We should all pray a lot. Pastors end up praying quite often, which is a great thing to get to do for people.
I can remember early on in my ministry, right after seminary especially, I worked hard to get my prayers theologically correct. I wouldn’t want to pray heresy!
What happened is my prayers were often extremely nuanced. They’d be pulled back a bit. They’d go in and out, have escape clauses and be filled with every single possibility.
That was wrong. It’s the wrong way to pray. We need to trust God to handle all the nuances, and also to not give us what we want. But we can pray for what we want. We can ask God to bless us! That’s what the psalmist asks. He writes, “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” (Psalm 67:6–7)
He looks back at what God has done. He’s given increase. And he asks for more. God, please give us more increase! Then everyone will know that it’s from you.
Think about that. They’re in this agrarian society. Technology isn’t high. They can’t spray pesticides on the crops, and they don’t have any tractors to gather the yield. It’s their hard, hard work. Early mornings. Late nights. Long days in the hot sun.
They have to work their tails off, but they also need God to come through. They need the right amount of rain and sun. They need the seeds to work. They need the pests to stay away.
God provides those things, and they ask him for more. They promise to give him the credit and then they pray that that will be something others will notice.
I remember visiting a church one Sunday where they had a standard prayer they prayed every week connected to the tithe. Everyone knew it. We prayed for prosperity in all its forms. The phrase that sticks out to me the most is that we prayed for “checks in the mail.” If you google checks in the mail prayers, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
These are “confessions of prosperity.” One goes this way,
“Since I seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all the things I need in life are added to me. God has already supplied all my needs according to His riches in Glory. God is my source. I declare that Jehovah Jireh is my source, He has seen and already provided. I am a tither and I give offerings, I have submitted to the Word of God. I am a doer of the Word of God. I am set under authority. I now speak to those under my authority. Satan go! Angels come! I say to one “go” and he goes, and I say to one “come” and he comes, do this and he does it. SICKNESS GO!! HEALING COME!! LACK GO!! FINANCES COME!! PLENTY COME!! RUNNING OVER COME!! FEAR GO!! SOUND MIND COME!! DEPRESSION GO!! SOUND MIND AND PEACE COME!! BETTER JOBS COME!! RAISES COME!! PROMOTION COME!! INCREASE COME!! I speak to lack, lack of finances, lack of clothing, I speak to you, lack of transportation, I speak to you!! If God be for me, you cannot be against me. Be removed from my life and be cast into the sea. Provision, food, finances, bill money, tax money, rent money, favor, increase, I speak to you. “Come into my life now!! Come into the life of my family. Financial blessings come upon me and overtake me.”
I don’t know much about this church. They’re not here to defend themselves, so it’s not really fair for me to pick on them. So I want to be generous and kind as much as possible.
I’d like to politely say that I don’t think this is really what Jesus and the Bible are talking about. This health and wealth prosperity gospel are not a guaranteed formula or inherent in Christianity.
However, I also think that people from my tribe perhaps go too far the other way. We want prosperity, but we just don’t say it out loud! We actually think all these things, we’re just not as bold to put them in our prayers. So we’re actually far more dishonest.
What if we asked God to bless us and were specific about it? What if we really did pray that God would take care of us? What if we applied this psalm to our situations and lives and jobs and callings?
What if we really meant it when we sang “Happy Birthday”? We do want to have happy birthdays. These are blessings we’re proclaiming on people. We’re not asking for sad or honest or vulnerable birthdays. We want happy ones. Check out the “Blessing” Happy Birthday, Happy Everyday song by the Japanese anime “band” Vocaloids.
What if we tried to imagine what the future would be like if God answered all of our prayers with a “Yes!” Sure, many of them he answers with a “No” or a “Not yet” or a “I’m not telling you.” We can handle that, and we do. But what would a “Yes!” look like. He does delight to give his children good gifts. So let’s pray for them.
Let’s think about what his blessing might look like in our lives, and then what the result of that might be. When you think about God blessing you, are you factoring in that others might know and love him because of it? Are you imagining a bigger and bigger house with more and more toys and tons of vacation time and the best clothes and the newest gadgets? Or are you imagining that more and more people know about Jesus’ rescuing and redeeming love, that your life is more and more full with new relationships, that you’re giving away more than you ever thought possible because you’re content with having fewer and fewer things and the kingdom is growing and growing?
So now when I pray, I pray in a much more trusting, imaginative way. It’s not less theological. In fact it’s more. I get that God may say no. We all know that. But I’m trusting him, like a child coming to him asking him to come through. As I do that more, my prayers deepen and grow. They expand into more blessing, not less. I’m not less cynical when I don’t get what I asked for. I’m more in touch with him and the way he thinks and works. I don’t fully understand. How could I? But I ask, and I’d ask that you ask for blessing too. Maybe there will be checks in the mail!