We are increasingly being asked questions on 'Positive Confession,' the 'prosperity gospel' and 'Word-faith.'
requested for certain people to be healed on a website. Some very
warm and encouraging e mails were received, but one was a little
unusual. Why? Because the sender upheld the 'Positive Confession'
teaching of certain within the so-called 'Word of Faith'
This particular e mail rebuked those who called for prayers. Here is a quotation from it:
" I think you should go now and take the authority the LORD has given you and rebuke that cancer. Who's report do you believe, anyway? You/We have to believe the report of the LORD and he is still in the miracle working business and he is still the same yesterday, today and forever. GOD/JESUS raised the dead then and he shall and will do it again he is still working today. Now you fast if you have to be specific and ask the LORD to heal her. He did not say it is your Aunt's last days, the doctors did and the final word comes from the LORD - trust him. Now I agree with you in the name of the LORD and savior JESUS CHRIST that both your Aunts are healed. Now take the power and authority the LORD has given you use it he loves us to have faith so there you go get violent and take both your Aunts back by force. He will never disappoint you never. He is love and you are love. So let go and let GOD now."
This aggressive response to calls for prayers for the sick to be healed is full of the influence of 'Word-faith' and the 'Positive Confession' teaching.
According to this teaching, WE OURSELVES HAVE TREMENDOUS POWER TOFORCE GOD TO ACT, JUST AS LONG AS WE ARE UTTERLY POSITIVE, DOGMATIC, AND ONE MIGHT SAY, DICTATORIAL AND DEMANDING TOWARDS GOD!
But do we find that the men and women of faith whose lives are recorded in the Scriptures, prayed in this sort of manner?
Has God ever given cast-iron promises that the sick will ALWAYS be healed?? If He has, why did people like the apostle Paul apparently not understand this? For Paul states quite clearly that the Lord did not heal his 'thorn in the flesh', even though he petitioned the Lord three times to do so (More on that later).
Indeed, if this teaching is correct, one might well ask how ANY righteous people of God EVER died ??!!
We will now consider some examples from the Bible to see whether the Bible records 'positive confession' (which is really faith in the dynamic power of our own words) as the best vehicle for prayer, or whether the biblical record upholds faith in the perfect will of God (even when it does not concur with our will) as the best approach to prayer.
I am going to take a few examples of the prayers of God's people to see whether we find 'positive confession' employed.
1. David's Prayer For His Baby.
Reading 2 Samuel 12:15-23, we find David petitioning the Lord to heal the stricken baby who was born as a result of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba.
David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground'
David was grief-stricken as all of us would be; in great sorrow, he pleaded with the Lord for the small child. But did he use 'positive confession'? Did he say, 'I rebuke this illness in the name of the Lord. God is a miracle-working God and I claim the healing miracle right here and now!'?? No! There is no indication of that, rather a recognition that while he should fast and pray for the child, God's will in the matter would be just.
'Then his servants said to him, "What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food."
So he said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?..."'
Please notice that David had wept for the little child while petitioning the Lord. But today's 'positive confession' people would say, weeping is negative - just claim the sick back! David recognised God's sovereignty in the matter, so when the child died, he accepted God's will. David had not utilised a demanding, dictatorial, 'I claim healing' approach toward God.
David did not employ 'positive confession'!
2. The Widow's Son.
1 Kings 17:17-24 records the incident of the widow's son:
'Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him'
The woman was obviously deeply grieved about this, but what was Elijah's reaction? Did he employ 'positive confession' for the boy? Did he 'claim' him back? Or did he simply plead with God for healing?
'The he cried out to the Lord and said, "O Lord my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?"
And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, "O Lord my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him."'
Well, as we know, God heard and the child was healed. Why did Elijah 'stretch himself out upon the child' three times? We can't be sure. Maybe it was an attempt at resucitation, maybe it was because the child was so cold, but Elijah urgently petitioned the Lord for healing!! Did he 'claim him' back in a demanding and dictatorial fashion? Did he say, 'It is just a lack of faith to consider this illness, I am just boldly claiming him back'? There is absolutely no evidence of that. Elijah knew that his own words had no power of themselves, except that they might reach to heaven and petition the sovereign God for healing!
Elijah did not employ 'positive confession'!
3. Paul's 'Thorn in the Flesh'
Now, of course, Paul never exactly spelled out precisely what his 'thorn in the flesh' was; but there seems little doubt that it was some kind of recurring illness. Lets consider the relevant Scripture:
'And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong'
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Now we should notice that the 'health, wealth and prosperity' teaching is completely absent here! Here we have the New Testament teaching of steadfastness and patience in adversity, and of being prepared to 'bear one's cross with Christ'. In complete contrast to this the 'positive confession' people tell us that we don't need to have trials and difficulties, but if we do, it must mean that we lack faith!
So, regarding Paul's recurring illness, or 'infirmity', did he rebuke the illness in the name of the miracle-working God? Or did he petition and plead with the Lord to allow the healing which only He could?
The answer should already be very clear to us - Paul did not see any inherent 'power' in any words which he might have uttered (however positively!), rather Paul says,
'Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me'
Paul knew that he had to fully rely on God alone! He knew that ONLY GOD could heal!
So is it being suggested that this great servant of God was unaware of so-called 'positive confession'??
Paul did not employ 'positive confession'!
What About Exodus 32?
One Word-faith teacher claimed that Moses employed 'positive confession' when the Lord threatened to blot out Israel and start a new nation through Moses after the Golden Calf incident in Exodus 32. But does this chapter really depict 'positive confession'??
The account can be located in Exodus 32:8-14. Turn there.
Did Moses really 'claim' Israel when God threatened to blot them out? Did he employ dynamic and positive words which (according to the 'positive confession' people), required God to act for Moses? Or did Moses frankly PLEAD for God not to destroy Israel in full recognition of God's complete jurisdiction and sovereignty of choice in the matter?
We don't have to go too far into the text to find the answer:
'Then Moses PLEADED with the Lord his God, and said: "Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?"
(Exodus 32:11, my emphasis)
So we see that, as in all the examples which we have considered, the heroes of faith within the Word of God did not use 'positive confession' when they found an urgent need for prayer. Rather, they threw themselves upon the Lord's mercy and pleaded for His compassion. They recognised God as supremely sovereign and all-powerful and held absolutely no concept of the 'Word-faith' scenario of the positive, demanding words and actions of human beings placing God in a position in which He is required to act to conform to any such expressed "claimed confessions"!!
The concept that we can manipulate God to give us the 'good things' of life originates in concepts which are occultic. The root idea is that we too are 'gods' and so our words too have great power - this went from the occult into New Age, and from New Age straight into the 'Word of faith' movement.
So an occultic concept has now infected large areas of Christianity through this route.
But - for our part - let us separate ourselves from the works of the flesh and Satan and hold on to the vital purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Robin A. Brace
© This article is Copyright Robin A. Brace 2003. If you want it on your own website please do the honourable thing and come to us for permission first. It is forbidden to excerpt this article without our permission. Thank you.
If you have not already done so, it is essential to read
ALL ABOUT FAITH - WHAT IS IT? WHAT ISN'T IT?
WITNESS TO THE WORD