Unanswered Prayers and the Prosperity Gospel

So I’m sitting on the bus on the way to work when a woman sits next to me. Turns out she is a sister-in-Christ. After identifying one another as Christians, she revealed to me that she was in seminary.

Go Metro!

She was telling me about the things she was learning there and how blessed she had been by them. It’s good to hear testimony like this, I thought. One of the things she learned was that if you need something (in her case a car) all you have to do is ask God for it and He’ll give it to you.

Of course, the implication is clear that if He doesn’t then you don’t have enough faith (a favorite text is Matthew 17:20). A lack of faith is the cause of unanswered prayer.

It became evident that she was being instructed by a seminary awash in the so-called Prosperity Gospel.

David Van Biema and Jeff Chu of TIME magazine (via Albert Mohler) accurately describe it as a philosophy whose,

emphasis is on God’s promised generosity in this life and the ability of believers to claim it for themselves. In a nutshell, it suggests that a God who loves you does not want you to be broke.

She then told me that God had given her a brand new car because she had enough faith to ask.

I then asked her “Do you think God didn’t remove Paul’s thorn because he lacked faith?” Pregnant pause.

Her response was a variant of “Well, the Lord works in mysterious ways.” Right…

Though this happened some months ago, I was reminded of it last night as I read J.I. Packer’s classic, Knowing God.

Here’s what Dr. Packer wrote in regards to God answering the prayers of His children,

Our Father in heaven always answers his children’s prayers in the form in which we offer them. Sometimes we ask for the wrong thing!

It is God’s prerogative to give good things, things that do not come under these headings God, like any good parent, reserves the right to say, “No, not that; it wouldn’t be good for you–but have this instead.” Good parents never simply ignore what their children are saying, nor simply disregard their feelings of need, and neither does God; but often he gives us what we should have asked for, rather than what we actually requested.

Paul asked the Lord Jesus graciously to remove his thorn in the flesh, and the Lord replied by graciously leaving it and strengthening Paul to live with it (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

The Lord knew best!–and to suggest that because Paul’s prayer was answered this way it was not answered at all would be utterly wrong. Here is source of much light on what is sometimes miscalled “the problem of unanswered prayer”.

2 Responses to Unanswered Prayers and the Prosperity Gospel

  1. Caron says:

    You will probably appreciate the work of Justin Peters. He is considered to be an expert on the WoF movement and on his site you can watch an overview of his seminar entitled, “A Call for Discernment.” See: http://www.justinpeters.org.

    Justin gave his full length seminar at my church and comes highly recommended by my pastor, Dr. John MacArthur.

  2. katdish says:

    That, my friend, is an awesome post. I am uneasy with the growing popularity of the so called “Prosperity Gospel” which I believe gives those who subscribe to it the false impression that they can earn favor from God by works. Try explaining to a grieving mother or father that the reason their child died is because they didn’t have enough faith that God would heal them. Utter hogwash!

    Had a guy at work whose father had recently passed away. Whole family was praying for him, even had some people at work praying for him. One of his co-workers attended a prosperity gospel congregation and after the funeral she had the chutzpah to tell the guy that his father died because those praying didn’t have faith. Probably not the best thing to say, even if she mistakenly believed it.

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