Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Dorothy’s Story

Dorothy’s Story

I was saved at an early age and always had a heart for the things of God, reading His Word, memorizing it, and prayer. As an adult I was very active in my Baptist church, in children’s ministry or leading Bible studies for women, which I realize now were not actually Bible studies, but rather studying a book about someone’s interpretation of Scripture. I was very intrigued by Henry Blackaby’s book Experiencing God, and began to wonder how I might recognize God at work in my own life, how I might hear his voice. I read books on prayer and fasting by Bill Bright, learning of the “coming revival”.

It wasn’t until I began to read God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, though, that I thought perhaps I was missing something, since I had never felt the “manifest” presence of God. A friend loaned me Surprised by the Power of the Holy Spirit by Jack Deere, A Final Quest by Rick Joyner, and I was off into the world of the NAR (The New Apostolic Reformation), inhaling every book I could on intercessory prayer, especially enjoying Prayer Shield, written by C. Peter Wagner himself, the father of the NAR. I read about past revivals, about The Toronto Blessing. I had no understanding of the history or doctrines behind the movement, but was drawn in by the incredible experiences with God those in the movement seemed to have. Prophetic words, words of knowledge, Holy Spirit manifestations – they all seemed so much more exciting than what I had experienced in my Christian life. Much to my shame, I even went to see Todd Bentley when he was in town. I became convinced revival was on its way.

I thought perhaps I was missing something..

I was especially fascinated by listening prayer. Although I continued to read my Bible and memorize scripture, my focus became my time of contemplative prayer, listening to what I felt God was saying to me personally. This quote from my prayer journal shows the idol that listening prayer had become in my life. “I could die for you right now God, die for more of you.”

I began to assist a Baptist deliverance minister in town as well, in what was called “discernment,” listening to what God told me about the spirits that were impacting a person. I would also listen for a personal prophetic word for each person in ministry.

As my family was now in a Pentecostal church, it was very accepted to be hearing from God personally; I was just “prophetic”. Although I had previously written devotionals for the Proverbs 31 Homemaker, I now felt called to begin typing up my prayer journal notes into devotionals, much in the style of Sarah Young, who wrote her devotionals because she wanted more of God than the Bible. I had 400 in all, hoping to get them published and support different missions organizations.

The Pentecostal church we were attending became progressively more NAR, even having a church plant patterned after Bethel. It wasn’t uncommon to have a pastor from Bethel speak at our church’s conferences. I had never agreed with the doctrine that it was God’s will to heal everyone, which Bethel emphasized, but I had no idea that they actually were preaching a false gospel.

I had no idea they were preaching a false gospel.

Last fall I happened upon a YouTube video on Bethel’s theology by Mike Winger, which God used to begin to remove the scales of deception from my eyes. However, it was reading Angels of Light; False Prophets and Deceiving Spirits at Work Today in the Church & World by Eddie Hyatt, specifically his chapter on contemplative prayer, which made me realize I had been wading in dangerous waters. As I watched the Strange Fire Conference on the internet, I was terribly convicted by the true Holy Spirit. This propelled me into an incredibly intense, painful season of soul-searching – questioning what I believed against biblical doctrine – and a time of repentance. As I listened to YouTube videos of Doreen Virtue and Melissa Dougherty, two wonderful women God has brought out of the New Age, I realized that my “Listening Prayer” had more in common with hearing from Spirit Guides, that my getting “prophetic words” for people had more in common with cold readings, than with either prayer or the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I was convicted by the true Holy Spirit…

Psalm 116 has become very precious to me, especially verse 6: “The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.” Although it truly sickens me that I could have been so deceived, I am very aware of how God’s hand was protecting me and my whole family through the whole process, and know that God is able to use my experience to bring about good.

Classes on listening prayer are becoming rampant in the church today, even in mainstream churches. The following is taken from a non-charismatic church offering such a class. “Learning to hear God’s voice and learning to use the gift of prophecy will be taught in alignment with biblical principles…” “loving and safe community to learn how to hear God’s voice for oneself and for others….designed to provide opportunities to encounter Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit through a variety of worship experiences and listening exercises.”

