs to God, and when we do anything we still expect Him to be the One who wields the power. Do we get that impression when we listen to the new prayer?

Comparison With New Age Practices

We may have heard about New Age teachings two of which I would like to highlight here. One is the assumption that man and God are one in essence, with the possibility of man attaining to a final merger with God or recognising his oneness with God. The other is the presence of forces or powers which are out there which man can tap into, such as through reiki, feng shui, crystal power, power in colours or orientation of buildings, etc. Christians do not subscribe to such ideas. But I wonder if ideas like these which are spoken of and practised very commonly these days have unknowingly influenced the way of thinking for some Christians causing them to try releasing power through faith.

Do the ‘new’ prayers assume a certain near-parity with God in being able to initiate action when we command and speak out certain words? Do we imagine that our faith releases certain power (even the power of God) in a way similar to how New Age practitioners release (or appear to release) their forces? Perhaps this may be an exaggeration, but I cannot help but wonder if there is a mixture at some level.

Is This A Healthy Trend?

I guess those who pray the new prayer have not thought about issues like these, and these suggestions would appear to be outrageous to them. But for those who would like to think about it, there may be a couple of things to consider. This move from a totally dependent creature to a more powerful one—is it a step away from the Creator-creature equation of the Bible? By giving more focus or emphasis on our faith moving God to act are we violating the position of power, authority and sovereignty of God? As for me I would be happy to confine myself to a position of total dependence on God’s will and power and ask Him to grant me blessings out of His compassion and mercy towards me.

Published in the October 2009 issue of the Light of Life magazine.

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