The theology Charla grew up in goes by many names: word-faith, word of faith, name it and claim it, the health and wealth gospel, and prosperity gospel. This “gospel” teaches that we can speak things into existence — blessings, money, and healing. If you can name it, you claim it. I (Hillary F.) met Charla when I visited a Christian bookstore after speaking in North Carolina. Her heart for the Lord was clearly evident, and her story about coming out from the prosperity gospel worldview was compelling. I asked if she would be interested in sharing with our Mama Bear crew what this teaching did to her and what she has been learning since. I hope her story resonates with you all like it did with me.
When Fear Infiltrates Prayer, by Charla Matthews
My journey as a Christ-follower was consumed with more questions than answers, which set the scene for God to reveal a problem with my prayer life.
Seated at my writing desk, I pulled a piece of heavy-weight notebook paper from a file and began recording my words of prayer followed by a passage of Scripture. Turning to Scripture is a spiritual discipline that I use for walking in the peace of God; it calms the storms in my spirit. The passage I wrote that day was John 16:23-24.
“In that day, you will not question me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in my name, He will give it to you. Until now, you have asked for nothing in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”
Normally, after I write down the Scripture after my prayer, I put away my journal and move forward with my day. But Jesus’ words in John 16 did not feel peaceful to me that day. In fact, I felt kind of rattled. So much so that I chose to linger a while in silence, yearning to understand the cause of my discontent.
I resisted a word study and left my commentaries on the shelf. I simply felt led by the Holy Spirit to wait on the Lord and read the passage again. I noticed that reading the words in my name caused a stir in my spirit, but not the good kind. I didn’t bristle exactly; I kind of shied away. I desired the fullness of joy promised in His Words, but joy was not what I felt.
A simple question whispered in faith. A simple answer revealed the truth of my heart. The tethers of bondage were applied so subtly and so long ago that I hadn’t even known they were there. I turned back to my paper and penned these words:
Father, I allowed fear to infiltrate my life…for years. Oh. My. Soul. My time under false teaching…it still has a weed in my spirit doesn’t it? They used “in My name” as a formula — a mystic spell or incantation — for prosperity, status, bossing You around. They used Your name, Jesus, for personal gain. They reduced Your holiness to a ticket for claiming goods and self-glory. They hurt the hurting. They impoverished the poor. They bankrupted the spirits of so many in need; they still do. I was so afraid of speaking, “in Jesus’ name” in an unholy motivation that I stopped. You opened my eyes to see. Wow.”
You see, for several years I sat under a slithery and deceptive false teaching. Some call it Word of Faith. Others call it the prosperity gospel. Those who know the truth call it false doctrine. (Hillary and Amy addressed these doctrines in their podcasts about #WakeUpOlive and Todd White).
God delivered me from the Word of Faith lies more than 10 years ago, yet there I sat bound by fear and limited in prayer.
It’s not that I never said “in Jesus’ name” when I prayed; it’s that I limited my use of those words out of fear. I can try to explain it, but only God really knows how my prayers were limited because of my fear of misusing the name of my Savior.
However, I am a living testimony to the words of God through Paul the Apostle:
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:26-28, NASB)
Father, I allowed fear to infiltrate my life…for years. Oh. My. Soul. They used 'in my name' as a formula — a mystic spell or incantation — for prosperity, status, bossing you around. They used your name, Jesus, for personal gain. Click To TweetWhen God exposed the evil of their teachings and the error my ways, my spirit fractured in humiliation and fright. I confessed my fall, the deception perpetrated by the Word of Faith movement, the lie that anyone has the right to command the One True God, in any manner. I repented of the lie I had believed that ANYONE could 'command' the One True God. #wordoffaith Click To Tweet
God set me on a journey under the banner of Absolute Truth. He redeemed my time under false teaching and used it to glorify Him in truth. I know the difference now between using Jesus’ name in an unholy way and speaking the name of Jesus from a pure heart of truth.
The Word of Faith gospel negates one three-letter word, which is found in the words of Christ in John 16:23-24: ask. Jesus instructed His people to ask in His Name. The Word of Faith doctrine teaches people to command God (i.e. declare it to be so) and then use the name of Jesus as the “passcode” for getting whatever it is they desire. Like Santa Clause or a genie in a bottle. Wiggle your nose and declare that God will do something, and poof! He will do it.
A relationship defined by commanding others defies relationship, right? Contrast that with a relationship defined by asking questions in faith and receiving answers in love. The latter elevates the relationship; it acknowledged that the answers come from the One who knows all and has our best interest at heart. There is a difference between a relationship built on commanding, and one based on asking in faith. #wordoffaith Click To Tweet
Let me give you an example to clarify the point. I recently received a phone call where I learned of a sizeable (and unexpected) debt. Debt that I would have to pay in the midst of my husband’s job loss and medical crisis. If I followed the command-formula of the Word of Faith doctrine, my prayer would have sounded something like this:
“Father, I have a financial need and your Word tells me to come boldly to your throne with my need. Your Word also tells me to ask anything of you in Jesus’ name in faith that you will grant my request. So, in Jesus’ name, I need (insert any amount of money) and I expect to see it in my bank account in time to make that payment. I thank you for answering my prayer spoken in faith and according to your Word; because you tell me to remind you of your promises to your people. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen. So be it. I declare in faith, it is done.”
Instead, this is how I prayed according to Jesus’ teaching:
“Father, I come to you in Jesus’ name because He made the way for me be your child and seek your will. It’s true I feel overwhelmed and my tears testify to that fact. But my tears do not reduce the power of my faith in you. You hear. You know. You care. How will this debt be paid? I don’t know but You do. You own all, and I am yours. I know you will show me your way, and until I know your answer, I will continue with the tasks at hand. Thank you for access to you through prayer, and thank you for the way you choose to answer.”
Just consider how this story began. I asked my Father the simple question, “What does that mean?”
When I pray in Jesus’ name now, there is a holy and sacred pause because of who He is. We, His followers, are taught to place our faith in Him, to ask, and to know that He hears and will respond. Praying in Jesus’ name reminds me — turns my heart toward — the merciful truth of who He is and what He did for me.
My prayer life is more powerful and more sacred because of who I am in — and because of — Christ.
Charla Matthews is a sojourner in Christ who seeks to listen to — and obey — the single Voice of Truth. She thrives on communicating God’s Word through teaching and writing. Charla enjoys a good belly laugh, gets misty-eyed during profound moments with God, and strives for quality living with family and friends. Above all else, she loves Jesus without shame. Connect with Charla on her website, Truth in the Midst.
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