If you are practicing listening prayer, or contemplative prayer, I beg you to look into its history, and examine scripture – see that Christ never told us to pray in such a way, either by example or as a teaching. You may think that you are practicing listening prayer, but still holding God’s Word as His revelation to you higher. From experience, I believe it is impossible to practice listening prayer and not have it erode your view of the sufficiency of Scripture as well as erode and distort your view of Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. In the past I believed that what I was hearing from God was completely in line with Scripture. However, not only was it incredibly narcissistic, it began to reflect more and more the NAR teaching I was receiving.

In my spiritual journey, I believed that I was experiencing “revival” when I became involved in contemplative prayer, and extra biblical practices. But in God’s word, biblical revival was accompanied by a renewed love for God through the Scripture. I can honestly say that coming out of the NAR, with all of its deception, as painful as it has been, has brought with it true revival. I have never had such a profound sense of being “saved”, along with a growing hunger for Scripture and true knowledge of God. I realize that I was in NAR lite for several years, even in my Baptist church.

I have never had such a profound sense of being “saved”…

If you diligently seek scripture, you will not lose anything that is true; you will only lose the false. Please, don’t allow fear or pride to keep you from researching thoroughly. I only wish there had been someone to warn me earlier. Although in many NAR books you will be warned away from biblical discernment by being taught that thinking critically is a “critical spirit” or that if you compare a teaching to Scripture you are “religious or have a religious spirit” please follow scripture.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 

You may also have been warned away from “heresy hunters”. As you do research, you may find some websites that go overboard, but there are also many wonderful discernment ministries. A few recommendations: Justin Peter’s Clouds Without Water Seminar, (YouTube version) John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference, and book by the same name, Todd Friel’s Drunk in the Spirit DVD, Costi Hinn’s book Defining Deception, and the movies: American Gospel: Christ Alone and American Gospel: Christ Crucified. For teaching on contemplative prayer, check out Another Jesus Calling. For a great website on a biblical response to the modern prophets and apostles movement see Holly Pivec’s website, Spirit of Error.

Just a gentle word of caution. Do balance your research with time spent in God’s Word. It is easy to become almost obsessive in your quest for truth, in wanting to root out any lies of deception you believe, to be hyper-sensitive about being deceived again. Coming out of deception is a very painful experience. Have patience for yourself, and grace. God is a tremendous rescuer and he will lead you to freedom in His truth, as laid out in Scripture, as you seek Him.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His Word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Your testimony can be as brief as a few sentences or as long as 1500 words. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Discernment

Jennifer Rothschild

If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against certain teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.

 

I get lots of questions about particular authors, pastors, and Bible teachers, and whether or not I recommend them. Some of the best known can be found above at my Popular False Teachers tab. The teacher below is someone I’ve been asked about recently, so I’ve done a quick check (this is brief research, not exhaustive) on her.

Generally speaking, in order for me to recommend a teacher, speaker, or author, he or she has to meet three criteria:

a) A female teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly preach to or teach men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. A male teacher or pastor cannot allow women to carry out this violation of Scripture in his ministry. The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be living in any other sin (for example, cohabiting with her boyfriend or living as a homosexual).

b) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers. This is a violation of Scripture.

c) The pastor or teacher cannot currently and unrepentantly be teaching false doctrine.

I am not very familiar with most of the teachers I’m asked about (there are so many out there!) and have not had the opportunity to examine their writings or hear them speak, so most of the “quick checking” I do involves items a and b (although in order to partner with false teachers (b) it is reasonable to assume their doctrine is acceptable to the false teacher and that they are not teaching anything that would conflict with the false teacher’s doctrine). Partnering with false teachers and women preaching to men are each sufficient biblical reasons not to follow a pastor, teacher, or author, or use his/her materials.

