Pentecost: Myths About Intercession (Part 5)

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It seems like every other month there are new books released about the “latest super secrets” of spiritual warfare. You might see titles like The 14 Secrets To Unlocking The 7 Demonic Doors You Never Knew You Opened.

That’s a bit exaggerated, but sadly, not much. These “teachings” are usually replete with new terminology and fill-in the blank prayers. Haven’t you seen this?

There’s no reason to call the authors by name. Some of them very likely have good hearts and intentions. However, it is hard to stomach the exploitation sometimes.

Sounds: Slithering Spiritualized Slogans

Myth #5: The myth is that intercessory prayer and/or spiritual warfare requires certain formulas only obtained through “deep” study and direct revelation.

Do we have to own up to part of this? We can err on the side of passivity. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the bashers who spend little time on what they do stand for by majoring on what they are against.

Silence: Coddling Cold Shoulder(s)

It seems as though these kinds of distortions are mostly ignored among many Bible teachers and communities. On the surface, this sounds great. After all, if something is wrong why give it the time of day, right?

Then we have the other extreme who love to rave and rant and not just against the distortions. These take up crusading against the proponents. Why can’t there be a balance? Or rather, why can’t the balance be the norm?

By shrugging these things off, we become enablers. Many gullible among us well and do buy these formulas hook, line, and sinker. There is a biblical, loving way to shepherd the flock in this. Wouldn’t you say the truth demands this?

We have to safeguard. We don’t have to leave it up to the shouters who the unbelieving world would rightly call haters, do we?

Some of these methods have made many of us skiddish about straight forward biblical commands. These mixtures of chants, incantations, rituals, and formulas within Christian prayer is really unorthodox.

These belittling tactics are very man-centered. They are typically contrary to Jesus’ examples of prayer. It reminds me of the myths that overran the churches and ministry before the Reformation. The same problem is at the core: lack of knowledge of the Bible, only now, we have unending translations in our language.

Symphony: Savoring Savior’s Simplicity

In time, I’ve come to see I don’t want to choose to leave these realms unattended. I believe that the Bible is clear that we must engage in all of this activity. It’s at the heart of Christocentric ministry.

When Jesus was on earth, the demons were the first to recognize His divinity.

Truly, His presence forced confrontation. Why would it be different for His followers on His mission.

There are many biblically rich books that are out there on these topics. There are so many it wouldn’t be prudent to list just a few and miss some of the best.

I am not wanting to add superficial overstatements to already cloudy issues, but rather clear the fog. These caricatures are overt and rampant, calling for special attention. Here are a few of the distractions:

Strongholds

This word (misused synonymously with curses, spells, sinful habits) is thrown around with little to no explanation, tending to result in mysterious overtones and further ignorance.

Because Paul’s original speech about strongholds is borrowed, sometimes the terms and phrases tend to rest on man’s loud false confidence rather than Jesus’ authority as God over all.

Paul uses this term in 2 Corinthians 10 in the context of church discipline. He’s enlisting His office of Apostle. The word simply means fortress, a dwelling place in one’s mind.

This first has to be torn down in our own lives and minds. A stronghold is simply thinking that denies Jesus/rebels against God. So confess to your Father when His Holy Spirit convicts you of sin.

Let’s know on whose Word we stand! By the commands of God, on the authority and work of Jesus, and by the empowering, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we will destroy bad thinking!

Spiritual Warfare

The idea that some must be designated worshippers during collective prayer is unnecessary and misleading.The tendency to make extreme circumstances, like exorcisms, our only battlegrounds for spiritual warfare.

This bent for extremism also takes the form of negligence of oppression and dismissal of physical illnesses. This leads to blaming the victim for lack of faith.The lie is often forced on believers that taking medicines and seeing physicians means the ill person is not engaging in spiritual warfare, or at least, isn’t effective.

The very act of prayer is Worship! When we petition the Father, we are declaring our happy dependence on Him alone!

If we are going to take on a formula, look at Jesus’ example. He literally said, 

When you pray, pray like this…”.

