I'm speaking for the women's group at West Jackson Street Baptist Church on Sunday night. My topic is prayer and prayer journalling, so prayer's been on my mind more than ever.
I came across the issue of prosperity gospel again yesterday. You probably know that bit of false theology. It's the "name-it-and-claim-it" idea that you need only decide what you want, place your order with God, and receive it.
Friends, God is not a divine genie in the sky whose sole purpose is to deliver magic presents to us.
The prosperity gospel idea is based on a verse in Mark. "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted to you." Mark 11:24 nasb
It does, indeed, say that we will receive that for which we ask if we believe God will give it. What we often miss, however, is the THEREFORE at the beginning of Jesus' sentence.
To put the discussion into context, we need to look at the day before. Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, and headed to the temple. He looked around at the vendors, the money changers, the people carrying animals through the temple. He could've intervened right then, but He held his tongue and waited for a more opportune time.
Jesus and His disciples spent the night in Bethany, then headed back to Jerusalem. He was hungry, so he stopped at a green, leafy fig tree on the way. It wasn't the "season" of figs, which may mean that it wasn't time for the figs to be ripe. Judging by my own fig tree, when the tree has leaves, it begins to form figs, but the process of ripening takes weeks.
Jesus searched for figs in vain and, finding the tree fruitless, He cursed it and it withered.
Jesus proceeded to the temple and cleansed it by chasing out those people treating it like an unholy market. They were buying, selling, and extorting pilgrims who had come to worship.
Jesus addressed the issues of fruitlessness (the fig tree), sin (den of thieves), and priority (money over worship) before the conversation about answered prayer ever took place. The "therefore" follows those important points.
If we want answered prayer, we must first cleanse the temple, which now resides in our hearts. Sin must go. Priorities must change. Fruitlessness must stop.
When our hearts are a fit home for the Spirit of God, then we can begin to expect answers to our prayers.
Friends, it's not enough to have "good" priorities based on the world's standards. Our priorities must be aligned with those of Jesus (from Luke 4):
preach the gospel to the poor
proclaim release to the captives
proclaim recovery of sight to the blind
set free those who are downtrodden
proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
If His priorities are our priorities, and they should be, our "name-it-and-claim-it" prayers won't be focused on the things we want. They'll be centered on sharing the gospel with those who need Him most, on releasing captives to sin, recovery of spiritual sight for those who are blind, freeing the downtrodden, and proclaiming the news of Christ.
Jesus intended an entirely different kind of name-it-and-claim-it prayer. The Son of God, who left streets of gold, pearl gates, and jewel-encrusted walls walked dusty paths on earth by choice. He had no house, no car, no chariot, no horses, no "stuff". It wasn't because He couldn't have them. It was because He chose a simpler life.
It's foolish to think the One who told us not to worry about what we'll eat or drink, but to trust God instead, would want us to have a life centered on things.
If we're going to pray, let's pray big. If we're going to pray big, let's pray sensibly, asking God to impact the world in ways we could never do on our own.
I'm NOT saying don't ask for what we need. Scripture is clear that we are to ask for our daily bread, the basic food of life. Need, not want. Have I asked God for wants? Of course.
When I needed to buy a car some years ago, I asked God to direct me to the right one. I asked that it would be priced within my price range and that I could drive it for 350,000 miles. Ten years later, I'm still driving that perfectly-priced car. I had some wants with the car, too, and I asked God for them, but I didn't "claim" them or demand my right to them.
When my son asks me for something, especially when he asks with "please" and humility, I want to give it to him. If he demanded it as his due because I'm his mother, I'd probably want to say no at the start.
Can we pray with the expectation we will receive that for which we've asked? Yes. Can we ask for anything we want it and expect to receive it? No. The receiving depends on the asking, which must be lined up with the will of God.
Today, let's take a few minutes to examine our hearts. Do we want what the world wants or what God wants? Let's repent of our sins, make any corrections that are needed in priorities, and prepare to pray by making our hearts fit temples for the One who promised to heart and answer us.
When we're ready to start, don't just ask for more stuff. Ask for changed lives and a changed world. When we pray in that manner, God is sure to answer.
"Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?...But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:25,33 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Silence the Noise to Hear the Still Small Voice
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