Too many religious leaders today are making a big mistake in their teachings, and thus leading millions of people astray. This "health and prosperity" religion is extremely appealing, but is it Scriptural? Does God truly promise to answer our every request, no matter how frivolous or shallow or self-centered it may be? Is that truly God's purpose? Do we really want to reduce Him to some supernatural Santa Claus, just waiting for us to present Him with our "wish list"?
One of the most convincing Scriptures these preachers use is found in Matthew 21:22, and repeated in Mark 11:24:
"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
But this passage cannot be taken as a guaranteed promise of certain and absolute fulfillment. Jesus here is laying down a broad general rule, not giving a blanket guarantee. In claiming the promise of this verse, we must be guided by other Scriptures. The rule is, indeed, liberal and gracious, and the limitations are just and reasonable. We must not expect to obtain that which it is unlawful for us to desire (James 4:2-3), or which it is unwise for us to seek (2 Cor. 12:7-9), nor must we selfishly run counter to the will of God (Luke 22:42; 1 John 5:14-15), nor must we expect God to perform a miracle for us. In short, we must pray to God in full remembrance of the relationship between us, we must consider that He is the Ruler and we are His subjects. We are not to think for one moment that by faith we can alter His eternal plan.
Another one of the foundational Scriptures these religionists preach is John 14:13:
"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."
But do you see the requirement here? We must pray in Christ's name. That means being in obedience to His will, and with an eye to His glory, and for things agreeable to His will, and for things which He, in His wisdom, sees are good for us. If our prayers are for our own comfort and prosperity, is God being glorified? Or are we just turning Him into a some sort of cosmic genie, ready to grant all our wishes?
To pray in Christ's name, is more than to just invoke His name at the end of our prayer, like some kind of good-luck charm. It implies three things:
- That we realize that Christ purchased for us this privilege: for it is by the blood of Christ that we draw near to God, and that the throne of grace is open for us.
- That to pray in the name of Christ, is to pray in the strength of Christ, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit of Christ.
- That to pray in the name of Christ, is to pray in the firm belief that Christ mediates for us; believing that what we ask on earth, Christ obtains in heaven.
Also, the Bible is clear that repentence is one of the requirements for God to hear our prayers. Ps 66:18 tells us if we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us. Isaiah 59:2 also says that our iniquities stand between us and God, and cause Him to hide His face from us, so that He will not hear or answer our prayer. God will not be mocked. He wants His children to draw near to Him in prayer, but we have to do it His way, not ours. That means in humility, with a penitant and obedient heart, not a list of demands for our personal riches and happiness.
Another one of the Scriptures often used for this "health and prosperity" philosophy is found in James 4:2:
"You have not, because you ask not."
But look: they are taking only a tiny portion of that Scripture, and using it out of context. The full verse says:
"You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not." The meaning is, that they do not obtain the happiness they desire, so they seek to get it through strife and and even violence, instead of relying upon the providence and goodness of God to provide their needs.
Every person is born with a deep spiritual need inside them--- a need that only God can fill. Many try to fill it with other things, and this particular false religion is certainly an appealing one. They like it, because it doesn't require anything on their part: just pray in faith, and you will receive everything you ask for. But God does require something on our part: obedience. Over and over, throughout the Bible, that is made clear. Obedience is the key to receiving God's richest blessings.
The people who adhere to this "health and wealth" religion don't read the whole Bible; it seems they just pick the parts that appeal to them, and ignore the rest. "God is love", they say, "He wants to give His very best." Well, yes, God IS love, the Bible tells us that. That is His nature, and that is His attitude toward us. And He does want us to have His best. In fact, He gave us His very best, when He sent His Son, Jesus, to die an agonizing death on the cross to pay for our sins. But He still requires our obedience. And we have to pray then according to His will. The very next verse in James tells us:
"You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts."
When our prayers are for self-centered purposes, we are asking amiss. We are not praying in God's will; we are only seeking what we want, what we think is best.
