What’s wrong with these prayers?
- “Let us pray for the safe return of our troops.”
- “And now let us bow our heads in prayer and ask God for a bountiful harvest this year.”
- “I’ll pray for your speedy recovery.”
They’re false and they’re destructive because they undermine the potential of a truer, more helpful way of praying.
I love this Far Side cartoon of God at his computer, poised to smite the dufus guy walking under the dangling piano. It’s the perfect illustration of how people who pray for future events (intercessionary prayers) view God — a Wizard of Oz’ish supreme being who can pull levers and push buttons to make things happen in the physical universe.
Read the stories of families receiving the bodies of troops killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Surely most of these people prayed for the safe return of their loved ones. And many of them are now having a crisis of faith because of their belief that God could have done something about it.
Just look at the prayers posted to this website: Fully Rely On God Prayer Requests. For example:
Lord, I was told to be very specific when I pray, so here it goes. I pray for financial miracles in my life. I pray that we get bills paid off. I pray that we win Publishers Clearing House, the lottery, or something to do this. I pray for financial blessings, miracles, and opportunities. In Jesus’ name I pray. I pray that we can buy a house. Lord, please provide the way and means to buy a house… Please help us, oh Lord, please grant my prayers. In Jesus’ name I pray.
It’s painful to read that. This prayer is essentially no different than me praying that the Twins win the World Series. That we get more snow. That I beat Tony in racquetball next week. That we sell our house. Those could my false prayers.
It doesn’t bother me that the guy is rich, as long as he’s been ethical and legal in acquiring his wealth. But it bugs me that he’s preaching a ‘prosperity gospel’ in which God rewards you with wealth for good behavior. Here’s a quote from another Strib article):
“God says if you base your life on his covenant, these blessings are gonna overtake you; you can’t do anything about it, friend. [What was once] flocks and herds is in today’s parlance stocks and bonds.”
That’s bullshit. And it’s destructive.
Jesus wasn’t hesitant to criticize the way some Pharisees prayed. I sure hope some of Northfield’s more enlightened ministers will criticize Mac Hammond’s brand of prosperity gospel in their sermons this weekend.
I’ll get to work on a “true prayers” post.