STS1907 – What about Prayer?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Welcome to our series of discussions about Dave Hunt’s book An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith. As we’ve mentioned in our last few programs, the term “faith” as it’s viewed today hardly seems to go with the word “serious.” For most people, faith is simply another term for “wishful thinking.” But that’s not the way the Bible describes it. According to Hebrews:11:1, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In Acts:1:3, we’re told that Jesus showed Himself alive after his passion by “many infallible proofs, being seen of the disciples 40 days,” and so forth.
In this segment of last week’s program, we were discussing the connection between prayer and faith, contending that prayer is communion with God. True prayer involves submitting ourselves to Him, wanting His will more than our own.
It’s really a faith relationship that is trusting in Him whom we love, and knowing that He loves us more than we can fathom. That’s hardly the perspective we hear today, either inside the church or in the religions of the world.
Dave, as you well know, many televangelists, particularly those who call themselves “word-faith teachers,” have turned faith and prayer into a system for supposedly getting God to do one’s bidding. Yet they claim that they get their ideas from the Bible and have convinced millions of their followers that their teachings are scriptural. And some of the verses they point to seem to confirm their false principles, for example, Matthew:21:22: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Dave, this verse – and I’d like to go through some others, because they do seem to get people kind of leaning in the way of a false interpretation.
Dave: Well, you have to decide what the Lord meant by “believing.” He’s talking about faith. How can I believe, for example, that I can jump ten feet, or that I can run the mile in one minute? I can’t possibly believe that. How can I believe that what I’m asking God to do, He’s going to do? Why should I believe that God is going to do what I want Him to do? Furthermore, why should I even want God to do what I want Him to do? Why wouldn’t I rather have enough sense to ask Him what He wants to do, instead of trying to impose my will upon Him?
So . . . “believe”. . . what can I believe? Well, what are you praying for? Can you really believe that God is going to do that for you? Why would He do that for you? In other words, faith is not a power – you know, we’ve talked about this probably a couple months ago – faith is not a force that I aim at God to get Him to do what I want Him to do. Now these “Positive Confession” teachers you were talking about – they would say, “But if you confess it with your mouth, speak it forth, you get what you say.” Kenneth Hagin teaches this, for example. He teaches that we need to have faith in our faith. He teaches that there are certain laws: the laws of faith. And if we apply these laws . . . For example, in his little booklet, Having Faith in Your Faith, he says it used to bother him when unsaved people were getting miracles and his church members were missing out. And then he realized they were developing God’s laws of faith. Well, that’s not faith!
So, Tom, “Whatever you ask in faith, believe that you receive it, and you will have it” – I’ve got to believe it, and I can’t believe when I don’t know it’s God’s will. And I think Jesus is calling us to get in a right relationship with the Father so that we are asking according to His will. When I’m asking according to His will, then I can believe that it is going to happen. But He’s not saying that belief is some kind of a force, and, if I believe it strongly enough, that will make it happen. That’s “mind power,” and I don’t even need God! I don’t even need to pray, if that is what Jesus is talking about. But we know that it isn’t, from this and many other verses.
Tom: Well, Dave, I think a problem here for some is that when you look at the verses – and these word-faith teachers, they’re very selective in what they would have you read, and if you’re just going to read those, it can be a problem. For example, you know, I just read Matthew:21:22, but Mark:11:24 says, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” But I’ll back up just a little bit. . . .
Dave: Well, Jesus, prior to that, says, “Have faith in God.”
Tom: Right. That’s Mark:11:22.
Tom: But 11:23 – and I know . . . see, they probably will not point out or underscore verse 22, but 23 they will jump on, and it’s a popular verse that they use: “For verily I say unto you that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith, shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith.” So, you can see by just identifying this verse, it sounds like, hey! we have the power to move mountains! And whatever we might ask, whatever we might say – just saying those things and believing them without vacillating, in effect, we’re going to have those things.
Dave: Well, Tom, let’s go back to verse 22. And here’s how they deal with that. Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” Now these men are not biblical scholars. They are not Greek scholars. But they dare to say, “No! What it really means is ‘have the faith of God – the God-kind of faith.’”
Well, wait a minute! What kind of faith does God have? We are supposed to have faith in God. And however they want to twist this verse, all through the Bible it teaches us to have faith in God I to believe in God, to trust God, to commit ourselves totally to Him, to allow Him to direct our paths. They’re saying that God has faith! In whom does God have faith? “Oh, He has faith in His faith!” So they take Hebrews:11:3 – we’ve been through this before, again, but I guess we must deal with it often . . .
Tom: Especially in . . . with regard to the subject that we’re going over. We’re talking about An Urgent Call to a Serious Faith. If that faith is erroneous – if it’s not biblical – we’re dead from the get-go here!
Dave: If this faith is, as Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller say, it’s the “power of positive thinking.” As Norman Vincent Peale said, “Positive thinking is just another word for faith.” Robert Schuller says the same thing about “possibility thinking.” Now faith is something that I can control. All I have to do is think – and that will make things happen. You can be an atheist and teach that kind of seminars, and all of these . . . well, in fact, those kinds of seminars are taught in the business world. Or “God is a ‘faith God’”? “There is something out there called ‘faith.’ It is some force innate within this universe, and when I know the laws of faith – when I learn how to manipulate this thing, you know, and get in tune with this thing . . . ” This is what Pat Robertson teaches, Kenneth Copeland teaches it, all of these men teach this.
Now, wait a minute! This is either true or false. If it is true, then I don’t need God. I can do what God does – and this is why they also teach we are little gods. They take Hebrews:11:3, as we’ve pointed out before, where it says, “By faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Why do I understand this by faith? Because I can’t fathom that – that God could speak and create the universe out of nothing? But “by faith” I understand this. I believe God! He has given me enough evidence that I could verify that when He says something that is beyond my comprehension, I also believe it, okay?
So, “by faith” we understand that God created this universe out of nothing. He just spoke it into existence. “Ahhh, no, that’s not what it says . . . ” These men, who are not Greek scholars; they are not Hebrew scholars . . .
Tom: Well, but Dave, you’ve said over and over again, neither are we! But what you’re talking about has more to do with logic and an understanding of grammar . . .
Tom: . . . than anything having to do with Greek.
Dave: But I’m not going to disagree with the translators of the Bible. I would say these are the Greek scholars, okay? So Hagin, or Copeland, or whatever, they say, “Ahh, no, the men who translated the Bible, they didn’t know Greek well enough. What it really says is, ‘We understand that it was by faith that God framed the world.” Whoa, now! We’ve just twisted it around a little bit, and we’ve turned faith into a force that even God uses! How did God create the worlds? By faith! Faith in what? Faith in whom? “Ahh, no, faith is a power. It is a force. It is contained in words. And when you speak these words, it releases this force called ‘faith.’”
So then they would go to Genesis 1, like verse 3, verse 6, verse 11. Genesis 1: 3: “God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”
“Ahh! Look at the power in words! God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and Boom! There’s light!”
Well, you try it. There wasn’t light because God said, “Let there be light.” There was light because it was God who said, “Let there be light.” He could have just thought it, or whatever He wanted. It is the power of God that is innate within Him – God, who exists in and of Himself – He created this entire universe. There is no force out there that God then uses. There are no laws.
Pat Robertson, for example, says, “God never does a miracle except by the Law of Miracles.”
Wait a minute! If it’s a law, it’s not a miracle. Anything that follows laws is not a miracle. Where did the Law of Miracles come from? God must use the Law of Miracles?
Tom: Right. So He’s subject to it.
Dave: He imposed upon Himself the Law of Miracles? Where did this law come from? No!
So they’re turning God into some kind of a magician who uses certain forces innate within the universe, and certain laws, and so forth, and . . . now, when we know about these laws, and we know about these forces, we can do it. No! That is not biblical. And, as you said, it isn’t even rational. And I defy anyone to put this into practice. They can’t make it work!
So faith is in God. And when I’m praying, I’m praying to God. I’m not trying to get Him to do what I want Him to do. I’m trying to bring my life into willing submission to His will. That’s what’s important. So, my faith and trust is in Him.
And, “Lord, if this isn’t according to Your will, what I’m asking, then please, don’t let it happen.”
Tom: Well, see, Dave, again, I really want to stay with what true faith is, but we have to address some of these other examples. These teachers, supposedly teaching about faith, they would say that even to pray, “Lord, thy will, not mine,” is weak faith. It’s really undermining truth.
Dave: Yeah, they say it destroys your faith! Well, that’s because they believe that faith is some kind of a force. And it isn’t even subject to God’s will. In fact, God has to use this thing, and we can use it. So, it’s a tragedy, Tom. We’re not trying to criticize these people. We’re trying to bring a little biblical truth and reason to bear.
Tom: Dave, yeah, in one sense, we’re not trying to criticize, but we have to be critical about here, because we know, in the years that we’ve been doing research in this area, studying what these men teach and others – it’s critical in this sense: they’re destroying the faith of many who are out there who are buying into their erroneous ideas and false teachings . . . to the point where people have died, because they were told that their healing depended upon their faith – their prosperity depended on hanging tough and being faithful to the end . . .
Dave: Keep confessing it . . .
Dave: . . . and it will eventually happen. Now, Tom, you’ve made a very strong charge: you said they’re destroying people’s faith. How would that be? Because they have removed them from a biblical faith into a non-biblical faith, and they have told them that faith is simply if they can believe it, if they can confess it, if they can speak it forth, then it will happen. And, Tom, you know we’ve gotten letters, I’ve talked to many people – “I confessed my Cadillac; I confessed my job; I confessed my health; I confessed this, you know, and that . . .” and “I believed it, and I tried to make it work, and it didn’t work. I turned my back on God. I left the church. I didn’t want to have anything to do with this any more, because it doesn’t work. And then, thank God, somebody loaned me your book, and I realized that I had been deceived, and I’ve come back to the Lord and faith in Him.”
That’s how they destroy people’s faith – by setting up a false belief that doesn’t work, and then people become disillusioned.
Tom: Right. We don’t say that to promote either Seduction of Christianity, the book that many have referred to, which addresses this, as well as other books that you’ve written, Dave. The point is, what does God’s Word say about that? And that’s – in the things that we’ve written, we try to keep pointing to God’s Word – that people would be Bereans and check these things out and not follow some man, whether it be Dave Hunt, or Kenneth Copeland, or Pat Robertson, or whoever it might be – we want people to have a heart for truth and to grow in discernment.
Dave: And . . .
Tom: Go ahead. Did you want to say something?
Dave: I was just going to say faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
Tom: Right. Not by hearing . . . God raises up teachers, so we’re not knocking teachers, people who love the Word of God, and God has gifted them in one way or another to teach. However, they cannot be the bottom line. They have to be like . . . I remember A. W. Tozer. He said, “I want to be nothing more than a signpost.” That’s what we’re to be, pointing to God’s Word. You don’t sit at the foot of a signpost.
Dave: Yeah. Tom, I don’t think we’ve ever done this, at least I certainly haven’t on these programs – do I dare to read just a brief paragraph?
Dave: Because I think it expresses this: Am I going to trust men? As you said, not Dave Hunt, not Kenneth Hagin, not . . . or am I going to trust God’s Word? And this is just a little brief paragraph that addresses that:
“There are many self-professed experts in spiritual matters. They claim to know about heaven and hell but have never been there. They generally offer weak reasons for trusting them. They have degrees from seminary. They’ve been ordained by some religious body. They’ve been voted into a position of authority by a committee. They’ve written some books. Their denomination is the oldest or largest. Their church is the only correct one, and outside of it, there is no salvation. They are apostles or prophets and get continuing revelations from God, and so on. None of these reasons can be the basis of a serious faith. Where is the evidence that they should be believed and we should therefore follow them into eternity? We dare not take that trip without absolute certainty!”
We’re talking about the eternal destiny of mankind. We are dealing with God. He’s the one that decides. And I don’t want to take someone’s word for it. And please, don’t anyone take my word for it, but check it out from the Word of God. God is the only one – you know, and when it comes to faith, the question is, What do I believe, and in whom do I believe? And God is the only One in whom you can have absolute confidence. Faith is absolute, total, unwavering trust. Don’t put that in me, or in any human being, or any church. Put that faith only in God! Then find out what God has said. Find out for yourself, because when you stand before God, you can’t say, “Well, I took Dave Hunt’s word for it.” Or, “I took Kenneth Hagin’s word for it”; “I took Billy Graham’s word for it.” No, no, God says. “I spoke to you in My Word, and I expected you to heed Me, not to filter it through someone else’s ideas and trust someone else to tell you about what I have said.”
And I couldn’t emphasize that enough, Tom.
Tom: Right. And Dave, just go back to Tozer – A. W. Tozer’s example, referring to himself as wanting to be nothing more than a signpost. Dave, I really like his symbolism there, because, you know, as I said, you don’t sit at the foot of a signpost. The signpost points you in a certain direction, and Tozer was pointing us to God’s Word. And the great thing about that is, a signpost, most of them, they tell you what direction to go, how far it is to get there, but if you’re a wise pilgrim, or traveler, you’ll have a map to check even the signpost out. That’s what God’s Word is. That’s why it’s such a wonderful encouragement.
Dave: And then, Tom, when we get to that point, then people try to excuse themselves for not studying the Word of God, for not knowing the Word of God, and they say, “Well, it’s so complex.” You know, I was talking to a scientist on the plane the other day. And he said, “Well, you can get any idea from the Bible that you want.”
I said, “Really? I mean, that would make the Bible the most amazing book ever written. Words do have meanings, don’t they? And if you could write a sentence and somebody could get any meaning they want out of that sentence, I would say that’s a miraculous writing that someone has done.”
No, the Bible is clear; it is definite. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things hard to be understood, because the Bible is written by the Spirit of God, through men, to men who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and who are indwelt by the Spirit of God and then have some understanding through the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth. But so much that the Bible says is very clear. You can’t explain it away. When He says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. . . . ” “Neither is there salvation in any other. . . . ” “There’s none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”
Now, these are very clear statements. You can’t explain it away. And God expects me to know His Word for myself – not to take someone else’s word. Now, that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be teachers. The teacher must be checked out, again, as we say it so often, as the Bereans checked Paul out. They weren’t seminary graduates. They didn’t have PhDs. They were ordinary people in the city of Berea, and they’re commended for searching the Scriptures daily to see whether what Paul said was true. And that’s all we’re trying to get people to do.
Tom: Dave, we only have a minute or so left in this segment, but I want to read James:1:5-6. It says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, not wavering, for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.”
So, we will have doubts from time to time, but again, our faith, our trust, it’s a personal faith, a personal trust, in a personal God. And as we get to know Him better and better, that strengthens – that’s the way to have your faith strengthened.
Dave: Why should I ask wisdom from God and not waver in my faith? Because He has promised it. He hasn’t promised me a Cadillac. He hasn’t promised me all kinds of things that people pray for and try to get somehow the faith to believe it. But He has made some promises. He promised wisdom. Therefore, I can trust God. I can have unwavering faith when I ask Him, “Lord, please give me wisdom, and please teach me from Your Word.”