Not Ours to Name

img_1217279450352_81Whenever the subject of prayer comes up among my Christian friends, there is some debate over how and why we should pray. But what it comes down to in the end is that if we pray God’s will, those prayers will be answered. Some might question the point in praying then. I mean, if God’s will is to accomplish something in particular and we pray for it, it doesn’t change anything. And if our prayers are for something other than His will, that prayer won’t be answered anyway. (My feeling is that praying is an avenue to connect with, and bring me closer to, God.)

The question may arise—does God change His mind? Can we pray our will hard enough that He’ll listen and adjust His plan and purpose? Mark 11:24 says Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Taken out of context, some may interpret this to mean that if we have the faith to believe that we will get what we ask for, it will be ours. It is scripture verses such as this that give validity to the Prosperity Gospel—or the Name It and Claim It Gospel, as some call it. But if this is true, why then did the apostle Paul, a man with more faith than I’ll ever achieve, have to suffer the “thorn” in his flesh? He asked three times for healing, yet God had a purpose in his pain.

Several years ago when I attended our church’s ladies Bible study, I became acquainted with a woman named Susan. I was immediately struck by her strength of faith and biblical knowledge. It was a little intimidating, because I didn’t always agree with her. When she claimed God cured her of leukemia because she had enough faith, I was hesitant to tell her that my own sweet mother died of leukemia only a few short years before. Was she saying, in essence, that had my mother had more faith, God would have spared her life?

Fast-forward five years. This same woman lies on her deathbed, her body riddled with cancer. She’s made the claim over and over that God will heal her. And one of my wise Christian friends says that it’s true—God will heal her on the other side. But I can’t help wondering about Susan’s spiritual health. Will she pass away with the belief that her faith wasn’t strong enough? Where is the peace and comfort in that?

While praying for Susan, I was moved to look up the Prosperity Gospel on gotquestions.org. “While the prosperity gospel and the idea of controlling one’s future with his thoughts or faith is appealing to sinful man, it is insulting to a sovereign God who has revealed Himself in Scripture. Instead of recognizing the absolute sovereign power of God as revealed in the Bible, the name it and claim it adherents embrace a false god who cannot operate apart from their faith. They present a false view of God by teaching that He wants to bless you with health, wealth and happiness but cannot do so unless YOU have enough faith.”

The fact is, people die of disease every day—strong, faithful believers in Jesus Christ. God has a plan and purpose in this beyond what we can imagine. Everything that He allows in this world is for the benefit of glorifying Him. To believe that if people only have enough faith, they can accomplish their own will flies in the face of Christianity. It discounts the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ and puts man on par with God almighty. And it makes a judgment against those believers who have died even though they prayed for life.

I will pray for Susan, and I will pray for her family—that the peace of Jesus Christ will cover them in this truly difficult time. I can’t imagine facing the end of my life doubting that my faith was “good” enough to please God.

3 thoughts on “Not Ours to Name

  1. I love the balanced approach to this article. It weaves in some difficult questions, with some plausible answers. Thanks Jennifer for your insight.
    I would also like to add…I pray because of relationship. If I don’t talk to my Father, I feel distant. Sometimes this talk includes, a shout, a whisper, a scream, and you know what??? God understands and answers with His sweet presence.

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