Haven’t you been praying and ended up thanking him at the beginning of each new phrase? Thank you God that your are faithfully, gracious in sending your Holy Spirit to convict me. Thank you for guiding me in confession to true repentance.

I’m not claiming that’s it’s bad to have someone praising the entire time. I’m thankful for the times I’ve been prayed for like this. We need to have praise fueled and filled prayers.

Making patterns, usually isn’t the fruit of organic relationship with Jesus. That is rather a sign of a cold, distant knowledge of God, teetering between Deism and legalism. I don’t find it edifying to create new steps where Jesus says we get to cry “Abba, Daddy!”

It’s ok not to know what to say. It’s ok, guys, to cry. In the same way I speak of worship and prayer as part of our lifestyle as followers on a mission, so it is a path of warfare.

One of the greatest helps we give the Enemy is just remaining ignorant of the spiritual battles surrounding us. This coupled with keeping others in the dark, keeps the powers of this world from having to do much active attacking.

If we separate the militant aspects of Christianity from our every day lives, rest assured we won’t be or create soldiers!

In James 5, we find that we are to call on the elders to pray for the sick. The reference to oil here isn’t the same as the Old Testament anointing oil used to sanctify instruments for the priesthood. There are other reasons many continue this practice, which I am not knocking.

One of the ideas here, contrary to much of today’s teaching, was that God uses medicines and knowledge to heal in addition to miraculous, instantaneous healings. While scholars remain divided on the act of anointing the sick with oil, none mistake the act as powerful, in and of itself.

Exorcism(s)

Interrogations must take place in which the spirits are named or identified.

Specific phrases hold the power to expel spirits.

The simplicity that Jesus used in casting out demons is astounding. The only identification we see with the spirits is a number rather than a name, Legion. Why do we make things so complex, especially where Jesus didn’t? The conversations between the demons and Jesus focus more on their recognition of Him and His authority.

The one name that’s important is Jesus, the name above all names.

We aren’t talking about engaging in magical spells. Where the Bible has no prescription, how dare we add one! From these distortions, one gets the idea that the number of repetitions or the volume of the prayer matters.

Let us be wary of pulling phrases from
the scriptures (or elsewhere) and constructing all new meanings or ascribing power to them. This applies to all of our reading and understanding of scripture. Let us both read and pray God’s Word intelligently and diligently.

I want to be clear that I haven’t made this post, or any other, to merely come down on what others are saying but to point to what God is saying the Bible. I want us to seek out the truths of Jesus according to Scripture.

I have chosen these particular issues because they all seem to question our faith and obedience like the serpent did in the garden, “Did God really say…?”. However strong I’ve stated anything, please know I’m not trying to call all or even any of these things demonic. That’s an entirely different and deeper discussion around which we should tread lightly. I only desire to point us back to scripture.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Candyce D. says:

    Very interesting topics, what sparked the urge to start this series? I think it will give me a better understanding what’s behind these and why you are so passionate about the points that you brought up. It enjoyed it and made me think about some things stated!

    1. I don’t mean to not answer by referring you to this post but I really feel like I answer all that in the intro. https://jamesedwardsharp.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/stange-noises-lets-talk-about-intercession/

  2. frbrandon says:

    James,

    I didn’t know if you wanted me to reply on my site or yours in reference to your question? If you want to respond on my site, simply delete this. Thanks. ~FB

    Thanks for reaching out. Your article you sent me brings to light similarities and differences between extemporaneous and liturgical forms of prayer. Both are necessary and beautiful expressions of Christianity. I personally shy away from assigning more value to one than the other because I believe the context one finds themselves in helps determine the form to use.
    Prayer (in whatever form) is the Holy Spirit praying through us; therefore, you are right to warn your audience against “magical” thinking where they mistakingly believe they are the ones solely in control.
    Keep thinking and praying on this. It’s my hope and prayer that God will continue to reveal the rich beauty in the various forms of prayer found within Christ’s Church to you and your audience.