Just to be clear, “not recommended” is a spectrum. On one end of this spectrum are people like Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth and Kay Arthur. These are people I would not label as false teachers because their doctrine is generally sound, but because of some red flags I’m seeing with them, you won’t find me proactively endorsing them or suggesting them as a good resource, either. There are better people you could be listening to. On the other end of the spectrum are people like Joyce Meyer and Rachel Held Evans- complete heretics whose teachings, if believed, might lead you to an eternity in Hell. Most of the teachers I review fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum (leaning toward the latter).

If you’d like to check out some pastors and teachers I heartily recommend, click the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page.


Jennifer Rothschild
Not Recommended

Jennifer is “an author, speaker, Bible study teacher, wife and Mom. And, I happen to be blind.”

Jennifer habitually yokes with false teachers. She calls Beth Moore a “dear friend,” and has “teamed up with [Beth]…to lead national women’s conferences.” Beth wrote the foreword to Jennifer’s book, Lessons Learned in the Dark and endorsed Jennifer’s bookMe, Myself, and Lies on her own blog.

Jennifer’s conference ministry, Fresh Grounded Faith, features false and problematic teachers such as Lysa TerKeurst, Ann Voskamp, Liz Curtis Higgs, Karen Kingsbury, Angie Smith, and Sheila Walsh as regular speakers.

Among the other connections and yokings Jennifer has with these teachers (and others), which are too numerous to list…

Lysa TerKeurst has endorsed at least two of Jennifer’s books, Missing Pieces and God is Just Not Fair. Jennifer has been featured on Lysa’s Proverbs 31 website multiple times, including featuring her book Psalm 23: The Shepherd with Me as an online study.

Ann Voskamp (whom Jennifer calls a “dear, dear friend in the introduction to a guest post Ann wrote for Jennifer’s blog) also endorsed Jennifer’s book, God is Just Not Fair, has appeared on Jennifer’s podcast, and is featured on Jennifer’s website multiple times (likewise Sheila Walsh).

Jennifer was a contributing author to the study, The Faithful, alongside Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Kelly Minter, and Lisa Harper.

Jennifer is scheduled to appear with Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Kelly Minter, and others at a 2020 LifeWay Women Live event.

Though the general posture of Jennifer’s teaching, conferences, and materials is geared toward women, Jennifer has no problem violating Scripture by preaching to men at her speaking engagements. Her website says she “speaks 25-30 times per year to groups – mostly women.”

And Jennifer’s Fresh Grounded Faith website clearly says on the FAQ page:

What if my husband or son wants to attend with me?
This is a women’s event and all of the facilities are structured to cater to women. On occasion, you’ll see a few men in the audience and that’s okay with us.

Karrie, who runs the instant chat feature on Jennifer’s website confirmed this when I asked about it: “We definitely have had men attend with their wives etc. We have no problem with that. As long as they know it is geared towards women. We even have men on the platform sharing in worship and in ministry.”

The way both of these responses are worded and presented seems to indicate that women preaching to men as a violation of Scripture is not even a factor to consider for Jennifer and her staff when it comes to whether or not men should attend Jennifer’s conferences. They aren’t twisting Scripture to defend allowing men to attend, it feels more like they don’t know Scripture prohibits women from preaching to men. The answer they have presented gives the sense of, “There may not be a men’s restroom easily available, and men might not like this conference because the swag and the content of the teaching will be pink and girly, but as long as they’re aware of those things and they still want to come, they’re welcome!”. This is troubling because, if Jennifer and her staff firmly stood behind Scripture on this issue, it would be very easy for the FAQ page and Karrie to simply say something like, “In compliance with Scripture, Jennifer does not teach men. Therefore, her conferences are restricted to women only.” But they don’t even make that small effort.

In addition to writing and speaking, Jennifer also runs a ministry to women in leadership, WomensMinistry.net, which, commendably, is geared toward women who lead women’s ministries in their churches (rather than toward women who unbiblically assume the position of pastor, elder, etc.). Most of the (free) information on the site seems to be practical help and tips for leading a women’s ministry, which, of course, is not out of line with Scripture. However, I did notice two things which gave me pause.

