Miracle or magic: Dilemma of the prayer warrior

 

By Gbenga Osinaike
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if God is our errand boy or our Lord. The average church goer has been trained to believe that God has a responsibility to do as he wishes. So, when he prays he bombards God with a list of prayer requests and also goes ahead to give a time line. Father do it before the sun goes down. Father send help now. Lord I want you to bail me out of this crisis today. You must do it now. Let the people know that I serve a living God. Father this suffering is too much. Send a helper my way and take away my reproach before 4 pm. You are taking too long o Lord! Come to my help now. If you come tomorrow it will be too late. Lord I am going to get a visa, let it not elude me. Today as I step out, all that I desire would come to pass. I will not suffer again. Pain is not my portion. The prayer can go on and on.

The bottom line of these requests is that we want God to intervene in our personal needs and desires. It does not matter what plans he has for us. We must get that visa. We must get that help at the time we indicated. The sun must not go down before our needs are met.
Man at every point in time does not want to wait. We want to see God’s hand manifest our lives at our command. We want the day to become night and perhaps the night to become day.

To meet the quest of people for miracles, many churches have gone the extra mile to create special services. There are breakthrough services where requests are presented before God and he is expected to place his thumb on those requests and give a yes answer. Thus, we have slogans like: My night of miracle, 24-hour miracle. Some men of God have gone further to say: If you don’t get your miracle in the next six months it shows God has not called me.

No praying man or woman wants to take no for an answer. It must be done because God is a prayer answering God. And not only that it must be done at the pace and time dictated by the person praying. It must be done “tonight” Scriptures that readily comes to play is: You shall decree a thing and it shall come to pass. Such prayer warriors go further to quote; Command ye me concerning the works of my hand and I will answer you and then he gives the example of how Joshua stopped the sun from going down.

By and large man seems to be at the control end of the entire universe. The elements are at his command. Yet, it seems as we do this the very essence of prayers is lost and it seems that what we call prayers may not necessarily be prayer but an opportunity to rub our needs on the face of God and tell him what we want him to do for us and not what he wants to do for us. Thus, it becomes difficult to know whether we are performing magic, want to perform magic or indeed praying.
One of the scriptures that is also used to back our strong-willed attitude at the place of prayer is Jesus’ statement that the Lord will give us the desires of our hearts. So, we go with a full conviction that God is bound by our words and he cannot but give us answers to what we want. It is believed that we shall say to “the mountain and it shall move at our command”. The implication of all these is that we are the centre of the universe, God is just there at our beck and call and he is capable of doing no other thing but to grant our request. By extension He is our yes man.

Indeed, when God created Adam and Eve, he put the duo at the centre of the earth and gave them the order to replenish the earth. Apart from this, Adam was reputed to be in charge as he was the one that managed God’s creation. He maintained the garden and gave names to the animals. When man fell he lost the authority to the devil but the coming of Jesus restored the authority back to man with the use of the name Jesus.

But it seems in modern times, we have completely lost focus of our humanity taking on the form of God. In an attempt to appropriate some of the scriptures that catch our fancy which have over the age been wrongly interpreted and applied, we slide into the error of becoming magicians and not necessarily allowing God to do his work in our lives. The case is more compounded with the off the cuff interpretation of Jesus’ statement that we are gods.

Thus, what we have in the church today are people who have in their brains a potpourri of scriptures which have largely been misinterpreted thus putting them in spiritual dilemma and sometimes frustration when their prayers are not being answered.
The book, seduction of the Nigerian Church by the duo of Gary Maxey and Peter Ozodo put in proper perspective the difference between miracle and magic. In the book which I suggest every believer must get, the authors define magic as: “My will be done” whereas miracle is defined as; “God’s will be done”

If anybody has a clear understanding of these terms it will be easy to understand why many of the prayers we pray are magical arts and not necessarily prayers in the real sense of it. It is instructive to note that the first strategic statement in the Lord’s prayer is; Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. This suggests that the ultimate goal of prayer is to bring to effect the will of God.

The complication arises when we try to figure that heaven is a blissful place and as such God wants the world to be the same way heaven is, not minding the reality that the devil is the prince of this world. While that scripture may carry that interpretation, it is also good to note that God is essentially saying his intent and purpose should be done on earth. What I suggest that means is that as God’s will is being carried out in the heavens so also shall his will be carried out on earth. That does not in any way infer that the earth will replicate heaven. The truth is that heaven is the abode of spiritual beings while the earth is an abode of the physical things.