    Grace and Peace,

    ~Fr. Brandon

    1. Thanks. I want everyone to see this. Great advice and perspective, thanks again.

  3. joeandberyl says:

    James,

    What a great article with depth of explanation and clarity. You are helping the reader to see that our Christian mission is not a compartmentalized office with certain equipment to be released only at certain times. It is a fully functional Board with the governance of the Trinity.

    You have opened my eyes to the reality of the misuse of certain verbiage in the nomenclature of Christendom, until majority find magic spells in using the terms, As much as the name of Jesus is the most powerful ever, it is not sufficient to just call upon the name. He or she who calls on the name must believe, and that belief must work a transformation in the life so that upon the calling of the name of Jesus, there’s a relationship, not a surprise of good expected from the storehouse of heaven for times when the children have disobeyed and are begging for a favor.

    I enjoyed reading every word. Well done.

    Beryl.

    1. Wow! Thanks. I like the way the youth out all of that, a fully functional board and ask the points on transformation really help me think more on how I’m speaking too. Iron sharpens iron, right?

      1. joeandberyl says:

        Yes, Iron sharpens iron. God bless you James!

      2. Thanks and God bless you as well.

  4. I’m agree with Fr. Brandon and think he responded perfectly.

    I’ll tell you my thoughts, as I was raised Episcopalian and am now an Independent Fundamental Baptist. I find beauty in the Book of Common Prayer and still use it for prayers. I find its language poetic, beautiful, and it helps me gather my thoughts that often times become fleeting during prayer. I believe that prayer is desired by God. I believe there is power in prayer. I do not believe in a “formula” for prayer. Jesus gave us a very clear way to pray, as you pointed out. There is no secret formula or strategy or prerequisite through extensive scripture study. Read the Bible and pray. Pray with humility and thanksgiving, after all, you are petitioning the Holiest of Holys. That being said, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with liturgical prayer, as long as the one praying is truly praying and not praying “vain repetitions”. I don’t believe that God calls certain people to an intercession ministry, instead that ALL Christians are called to be intercessors. All Christians have the Holy Spirit in their hearts and, just as He intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27), we are to intercede for one another.

    I enjoyed your article. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Thanks. Just to be clear, I didn’t mean to come down on prepared or liturgical prayers. Thanks for highlighting the issue, the condition of the heart.

      1. No worries 🙂 Prayer itself is such a personal and fragile topic– your write up handled it nicely!

  5. joelkime says:

    Great article. It seems to me that our approach is very similar. Well done!

  6. outlawpatriot1 says:

    James,

    This is a great piece that puts perspective to something that troubles me very much in the modern Christian community. Perhaps others that have commented have more experience or training and would be able to comment more eloquently, I am but a sinner that was picked up along the way, dusted off, and told to try and lead others to the truth. However, I will give you my opinion, based off of what I see in the world today, what the Lord has put on my heart, and what I have personally experienced.

    I believe that the pervasiveness of these books and teachings that you make reference of is because the Church today is neither hot nor cold. It has lost its flavor. Though many that read this might disregard anything I say after this statement, I don’t go to church, and it is precisely because I have yet to go to a service where I felt that the pastor/priest/minister was feeding the flock with his service. Most leaders within the church want to tell you what they understand from the Word, what their particular sect understands from the Word…but they will never encourage you to get into the Word and develop that personal relationship with the Lord. And I see this as partially the reason, also, that so many fall into the trappings of such books. We are seeing throughout the United States, and I would bet the world, an ever increasing appetite for the supernatural and the occult. This is because the Church is not feeding the flock, and despite the atheists claims that there is no spirituality or God, our souls are longing for that connection to the Lord.

    Now, that is not to say that ceremony within the Church, such as what the Catholics have, should be abandoned, and I am not trying to bash the teachings of any sect. However, it does have a time and place, in my opinion, and that is not in your own personal relationship with the Lord. You cannot develop a personal relationship without getting personal with the Lord – being candid, being yourself, and using your own words to communicate. THAT is when you will begin to truly feel the power of the Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit, and THAT is when you will cultivate that relationship that your soul is crying out for.