First, while the vast majority of the wording on the site led me to believe this ministry is about equipping women who lead women’s ministries, there were a few sentences sprinkled across the site that didn’t seem to make sense if this is all strictly about women’s ministry:

“If you are a woman in ministry leadership, including women’s ministry…” (What forms of “ministry leadership” are included besides women’s ministry?)

“[If] Your heart’s desire is to: See women, men and children come to know the Lord…Connect with fellow women’s ministry leaders and women in ministry.” (What does men coming to know the Lord have to do with women’s ministry? What does “women in ministry” mean, since she has differentiated it from “fellow women’s ministry leaders”?)

I don’t want to draw any definitive conclusions from these few statements. Perhaps it was just a poor choice of wording. Maybe “including women’s ministry” and “women in ministry” is referring to women who teach children or a work in a parachurch pro-life ministry or something like that. Maybe “see…men…come to know the Lord” means that leading women well will enable wives to share the gospel with their unsaved husbands at home. I don’t know. I just find it confusing and unclear, especially since Jennifer has no problem with men attending her conferences to be taught by her and other women.

Of greater concern than these examples of (hopefully) poor wording, is the Prayer Journal offered as a downloadable free resource. The text of the journal is based on the usual out of context misunderstanding of Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God.” Indeed, many of the Scriptures in the journal are taken out of context and misunderstood.) and goes on to teach “listening prayer,” a form of the unbiblical practice of contemplative prayer:

“He wanted me to ‘Be Still’. He didn’t want me to just have a prayer time with Him where I was doing all of the talking. He wanted to have a conversation with me. He wanted me to “listen” to what He had to say.” p.3

Though the author does say, “I am not talking about an audible voice from the Lord, but a gentle whisper, or a still, small voice that you hear within your heart.” (p.3- this allusion to God’s “still small voice” is an out of context misunderstanding of 1 Kings 19:12), she includes in the journal a long section entitled A Guide to Listening to God (p. 17-18) with verbiage that completely contradicts her own statement:

…God continues to speak to me. Since that first time I heard God’s voice…It has been important when I talk to God that I listen as He speaks to me. It is a two way conversation…Prayer is a dialogue with God, not a monologue.

This section also includes quotes from Priscilla Shirer and Henry Blackaby.

In the section “Four ways to measure if God is speaking” only the first could be considered biblical (and only if you consider extra-biblical revelation to be a doctrinally sound Christian practice, which it is not). The others are completely subjective and feelings-based:
1. Does what you hear align with God’s word?
2. Confirmation is received through a worship service or Bible study.
3. A Christian friend listens, prays for you, and agrees with what God might be saying.
4. Personal experience, a “God Moment”.

Later in the journal, in one suggested prayer for the lost, the author presumptuously speaks for God, providing His “answer” to the prayer:

“‘Lord, I am overwhelmed with memorizing Bible verses to share with a lost person.’ (God’s reply) ‘Just tell them my words of John 3:16. Love, God .’” p.25

Jennifer may not have written the prayer journal herself, but offering it as a resource from her ministry indicates that she has read it, approves of it, and believes it will be helpful to the people who receive and use it.

One of my readers, Holly, commented on Jennifer’s study Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything:

I picked up her Hosea study to do with two dear sisters in Christ. After one day of us starting, we were texting each other about unbiblical teachings in it.

The book came across as all God can do is love, He doesn’t have a choice, and weaving US into the story of Hosea and Gomer. We quit the study, and sent our books back to Amazon. Blessed are we, they gave us a refund.

The contemplative prayer is just like Lysa [TerKeurst] and Priscilla [Shirer].

Jennifer seems like a lovely person who has admirably overcome the challenges in her life and has a genuine desire for women to know and grow in the Lord, but with the unbiblical ministry relationships and theologies she holds, I cannot recommend her teaching, conferences, or materials to you.

Basic Training, Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

Originally published May 26, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

When I was a little girl, I remember one of my Sunday School teachers saying, “Prayer is just talking to God.” With all the complex, confusing, convoluted, and even conflicting resources out there today on prayer, that sounds rather simplistic to our adult ears, but it’s still the best definition of prayer I’ve ever heard. Prayer is, indeed, simply talking to God.

