Mailbag, Prayer

The Mailbag: Potpourri (“Prayers” from pagans… “Good” pride… Laying on of hands)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.

What do we do when a non-Christian (or a “Christian” who really isn’t, or someone from another faith) offers their prayers to you in times of need or trial? My husband recently had surgery, and he got good luck money from a Buddhist, prayer from a Catholic/New Ager (who also told her friends to send “their angels” to him). What should we say or do in these instances?

It is a blessing to have caring people in your life, even if they are pagans. Say a prayer of thanksgiving to God that He has placed them in your path so that you might have an opportunity to demonstrate your care for them by sharing the gospel with them. This is one of the purposes of our suffering – to point to our Savior and sustainer, Jesus.

I’m not familiar with “good luck money” but I’m assuming it’s not just, “Here, I want to help with your medical bills,” but rather has some sort of spiritual significance in Buddhism.

When Mr. Buddhist comes to the hospital to visit, hands you an envelope with cash in it, and says, “This money has been specially blessed by the Dalai Lama to bring you good luck for your surgery,” (or whatever the case may be) you could say, “Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity, Mr. B, but I’m afraid God would not be pleased for me to accept this.”. When Mr. B asks why (or if he doesn’t: “May I explain why?”), it’s a perfect opening to explain that you worship the only true God of the universe and that He will have no other gods before or besides Him… and then you’re off to the races with sharing the gospel.

When the Catholic / New Ager offers to pray for you, just turn the tables, “That’s so kind of you to offer, Cath, but would you mind if I pray for you instead?” And then don’t give her a chance to answer. Just start praying. When you’ve finished, depending on which way the wind is blowing, you could launch right into a gospel presentation, or an immediate change of subject (…amen. It was so good of you to come visit, Cath. How’s your daughter doing? I heard she’s about to graduate high school. What are her plans after graduation?)

Sometimes, doing something unexpected like that knocks people off their game enough that you can kindly and lovingly shift the interaction in a direction that alleviates awkwardness and is more pleasing to God.

My question is about pride. Why are we proud (of our children, our country, our jobs well done, etc.) when pride is a sin? If you are going to tell me there is such a thing as “good pride,” please follow with where good pride came from.

I’ve tried to stop saying I’m proud of my children, by saying other things like, “You make my heart happy,” “I’m so glad you’re my son (or daughter),” etc.

Yes, I’ve asked my husband, my pastor, my previous pastor, a like-minded friend and done my own research- I have not found, nor been given, an answer. Can you please clear this up?

Wow, it sounds like you’ve been studying on this a good bit. That’s great! When we have questions like this, we should always go to our Bibles and, if possible, seek counsel from our husbands and pastors.

Even as Christians, we often misunderstand and mislabel our emotions. There is no such thing as “good pride” because the Bible’s definition of pride is much narrower than all of the things the word “pride” covers in the common vernacular.

If you will look up the words pride and proud in Scripture (particularly in Psalms and Proverbs) and begin reading the verses that contain those words as well as the surrounding context, you’ll start to get a better feel for the way the Bible, rather than the world, defines pride. You’ll see the words “pride” and “proud” mostly paired with, and surrounded by words like “arrogant,” “haughty,” “pompous,” “boasting,” and pride as opposed to humility.

As you’re looking at verses containing the words “pride” and “proud,” you’ll come across the stories of some folks who show us what it means to be prideful, but I can’t think of two better examples than Nebuchadnezzar (see v. 30) and Herod (see 22-23), so be sure to read those.

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Psalm 10:4

This is the sin of pride. It is the boastful arrogance – whether expressed outwardly or cherished in the heart – that says, “I did this grand and glorious thing myself. It redounds to my glory. Look at me. Look at ME! I didn’t need God to do this thing, and I don’t need Him now.”

Non-Christians might look at their careers, and maybe even their children that way, but Christians don’t. Christians know that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father. We know, better than anyone else on the planet, that we are nothing without Him, and that we can do nothing without Him. We can’t even cause our own hearts to beat! The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

So when you look at your kid, if you feel pride – the way the Bible describes it – you’d better repent before you end up like Nebuchadnezzar or Herod. But, I’m guessing that’s not what you feel. I’m guessing you feel just like I do when I look at my kids: a white hot, God-given love that would propel you barefoot over hot coals for them, a heart that is bursting with joy, and undying gratitude and humility that the God of the universe would graciously give you – one so undeserving – a child who is pleasing.

That’s not pride. That’s the opposite of pride.

And, yeah, maybe we should lose, “I’m so proud of you!” for “I’m so grateful to God for you!”.

We had a ladies’ fellowship weeks ago. One of our sisters was going to the hospital to have a procedure and our leader asked us to gather to pray and lay hands on her.

I’m ok with praying, but the laying on of the hands triggered in me an awkward feeling since I was part of the charismatic movement many years ago and that was a common practice. However, I also read in the Bible that the LORD and the apostles laid hands on people although maybe the context was different. It may not be an unbiblical practice and I’m just being too reactive to it. Do you have any thoughts or comments on that?

I can certainly understand why that triggered you, considering your background.

In charismatic / NAR circles the laying on of hands is typically to bestow some sort of supernatural “impartation” – of healing, imbuing someone with a “prophetic mantle,” or “gift of the Spirit,” conferring a position of leadership onto someone, using a person as a touch point to receive a “word of knowledge” about her, etc. They got this (and twisted it) from the passages of Scripture that mention Jesus and others laying their hands on people to heal, confer the Holy Spirit, and so on.

Naturally, if the Lord has saved you out of that hot mess of heresy, you don’t want to see anything remotely like it in your new, doctrinally sound church.

In doctrinally sound churches, the laying on of hands and praying for someone was, at one time, usually reserved for ordination-type ceremonies. One of the practices in the many deacon ordinations I’ve attended has been for the pastor to call upon all the ordained men attending the service to lay hands upon the deacon candidate and pray for him (not confer anything upon him). Sometimes this will be a small group of men who will surround him, lay hands on him, and pray together. I’ve also been to ordination services where there was a line of ordained men wrapped around the perimeter of the sanctuary, and each one took his turn laying hands on, and praying individually, for each deacon candidate. It’s very sobering and very special.

I think this practice, combined with the spirit of James 5:14, is how, in the doctrinally sound church, we sort of morphed into small groups laying hands on the sick or others as we pray for them. In that context, there’s certainly nothing biblically wrong with it. I’ve taken part in praying for people this way, and I’ve been prayed for this way, too. (Honestly, it usually turns into more of a group hug and you have to be careful not to smother the person being prayed for!).

Laying hands on someone isn’t necessary and it doesn’t make your prayers any more efficacious. It just creates an atmosphere of unity in prayer and makes the person being prayed for feel that she’s surrounded by brothers and sisters who love her and are interceding for her (because she is, quite literally). If you’re uncomfortable participating, you don’t have to, but as you grow in Christ and begin growing out of those old triggers, you may change your mind one day.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.