    I apologize for writing my own book in your comments section. 🙂 However, your article is a great read, and very thought provoking. Please keep up the good work you are doing here. Thanks for pointing me towards this article. God Bless you and yours.

    1. I appreciate the detail, length, and passion in the comment. Thanks.

  7. Jodee says:

    Hi James – I’m back with that comment 🙂

    GREAT article! You definitely hit on a lot of truth on a much needed to be hit on subject.

    First, I’d like to say that those books with the “fantastic” titles are usually entitled as such to get the attention, sadly, of those who don’t know their Scriptures either at all or very well. I have seen a few however, for actual spiritual warfare that had scriptural prayers in them. As a rule, don’t believe everything you read (or hear for that matter), unless you can verify it with Scripture. You can’t even trust what you hear being preached in all of our churches today. There’s so much feel-good, prosperity based gospel going around to tickle the ears of the congregations that don’t like the truth of the real gospel that countless numbers of people are unaware that they have a false salvation. False prophets… we’ve been warned.

    The 5th Myth… wow – whoever came up with that one! There’s no training necessary to be an intercessor or to pray in times of spiritual warfare. Jesus’ disciples had no training – they did plenty of praying. A child on his or her knees saying bedtime prayers has no training… “God bless Mama, God bless Daddy…” There are some requirements as to who can pray, or rather whose prayers will be heard, though. We must have a clean heart (Psalm 66:18). We must have clean hands (Psalm 24:3-4). We must be forgiving of others (Mark 11:25). We must go to God in faith (Matthew 21:22) (Hebrews 11:6). We must belong to Jesus (John 14:14). We who are His, the Father’s, children (John 1:12) (Matthew 6:8), and last, we must come before Him humbly (Luke 18:13).

    These make for a mighty prayer warrior. James said that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Communion with God through prayer is the Christian’s most powerful resource and the results are greater many times that we even thought possible. Sadly though, many see prayer as a last resort, something to “try” when all else fails.

    God encourages us to pray; He is delights with our fellowship in prayer (Proverbs 15:8).

    My thoughts on Strongholds… I believe that we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ to be free (2 Corinthians 10:5).

    Spiritual Warfare… We have to go to battle, literally, in spiritual warfare. There is a spiritual war going on around us at all times. Our “person” may not be under attack 24-7, but when we are a child of God, we can expect to be under attack at any time, so we must be prepared at all times. For spiritual warfare, our battle is in the spiritual world. Pray on the spiritual armor (Ephesians 6). Take back what the evil one has tried to take from you. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spirit forces of evil in heavenly realms.”

    Exorcism… I have no experience at all in this matter to share with you. All I know is that when a believer, in faith, says the name Jesus, demons flee.

    And as far as adding to, changing or subtracting from the Scriptures — it’s forbidden in the Scriptures. (Proverbs 30:6) (Deuteronomy 12:32) (Revelation 22:18)

    Well, that’s a bit much, I’m certain, but I do tend to talk too much – ask any of my readers LOL! Seriously though, I agree with you – we have to pray, pray unceasingly as the Scriptures say; otherwise we become disconnected from our Father and slowly but surely, just as OUTLAWPATRIOT1 said, we become salt that has lost its flavor, a member of the body that has become dysfunctional or even worse, an open target for satan.

    Thanks for your time – I really enjoy your blog! May God bless you with His favor and unfailing love.
    His daughter,
    Jodee

    1. Wow! Lots to take in, thanks. I really think you helped the discussion by reminding us of the conditional aspects God has placed on prayer, in scripture. Thanks!

      1. Jodee says:

        No thanks necessary, my brother – we learn from one another. Glad to be a part.

  8. James, Have just been browsing through your site and read this article. Just wanted to comment on your comments on “strongholds”…. I heard what I believe is an excellent definition of a stronghold which has been tremendously helpful to me. I heard it from Ed Silvoso, an Argentinian Evangelist… He said a stronghold is a mindset permeated with hopelessness whereby I accept as unchangeable something that I know is contrary to the mind of God.”

    1. Wow! That’s a good definition. Thanks.

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