And, along with studying God’s word and being a faithful member of a local church, it’s one of the three legs of the stool we call sanctification, or growth in Christ. Yet prayer is the leg that tends to be most neglected in our churches, our families, and our personal walk with the Lord.

Why is that? Why don’t we want to sit down and just talk – no frills, no weird machinations, just talk – to the most interesting, powerful, loving, and kind Being in the universe? If you received an invitation to sit down and chat with the President, your favorite celebrity, or a long lost loved one, you’d jump at the chance, right? I would, too. So what is it about our broken brains and hardened hearts that causes us to say, “Nah, not today,” to a simple monologue with our King? Those broken brains have learned some unbiblical things about prayer, and those hardened hearts have some ungodly attitudes toward prayer.

1. We don’t NEED God enough
Western Christians are pretty prosperous and self-sufficient people. We don’t have to cry out to God to provide food so we don’t starve. We have jobs and grocery stores. We don’t have to pray that we won’t be arrested for reading our Bibles or going to church, because that’s not happening where we live (yet). Except in the most dire of circumstances, we don’t have to plead with God to heal. We have doctors, hospitals, and medicine. Don’t get me wrong, those are all tremendous blessings, but one of the pitfalls of being blessed is that we start trusting in the blessing rather than trusting in the Blesser. And when that happens, we tend to pray less often and more superficially. Daily prayer is part of our battle to be dependent on God.

2. We’re idolaters
My husband’s uncle used to say, “You do what you want to do.” In other words, you spend your time and resources on the things you value most. I’m a Type A personality: workaholic, git ‘er done, ain’t got time to die. One of the reasons I neglect my own prayer time is that I don’t want to take time out of my busy schedule to stop and do nothing but pray. When I operate that way, I’m demonstrating that I don’t want to pray- that I love something else more than I love obeying God and spending time with Him. That’s idolatry.

3. We don’t trust God and His prescribed methods
When we’re in need, when we want to commune with God, when we want to grow in holiness, God’s way is for us to pray. Not climb the highest mountain or offer some amazing sacrifice or fulfill a bunch of items on a checklist- pray. But, to our fleshly hearts, this just doesn’t compute. It’s not enough. We’ve got to conjure up our own efforts and do something worthy of God acting on our behalf. Our hearts don’t trust God enough to simply take Him at His word, bring all of our requests to Him, and believe that He will take care of us. We don’t pray because we don’t trust God to follow through on His Word.

4. “Fervency” in prayer is qualitative, not quantitative
Sometimes we get it into our heads that being “fervent” in prayer means we have to constantly voice that prayer over and over in order to get God to give in and do what we want Him to do. But God’s provision isn’t dependent on our prayers. He truly does know what we need before we ask. In other words, you could stop praying right this minute for that thing you desperately want, and never pray about it again, and God is not going to forget that that’s what you want, or move it to a lower priority level on His prayer-answering list, or punish you by denying your request simply because you stopped praying about it. There are things God blesses us with that we’ve never spent a moment praying for. There are things we stop praying for that God finally gives us years later. And there are things we pray constantly for that God says “no” about. God is going to do what is best for you and what brings Him the most glory, and that doesn’t hinge on whether you pray about that specific thing every day or not. “Fervency” doesn’t mean repetition. It means an intense trust and dependence on God to do what is right in His eyes in response to your prayer. Sometimes it helps to examine a few good translations side by side:

5. Prayer isn’t a letter to Santa Claus
Back in the stone age of my childhood there used to be this thing called the Sears catalog. It was kind of like Amazon, but on paper. Every year, a few months before Christmas, they would publish their “Wish Book” edition that had all the toys in it. My sister and I would go through that catalog and circle all the things we wanted for Christmas and then hand it back to my parents, hoping that, this year, we’d get everything we asked for (and we asked for practically everything).

If this is how you approach prayer, you’re doing it wrong. God is not looking for you to provide Him with a list of stuff your greedy little heart desires so He can wrap it up in a bow and leave it under your tree. He’s not a wish-fulfillment center.

