There is No Power of Prayer

Things with wrong names cannot be correctly understood. Everything must be named truthfully, accurately, precisely, so that people will not take phrases and bastardize their meaning and believe lies, perhaps without even being conscious of it. For the follower of Jesus the Christ of God, it is even more important than for the pre-Christian Confucian for names to be rectified, lest we all act of the basis of lies we do not know we believe. There is no sufficient mediator of true meaning without scrupulously accurate language.

My target phrase this summer is “the power of prayer”. I do not believe in such a thing, because it is unequivocally not the way that God portrays prayer in Scripture. Read of Elijah, of Elisha, of David, of Daniel. Had prayer any power of its own? See for yourself: there is none, because prayer is not magic. Attempting to magic harder will be of no avail. Because of this, I will speak no more of “the power of prayer”: instead I shall speak of God’s mighty faithfulness.

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3 responses to “There is No Power of Prayer

  1. well i think thats kind of implicit when you say “power of prayer” within the christian community.

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  2. For people who grew up in orthodox churches with solid teaching, this isn’t much of a problem, but for those who didn’t, it may cause some confusion, usually not in the prosperity theology sense but in other ways that lead to disappointment. Even for those who did, though, it makes meditating on the concept easier if we throw as much emphasis as possible on explicit recognition of what God does.

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  3. I’m smiling reading this because I’ve been frustrated many times by these evangelical catch-phrases. Prayer alone is not enough – many people of all kinds of denominations pray. Unitarians pray, Catholics pray, Arminians pray, Calvinists pray.

    This reminds me of a small interview I read in Modern Reformation. I believe it was something to the effect of: “We’re not saved by faith… We’re saved by grace through faith.”

    The precision of language is of utmost importance. It’s dangerous when we want to unify through these experiential moments (prayer groups, prayer movements, etc.) and don’t define our terms, i.e., the emergent church.

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