Gary: This week’s item is from the Scranton Times Tribune: “You can find them in most any classified section of the local newspaper: prayers of thanksgiving for a prayer answered. ‘Different people are putting them in all the time,’ said Susan Shotwell, inside sales manager for the Times Tribune newspapers. ‘Their prayers are answered, so they feel they have to put in an ad.’ Many of the advertisements say that if the prayer is said for three days, the prayer request is granted. The prayers are also listed as ‘never known to fail.’ In thanksgiving for the prayer being answered, publication must be promised. Some are short and contain a ‘thank you’ to either God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Saint Teresa, Saint Jude, or Saint Anne.
“ ‘The identities of the advertisers are usually not known,’” Susan said. “ ‘Because the ads are prepaid. Most people just walk in with the ad they want and pay cash,’” she said. “ ‘We have a ton,’ she said. “They’re really popular in this area.’
“The Reverend John Schlemiel, Assistant Pastor at St. Peter’s Cathedral and secretary to Scranton Dioceses and Bishop James C. Timlin, said he sees no harm in the advertisements. ‘I’ve read them,’ he said. There’s nothing wrong with them. That’s the way some people express their faith.’
“Father Schlemiel likened it to the variety of ways people express their faith, such as meditation and silent prayer in church. ‘It’s not a bad thing,’ he said. ‘It’s a public witness to prayer, too.’
“The Reverend Peggy Sue Pfeffer, pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, said she, too, believes the ads are harmless. But she’s not sure it’s necessary for someone to place an advertisement in a newspaper to thank God for answered prayer.”
Tom: Well, Dave, this is primarily Catholic, but this is not beyond some protestant ideas that I’ve seen out there.
Dave: Well, Tom, I have no objection to people thanking God for answering prayer, and if they want to do it publicly, but I think the publication in a paper of the thanksgiving is part of the technique…
Tom: Dave, let me read one to you: “Thank you, God. Prayer to God: Say nine Hail Mary’s for nine days. Ask for three wishes. First for business, second and third for the impossible. Publish this article on the ninth day. Your wishes will come true, even though you may not believe it. Thank You, God. P.S. It really does work. M.M.”
And then we have another short one: “Thank you, Saint Jude, for prayers answered. R.R.”
So, this is a little bit more than…
Dave: Well, as I said, this is part of a technique, and in order to be assured that the prayer would be answered, you have to pledge to put this ad in. Now, it has nothing to do with God’s will. It has nothing to do with…it’s just like magic; it’s like Voodoo. This is a technique, and if you follow this technique, it will, as one of the little prayers there says, or one of the little ads there says, it will work. You don’t even have to believe it, but you follow the technique and it will work.
Tom: Dave, in addition to that, we have so-called intercessory prayer, or, as the Catholics would say, Invocations to the Saints. Now, here you’ve got a problem. We’re supposedly speaking to the departed, the deceased, holy or not. I mean, if they’re saints, they’re supposed to be holy. But that’s not biblical. It’s actually out of the Apocrypha, II Maccabees chapter 15.
Dave: Well, Tom, it reminds me of Luke 18, where Jesus presents the Pharisee in the temple, and it says…Jesus said, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself.” His prayer didn’t even reach God because he was trusting in his good works and his fasting and tithe-giving, and so forth. And that doesn’t count with God. It’s grace—God’s grace, God’s mercy, according to His will. So, if you have a technique that you think is going to activate God, that is going to cause God to respond to your will, then you’ve been deluded by the devil. This is one of the worst lies that you could possibly believe.
Now, I wouldn’t put it past the devil to answer your prayer, to continue to lead you down this path farther and farther away from God and from His truth and from true faith. In contrast, it says “the publican, he dared not even lift up his eyes to heaven. He beat upon his breast and said, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’” So, that man “went away justified,” Jesus said. He’s trusting in God’s mercy. These people are imposing their desires upon God. No, you don’t impose your desires upon God. So if you have a technique that works, it could be coincidence, or it could be that the enemy of God is answering your prayer in order to deceive you. But this is not godly prayer. This is not what is taught in the Word of God.
Tom: Right. What we’re doing here is we’re trying to bring this to the attention of those who may unwittingly be doing this, because it’s just around and they think it’s right. But they’re to search the Scriptures. This is not according to God’s Word. Simply stated, if it’s not, it’s a problem, not a solution.
Dave: Right. So, Tom, prayer itself is supposedly asking God… Where do I get the idea of prayer? Where do I get the idea that God would even listen to me? From His Word! I’d better search the Scriptures to find out what it says.