6. Weird stuff and unbiblical beliefs- knock it off
♦ Prayer is not a two-way conversation. We talk to God through prayer. He talks to us through His all-sufficient Word. Yes, while you’re praying, the Holy Spirit may remind you of Scripture that’s relevant to what you’re praying about, or bring to mind someone you should pray for, or you might think of a way you can help or bless someone, but prayer is not a dialogue. You don’t say your piece and then sit there and wait for God to say something back. That’s often called listening prayer or contemplative prayer, and it’s unbiblical. Likewise soaking prayer, sozo prayer, etc. In fact, if you see the word “prayer” preceded by an adjective not found in Scripture, it’s most likely not biblical.

♦ Prayer doesn’t require any special accessories. You don’t need to draw a circle to stand in, build a “war room,” blow a shofar, stroke a prayer cloth, or lay your hands on a prayer list, picture, object, etc. Scripture doesn’t tell us to do any of these things, and many of them are patently unbiblical.

♦ Prayer is not about you doing something, it’s about humbly beseeching God to do something. Nowhere in Scripture does God say that the purpose of prayer is for us to assert any power over anything through our words. He does not give us the authority to “bind” Satan, demons, or anything else, or “decree” or “declare” anything as though we could make something happen by doing so. These are false and unbiblical teachings of the heretical Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements.

7. Watch your language
♦ Having a “private prayer language” (speaking in “tongues”) as it is practiced today has zero basis in Scripture. None. When the disciples point blank asked Jesus to teach them to pray, there wasn’t a single “honda shonda” in His instructions, and nothing in Scripture says your prayers will be more meaningful to you or more likely to be heard by God if they’re in gibberish than if they’re in your native, real language.

♦ If you grew up fundie or old school, you might feel like you have to use “King James” lingo when you pray. You don’t. If you want to use “thee’s” and “thou’s” when you pray, you can, but you don’t have to. You can use the same vocabulary – respectful and pure speech, of course – you’d use when talking to a friend or loved one.

♦ If you’re tacking the phrase “in Jesus’ name” on to your decreeing and declaring and binding and rebuking as some sort of way to harness the power of God into making your words a reality, you’re taking God’s name in vain because you’re doing the same thing witches and pagans do when they use incantations and cast spells. “In Jesus’ name” isn’t the Christian version of “abracadabra.” To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray that what God wants – not what we want – will be done.

8. It isn’t about getting what we want. It’s about God getting what He wants.
We tend to think of prayer as a means to an end that centers around us. It’s a time to tell God what we want and need and for Him to fulfill those wants and needs, and that’s that. But is that how God thinks about prayer? God tells us to come to Him, to present our requests to Him, ask Him for daily bread, forgiveness, give thanks to Him, and a number of other things. But we also know that He is sovereign. He already knows what we need and what’s best for us, and He does what He pleases. So if God knows better than we do what we need, and if He’s going to do whatever He wants anyway, why bother praying, right?

We say things like that because we think the point of prayer is to get God to do what we want Him to do. But it’s not. The point of prayer is for God to get us to do what He wants us to do. He wants us to pray, not because He needs a “honey do” list, but because coming back to Him time and time again in prayer teaches us to depend on Him and trust Him. It strengthens our understanding of His power and sovereignty. It grows us in humility and submission. It conforms our will and our wants to His. It reminds us of our sin and the cross. It keeps us from taking God’s blessings for granted as we thank and praise Him. It helps us to want what God wants more than what we want.

Ultimately, prayer is not about what we want God to do for us. It’s about what He wants to do in us. So bow your head and close your eyes and make that daily time communing with the Lord your highest priority. God working through prayer to conform you to the image of Christ? That’s not something you want to say, “Nah, not today,” to.


Additional Resources

Prayer

After this Manner, Therefore Pray

Can We Talk?

Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt

Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell

Basic Training, Prayer

Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

When I was a little girl, I remember one of my Sunday School teachers saying, “Prayer is just talking to God.” With all the complex, confusing, convoluted, and even conflicting resources out there today on prayer, that sounds rather simplistic to our adult ears, but it’s still the best definition of prayer I’ve ever heard. Prayer is, indeed, simply talking to God.

And, along with studying God’s word and being a faithful member of a local church, it’s one of the three legs of the stool we call sanctification, or growth in Christ. Yet prayer is the leg that tends to be most neglected in our churches, our families, and our personal walk with the Lord.

Why is that? Why don’t we want to sit down and just talk – no frills, no weird machinations, just talk – to the most interesting, powerful, loving, and kind Being in the universe? If you received an invitation to sit down and chat with the President, your favorite celebrity, or a long lost loved one, you’d jump at the chance, right? I would, too. So what is it about our broken brains and hardened hearts that causes us to say, “Nah, not today,” to a simple monologue with our King? Those broken brains have learned some unbiblical things about prayer, and those hardened hearts have some ungodly attitudes toward prayer.

1. We don’t NEED God enough
Western Christians are pretty prosperous and self-sufficient people. We don’t have to cry out to God to provide food so we don’t starve. We have jobs and grocery stores. We don’t have to pray that we won’t be arrested for reading our Bibles or going to church, because that’s not happening where we live (yet). Except in the most dire of circumstances, we don’t have to plead with God to heal. We have doctors, hospitals, and medicine. Don’t get me wrong, those are all tremendous blessings, but one of the pitfalls of being blessed is that we start trusting in the blessing rather than trusting in the Blesser. And when that happens, we tend to pray less often and more superficially. Daily prayer is part of our battle to be dependent on God.

2. We’re idolaters
My husband’s uncle used to say, “You do what you want to do.” In other words, you spend your time and resources on the things you value most. I’m a Type A personality: workaholic, git ‘er done, ain’t got time to die. One of the reasons I neglect my own prayer time is that I don’t want to take time out of my busy schedule to stop and do nothing but pray. When I operate that way, I’m demonstrating that I don’t want to pray- that I love something else more than I love obeying God and spending time with Him. That’s idolatry.

3. We don’t trust God and His prescribed methods
When we’re in need, when we want to commune with God, when we want to grow in holiness, God’s way is for us to pray. Not climb the highest mountain or offer some amazing sacrifice or fulfill a bunch of items on a checklist- pray. But, to our fleshly hearts, this just doesn’t compute. It’s not enough. We’ve got to conjure up our own efforts and do something worthy of God acting on our behalf. Our hearts don’t trust God enough to simply take Him at His word, bring all of our requests to Him, and believe that He will take care of us. We don’t pray because we don’t trust God to follow through on His Word.

4. “Fervency” in prayer is qualitative, not quantitative
Sometimes we get it into our heads that being “fervent” in prayer means we have to constantly voice that prayer over and over in order to get God to give in and do what we want Him to do. But God’s provision isn’t dependent on our prayers. He truly does know what we need before we ask. In other words, you could stop praying right this minute for that thing you desperately want, and never pray about it again, and God is not going to forget that that’s what you want, or move it to a lower priority level on His prayer-answering list, or punish you by denying your request simply because you stopped praying about it. There are things God blesses us with that we’ve never spent a moment praying for. There are things we stop praying for that God finally gives us years later. And there are things we pray constantly for that God says “no” about. God is going to do what is best for you and what brings Him the most glory, and that doesn’t hinge on whether you pray about that specific thing every day or not. “Fervency” doesn’t mean repetition. It means an intense trust and dependence on God to do what is right in His eyes in response to your prayer. Sometimes it helps to examine a few good translations side by side:

5. Prayer isn’t a letter to Santa Claus
Back in the stone age of my childhood there used to be this thing called the Sears catalog. It was kind of like Amazon, but on paper. Every year, a few months before Christmas, they would publish their “Wish Book” edition that had all the toys in it. My sister and I would go through that catalog and circle all the things we wanted for Christmas and then hand it back to my parents, hoping that, this year, we’d get everything we asked for (and we asked for practically everything).