But then it is important to understand that anytime we go to God and insist that we want certain things done our own way, we are invariably performing or inducing magic. On the other hand, when we surrender to his will and ask him to intervene in our lives according to his will, we are subjecting ourselves to experiencing the miraculous.
Thus, it becomes absurd when we subject God to our errand boy. But somebody will ask: what about the scriptures that tend to support us to command God according to the works of his hand. In the first place that scripture does not say we should command God rather it is a question being asked; Command ye me? If you read the scripture in context, God was in fact asking how dare you command me? The preceding scriptures ask, can a clay say to the potter the way you made me is not good?

Here is what the preceding verse before verse 11 of Isaiah 45 says: “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?
10 Woe to the one who says to a father,
‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
‘What have you brought to birth?’
And then we have verse11 reading from NIV: “This is what the Lord says—
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Concerning things to come,
do you question me about my children,
or give me orders about the work of my hands?
If you start reading this chapter from verse one you will discover that God through prophet Isaiah was addressing King Cyrus. But even if we want to personalize that scripture it really does not suggest we can arm-twist God. The purpose of prayer is not to impose our will on God but to discover the will of God. Prayer is essentially a fellowship and a sober moment where we lay down our will and allow God to impose His will on us. Jesus demonstrated this perfectly in the garden of Gethsemane. He subjected himself to the will of God. Ordinarily, he would have commanded angels to come to his rescue. But he declined to exercise that power thus submitting to God’s will.

The point is: Many of the prayers we render are geared towards selfish desires. And in most cases they demonstrate our lack of understanding of the scriptures. There is so much arrogance in the place of prayers that we seem to tell God that he has no option but to heed to our request. It is the same arrogance that makes a man of God declare that certain things have to happen at certain times even when those things have no bearing with the will of God. While God is capable of doing anything for us and through us, we must not get to the point of dictating to God from the point of view of carnal desires.

The life of Jesus provides us a great example of somebody who follows the will of God. It’s vital to note that Jesus did not heal everybody that came his way rather he healed as led and sometimes the faith of those who came to him worked for them. But there is no air of arrogance around him. Though he was God in human flesh, he humbled himself and subjected himself to the will of God.

That should guide us and make us understand that if we pray and God answers, it does not in any way suggests that we are superhuman. It only goes to show that God has shown us his mercy. We should present our request before God according to his will which is revealed in His word and allow him to respond at his own time. The arrogance of wanting to be like God or act like God should be subdued. We should rather allow God to live his life through us. God is God. We are mere mortals until we put away mortality.

Note this scripture

Isaiah 45 New International Version (NIV)
45 “This is what the Lord says to his anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor,
to open doors before him
so that gates will not be shut:
2 I will go before you
and will level the mountains[a];
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
3 I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
4 For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me.
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
6 so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.
8 “You heavens above, rain down my righteousness;
let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
let salvation spring up,
let righteousness flourish with it;
I, the Lord, have created it.
9 “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?
10 Woe to the one who says to a father,
‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
‘What have you brought to birth?’
11 “This is what the Lord says—
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Concerning things to come,
do you question me about my children,
or give me orders about the work of my hands?
12 It is I who made the earth
and created mankind on it.
My own hands stretched out the heavens;
I marshaled their starry hosts.
13 I will raise up Cyrus[b] in my righteousness:
I will make all his ways straight.
He will rebuild my city
and set my exiles free,
but not for a price or reward,
says the Lord Almighty.”
14 This is what the Lord says:
“The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,[c]
and those tall Sabeans—
they will come over to you
and will be yours;
they will trudge behind you,
coming over to you in chains.
They will bow down before you
and plead with you, saying,
‘Surely God is with you, and there is no other;
there is no other god.’”
15 Truly you are a God who has been hiding himself,
the God and Savior of Israel.
16 All the makers of idols will be put to shame and disgraced;
they will go off into disgrace together.
17 But Israel will be saved by the Lord
with an everlasting salvation;
you will never be put to shame or disgraced,
to ages everlasting.
18 For this is what the Lord says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited—
he says:
“I am the Lord,
and there is no other.
19 I have not spoken in secret,
from somewhere in a land of darkness;
I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the Lord, speak the truth;
I declare what is right.
20 “Gather together and come;
assemble, you fugitives from the nations.
Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood,
who pray to gods that cannot save.
21 Declare what is to be, present it—
let them take counsel together.
Who foretold this long ago,
who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the Lord?
And there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me.
22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
24 They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him
will come to him and be put to shame.
25 But all the descendants of Israel
will find deliverance in the Lord
and will make their boast in him.

About Gbenga Osinaike

Gbenga Osinaike is a 1992 graduate of Dramatic Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He specialised in Play-writing. He also holds a Master of Arts Degree from the University of Lagos. He was Assistant Editor in Punch Newspapers from where he resigned having worked for 13 years to start Church Times Nigeria in March 2007. He is currently the Nigeria representative of US based Institute of Global Church Studies and also the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos, Nigeria Chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. He is married and blessed with two children.

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