One of their most misleading, and mistaken, philosophies is that God does only good things, never bad. God may allow bad things, but he doesn't MAKE them happen. Unfortunately, that is not quite the whole story. Understand this: God Is SOVEREIGN! He does as He wills. Do we call Him Lord, yet refuse to believe that He knows what He is doing when bad things happens in our lives? Do we accept only good from His hand? Shouldn't we trust Him enough to know that He is ultimately in control of whatever is happening?
God does not always choose to heal, for instance, although He certainly is able to. But sometimes His purpose is not to heal, and we have to understand that. Miracles are His to command, not ours to demand. And yes, sometimes God does things that we see as "bad". But maybe what we see as bad is not really bad, if we could see it from God's eyes. He is God; He is Sovereign. He is omnipotent, and omniscient; all knowing and all powerful. He knows what He is doing, and we do not.
Does God do bad things? Who are we, that we dare to call what He does bad? Look at these Scriptures, for instance:
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. (Deut. 32:39)
If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. (Deut 32:41-42)
All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased. Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee. (Jer. 30:14)
If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (II Chron. 7:13-14)
We see in these verses (and there are many, many more!) that the Sovereign and Almighty GOD will wound, or kill, or take His vengeance, making His arrows "drunk with blood" and His sword "devour the flesh". He will, at His divine discretion, cause drought, or pestilance or famine. God is SOVEREIGN, which means He, and He alone, is in full control of everything that happens, good or bad. Illness, death, natural disasters, even bad things that are committed by bad people, are fully under God's control. And every single thing that happens serves HIS purpose, not necessarily ours! Do we still dare to call the things He does "bad"?
Do not misunderstand: GOD DOES NOT DO EVIL. He sometimes, for His own good purpose, allows evil to happen. But we can rest assured that everything God does is ultimately good. He is good; He does good; He does not do evil. Yet He allows evil to be done, to serve His own purposes.
Stop and reason for a minute: If God is not in control of the bad things that happen, who is? The devil? If so, that would make him more powerful than God. No way! Then God wouldn't really be God, would He? What about bad people, doing bad things? Are they alone in control of themselves and their actions? Nope; God uses them to accomplish His own purposes. No way are they more powerful than God; no way does anything they plan succeed, unless God allows it for His own divine reasons, to accomplish His own divine purposes.
If we were to belive He did not allow it, we would have to conclude that the forces of evil are more powerful than the Almighty, Sovereign God, the Great I Am. This is not so, never has been so, never will be so. He, and only he rules all of creation, and every created thing.
For instance, who hardened Pharoah's heart, so that he would not release the children of Israel from bondage? (Ex. 7:13, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20) Or who hardened the heart of Sihon, the king of Heshbon? (Deut. 2:30) Who hardened the people's hearts, so that they did not have the proper fear of the Lord? (Is. 63:17) In each of these, people did wrong things, but it was the Sovereign God who hardened their hearts, to accomplish His own purposes.
So, if God is love, why do bad things to happen to His children? We have to realize, to understand in our very hearts, that any bad thing that touches us is filtered through His hands of love, and happens for His divine purpose. Why would He allow His Holy city to be overthrown and His chosen people to be taken into captivity? Because of their disobedience, naturally...... but even more so, to make them turn once more to Him, crying out their repentence and asking for His mercy. Did He give it? You betcha. But they still had to face the consequences of their disobedience. As will we.
We may never understand it in this lifetime, but there is a reason for every single bad thing that happens in our lives, otherwise a loving God would not allow them. Maybe the answer is simply this: the things that God does, which seem bad to us, are not necessarily bad. Did you ever stop to think that the things we consider bad are actually good, because they cause us to turn to God and rely on Him? Nothing makes us get more serious about seeking God than a sudden catastrophy in our life.
The Bible tells us in Isaiah 55:8:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
We cannot begin to fathom the purposes of God. His ways, His purposes, His thoughts and plans are so far above us, we can barely grasp them. Let us be content in understanding that God is Sovereign, He is in control of every thing that happens, and He loves us with a never-ending love. Therefore, anything that happens will be for His divine purpose; it will ultimately result in our good and His glory. Let's allow Him to be GOD, rather than try to make Him into a fairy godmother who seeks to grant our every wish.