If this is how you approach prayer, you’re doing it wrong. God is not looking for you to provide Him with a list of stuff your greedy little heart desires so He can wrap it up in a bow and leave it under your tree. He’s not a wish-fulfillment center.

6. Weird stuff and unbiblical beliefs- knock it off
♦ Prayer is not a two-way conversation. We talk to God through prayer. He talks to us through His all-sufficient Word. Yes, while you’re praying, the Holy Spirit may remind you of Scripture that’s relevant to what you’re praying about, or bring to mind someone you should pray for, or you might think of a way you can help or bless someone, but prayer is not a dialogue. You don’t say your piece and then sit there and wait for God to say something back. That’s often called listening prayer or contemplative prayer, and it’s unbiblical. Likewise soaking prayer, sozo prayer, etc. In fact, if you see the word “prayer” preceded by an adjective not found in Scripture, it’s most likely not biblical.

♦ Prayer doesn’t require any special accessories. You don’t need to draw a circle to stand in, build a “war room,” blow a shofar, stroke a prayer cloth, or lay your hands on a prayer list, picture, object, etc. Scripture doesn’t tell us to do any of these things, and many of them are patently unbiblical.

♦ Prayer is not about you doing something, it’s about humbly beseeching God to do something. Nowhere in Scripture does God say that the purpose of prayer is for us to assert any power over anything through our words. He does not give us the authority to “bind” Satan, demons, or anything else, or “decree” or “declare” anything as though we could make something happen by doing so. These are false and unbiblical teachings of the heretical Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements.

7. Watch your language
♦ Having a “private prayer language” (speaking in “tongues”) as it is practiced today has zero basis in Scripture. None. When the disciples point blank asked Jesus to teach them to pray, there wasn’t a single “honda shonda” in His instructions, and nothing in Scripture says your prayers will be more meaningful to you or more likely to be heard by God if they’re in gibberish than if they’re in your native, real language.

♦ If you grew up fundie or old school, you might feel like you have to use “King James” lingo when you pray. You don’t. If you want to use “thee’s” and “thou’s” when you pray, you can, but you don’t have to. You can use the same vocabulary – respectful and pure speech, of course – you’d use when talking to a friend or loved one.

♦ If you’re tacking the phrase “in Jesus’ name” on to your decreeing and declaring and binding and rebuking as some sort of way to harness the power of God into making your words a reality, you’re taking God’s name in vain because you’re doing the same thing witches and pagans do when they use incantations and cast spells. “In Jesus’ name” isn’t the Christian version of “abracadabra.” To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray that what God wants – not what we want – will be done.

8. It isn’t about getting what we want. It’s about God getting what He wants.
We tend to think of prayer as a means to an end that centers around us. It’s a time to tell God what we want and need and for Him to fulfill those wants and needs, and that’s that. But is that how God thinks about prayer? God tells us to come to Him, to present our requests to Him, ask Him for daily bread, forgiveness, give thanks to Him, and a number of other things. But we also know that He is sovereign. He already knows what we need and what’s best for us, and He does what He pleases. So if God knows better than we do what we need, and if He’s going to do whatever He wants anyway, why bother praying, right?

We say things like that because we think the point of prayer is to get God to do what we want Him to do. But it’s not. The point of prayer is for God to get us to do what He wants us to do. He wants us to pray, not because He needs a “honey do” list, but because coming back to Him time and time again in prayer teaches us to depend on Him and trust Him. It strengthens our understanding of His power and sovereignty. It grows us in humility and submission. It conforms our will and our wants to His. It reminds us of our sin and the cross. It keeps us from taking God’s blessings for granted as we thank and praise Him. It helps us to want what God wants more than what we want.

Ultimately, prayer is not about what we want God to do for us. It’s about what He wants to do in us. So bow your head and close your eyes and make that daily time communing with the Lord your highest priority. God working through prayer to conform you to the image of Christ? That’s not something you want to say, “Nah, not today,” to.


Additional Resources

Prayer

After this Manner, Therefore Pray

Can We Talk?

Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt

Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell