The church is learning a lot about declarative prayer in recent years, prayer that issues decrees and declares what shall be, (as differentiated from prayer that begs and sometimes whines).
Like anything that we are just beginning to learn, we’re not terribly good at it yet.
We have (many of us) figured out that Jesus didn’t generally ask God for stuff when he prayed. He generally commanded something to happen (John 11:43) or decreed the result that he wanted (Matthew 9:29). Even at his most extreme circumstances, his prayers were declarative sentences, not interrogative ones (Matthew. 26:36–46).
As a community, we’ve begun declaring and commanding pretty much all the time. It’s baby steps, and it’s really cute. (Don’t get me wrong: I’m part of this community of baby steps, too!)
I’ve been reflecting on this transition recently. It’s being a good thing, for a bunch of reasons that I’ve discerned:
• We’re beginning to take responsibility ourselves for the things that he’s given us responsibility for (see Genesis 1:26). Much of what we pray about is actually our responsibility, not his.
•Slaves ask or plead. Sons, heirs, might ask, but they surely expect (consider Romans 15:13 or 16:20); or they may not ask, they just take what they need and go.
You and I, we’re not slaves, not servants.
You and I, we’re not slaves, not servants.
• It appears that while God respects servants who ask, more seems to get done by sons who declare.
On the other hand, when sons are young, they require more parenting than they do when they mature. Dirty diapers are no more fun in the Spirit than they are in the natural. They’re normal, even healthy for a while. They’re still a mess, and no more than a starting place. But they’re a normal, healthy mess for an infant.
For example, I’m part of some prayer groups (side note: please do NOT add me to more groups!), where folks post their prayer requests, and the community prays for them. You learn a lot from groups like this. Here are some things I've learned.
♦ There are a bunch of folks whose prayer requests are more a list of what all is wrong in their lives than a description of what we’re actually praying for. Some of those diapers need changing desperately.
♦ Some responses are in the “Oh Jesus, please help ‘em!” category.
♦ A growing number of responses are attempts to command all the bad things become good.
♦ Far too many declarations are not much more than self-centered, wishful thinking. “I want this, and therefore I’m going to declare it as if it were God’s will.” And then they get disheartened when the world doesn’t conform to their empty but optimistic words.
Honestly, it’s a beautiful thing. Just like when my little granddaughter takes her first, wobbly steps. That’s a wonderful thing, too. It’s growth! But it surely isn’t maturity yet. And it’s cute when she takes a couple of steps and then plops down on her wet diaper, making that interesting sploogy sound.
I was reflecting on our wobbly growth recently, and I was reminded that when we watch Jesus commanding sickness or demons to flee, we’re only seeing half of the story. We’re only seeing the half that happens in that moment, the part that’s visible to the gospel authors.
But Jesus did tell us the other half of the story himself:
John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.”
So apparently, if we’re going to (If I’m going to) be successful at commanding sickness and demons and death away, I need to speak what Father commands me to say and to speak. Declarations out of my own wishful thinking are a wasted effort. At best.
Since the gospels never show the story of heaven opening and the Almighty shouting from heaven, it makes me wonder, “When and how did Jesus hear Father tell him what to say?”
I think there were at least three answers to that, and neither one was a mystery.
○ The first is that I’m pretty sure the still small voice of the Holy Spirit gave him instructions from time to time (in John 2, compare verse 4 with verse 7, for example).
○ Second, verses like Mark 6:46 and Luke 6:12 tell us that he spent extended time away, just him and Father alone. I’ll bet that’s a clue. There’s a reason he encourages us to search out matters, maybe.
○ I think the third is more rare than we wish it was. When you’ve walked with God a long time, you begin to think like he thinks. You do that long enough and the line between “my thoughts” and “his thoughts,” between “my words” and “his words” gets thin.
I’m thinking that it’s good that we, the saints and heirs of our Almighty Lover, are learning to hear from Heaven, and declare those words. Declaring what Father-who-sends us gives us to declare, those are going to be the more world-changing declarations.
Listen first. Then speak.