Monday, June 16, 2008

Responses to Candice Watters Part III

In this section, I would like to address Candice’s view of prayer. She has an entire chapter of this in her book [Chapter 9], and I do believe it would be profitable to take a look at it, because I have some real concerns about some of the things that are said. She first of all starts out by stating how she used to pray:

When I was single, I used to pray for a husband like this,

Oh, God, please don’t make me single my whole life. I really want to be married. Oh, I hope it’s not Your will for me to be single. I don’t think I could do it! Please bring someone into my life soon, very soon. But help me to be patient in the meantime. And God, if You do want me to be single-but I hope you don’t-please give me the grace for it, because I really don’t feel it. Did I mention how much I hope that’s not your will for me [pgs. 145-146]?

I want us to notice two things about this prayer that Candice gives us. First of all, the thing that immediately jumped out at me about this prayer is the way in which she keeps bringing up her desire. Yes, the desire itself is fine, but notice how much her desire is brought up in this prayer. It is really hard to know how a person could truly want God’s will above all things, and keep bringing up their desire for marriage this much in six sentences! Why is that the focus of this prayer? Shouldn’t we be praying according to God’s will, bringing our petitions to him while we humbly trust that he will do the right thing with those petitions? Yet, the entirety of this prayer is focused upon what Candice wants, and it appears that God’s will is only going to be consented to in a begrudging fashion. This is not what it means to pray according to God’s will!

Notice, too, she said that, if it was God’s will for her to be single, she doesn’t think she could do it. Does not the apostle Paul say that, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” [Philippians 4:13]? And this is in the context of affliction! Paul recognizes that, even when affliction comes about, he can endure it because it is Christ who has given us strength!

Notice too, that she says she needs the grace to go through her singleness because she does not “feel it.” Well, since when did God ever do anything on the basis of our feelings? It is amazing how this little prayer shows us that Candice really hasn’t changed since the time she prayed this prayer. These are the same ideas that are found in the very position she is presenting to us in this book! It is just that she found a way to rationalize these ideas.

That becomes important. While these things are rather subtle in this prayer, they are much more pronounced in what she says next, and in the prayer she later gives at the end of this section. What is her reasoning for becoming more emboldened in these ideas? Well, she explains:

I wish I had read about Bartimaeus back then. It wasn’t until after I was married that his story, recorded in Mark 10:46-52, leapt off the page.

When Bartimaeus, the blind baggar, heard that Jesus was approaching, he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The exclamation point emphasizes his volume. In a book known for economy of words and punctuation, it’s clear this was no tepid request. Even as the crowd rebuked him, telling him to be quiet, the Bible says, “He shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”

His clamor was rewarded. When Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” he replied, “Rabbi, I want to see.” He was frank about what he wanted and fully expected healing, for he knew Jesus had the authority to do it. By acknowledging him as, “Jesus, son of David,” Bartimaeus was in essence saying he believe Jesus was Messiah and King.
Jesus didn’t disappoint. “Immediately he received his sight,” the Bible reports. But it wasn’t Bartimaeus’s flattery, neediness, or even his volume that made the difference. As Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.”

Learning to Really Pray
Unlike Bartimaeus, I asked, but doubted. It’s not that I disbelieved God could bring me a mate-I just didn’t think He would. Still, my heart longed to be married. And on it went. Till Mary Morken helped me see my prayers for what they were: faithless requests for something I wasn’t even sure was OK to want.

Now, I have dealt with that last statement in my last section of responses. I want to focus upon what made Candice come to that conclusion, namely, the misinterpretation of this section about Bartimaeus. Candice mentions, but doesn’t pursue the fact that Bartimaeus, “By acknowledging him as, “Jesus, son of David,” Bartimaeus was in essence saying he believe Jesus was Messiah and King.” She does not realize this, but this is the refutation of her position on this passage. You see, Jesus uses Isaiah 35:5 and 61:1-2 to validate his claim to be the messiah. For instance, in Matthew 11:2, John sends his disciples from prison to ask Jesus if he is the one they should expect, or if they should expect someone else. Jesus simply responds with:

Matthew 11:4-5 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

These are a series of quotations from Isaiah 35:5 and 61:1-2. Jesus does not give John any further answer. The reason is because he expected him to believe that he was the messiah simply on the basis of the fact that he is fulfilling what scripture already says! What is interesting is that there is a parallel account of the passage Candice cites in Matthew 20:29-34. That is significant because the Gospel of Matthew is specifically directed toward the Jewish people in presenting him as the messiah. Hence, what is being said here is not that he “prayed boldly” for what he wanted, and therefore got it, but that he trusted God to do what he said he would do in his word! You see, because of the fact that the Jews believed that the messiah would do all of these wonders, Bartimaeus was simply expressing faith in the fact that Jesus was who he said he was, and that he would do what he already said he would do in his word. It was this faith that healed him, not faith that God would give him what he wanted! It was precisely because he sought God’s will more than any desire he had that he was healed.

Matthew Henry noticed this:

II. He cried out to the Lord Jesus for mercy; Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David. Misery is the object of mercy, his own miserable case he recommends to the compassion of the Son of David, of whom it was foretold, that, when he should come to save us, the eyes of the blind should be opened, Isa. xxxv. 5. In coming to Christ for help and healing, we should have an eye to him as the promised Messiah, the Trustee of mercy and grace [Commentary on Mark].

However, rather than recognizing this, Candice builds upon her misinterpretation of this passage:

Suddenly I felt free to really pray. My petitions changed. No longer weighed down by doubts that what I wanted was good, I asked with confidence:

Lord, You created me. And I believe You created marriage for my good and Your glory. I don’t know Your timeline, but I’m asking You to fulfill my desire to be married.

I then thanked Him for what I believed He would do:

Thank You, Lord, for this strong desire You’ve placed in my heart. Thank You that You’ve already been where I’m headed and that You know what my future holds. Thank You for marriage and for my future mate. Please be with him and prepare his heart to do Your will.

Once I started praying this way, things started happening.

I think that, one of the reasons why I addressed this topic after discussing the sovereignty of God and marriage is because of the fact that this is flowing right from Candice’s Arminianism. In other words, it is the way in which you pray which causes things to happen. Again, notice, Candice says that thinking in the way I am is doubting “what is good,” again with no justification.

However, what’s worse is the presumption in Candice’s prayer. She believes God would do it, and she assumes that she has a future mate. The funny thing is that I have heard of other women who have prayed this way and, to this day, have not obtained a spouse. There are some women who have gone to their grave praying this way, not obtaining a spouse. What if these prayer were assuming something that is untrue, namely, that God would do this, and that she had a future mate? What if God replied by saying, “I am not going to give you a spouse, and there is no future mate for you.” Apparently, she believed that God could not reply this way to her prayer.

However, while this sounds like the health and wealth gospel, we need to be careful not to lump Candice in this group. Her position is far more sophisticated than this. You see, because of her view of Genesis 2, Candice believes that marriage is something to which almost everyone is called. Thus, she believes she is praying in accordance with God’s will. She writes:

Does this mean it’s ok to pray for a million dollars and expect to receive it? Hardly. Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 21 came just after He cleared the temple of all the money changers and merchants. Jesus’ wasn’t showing us the secret to unleashing material wealth-pray for a Mini Cooper and you’ll get one-He instructed us about what to pray for in other places in Scripture. I believe His statement had everything to do with how we pray. It’s about our posture. It’s about our faith and believeing that if we’re following the guidelines He gave us for what, we can ask boldly, believing our prayers will be answered [p.148].

This is why I already provided and exegesis of Genesis 2 in the very first section of my response to show that this is not what that passage is teaching. There is nowhere, anywhere in scripture where God says that it is his will that most people marry. Thus, Candice is merely presuming that this is God’s will, and thus, is totally inconsistent with what the Bible has to say. In other words, she is assuming that God wants most people married, and thus, we can pray for it, when the Bible nowhere says this.

However, what I find interesting about this section is two things. Number one, because of her Arminianism she believes that getting God’s will is dependent upon how you pray, and that the only thing that has changed is her belief that it was God’s will for her to marry in her premarital state. However, isn’t it interesting that, at the beginning we had a prayer that was very strongly centered upon her desire for marriage almost viewing God’s will as an inconvenience, and it now results in an interpretation of scripture that now states that it is God’s will for her life. Obviously, she does not want to deny the sovereignty of God in a traditional Arminian sense, so she now has to redefine the will of God, and reinterpret it in the context of her own desires. This is something I am finding more and more from women who are involved in this teaching. The desire was there first, and then the scriptures were interpreted through the lens of these desires.

Also, in this passage, Jesus was not talking about how you pray, but urging us to pray, because God uses the prayers of his people. Prayer should not be viewed as Candice views it as she views the efficacy of our prayers in terms of how we pray. Prayer should cause us to, instead of trusting in ourselves, to trust in God wholeheartedly. That does not mean that you cannot pray for things when you do not know if it is God’s will, such as praying for a spouse. It just means that you have to trust that God knows best, and that he has the ability to say “no” to your request. It is also recognizing that, if he says no, he has a better plan for your life, one that, your own finite desires cannot even imagine.

The desire for marriage is good, and I wholeheartedly believe it. That being said, we need to use God’s word to interpret these desires. When we do, we find out that they are good, but not ultimate. God and his will are ultimate, and he says that he does whatever he pleases. When we trust him that he is as he says he is, that he is in control of our lives, and that his will is ultimate, then have the comfort of trusting and praising him for exactly what Paul says:

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Indeed, God is able to do abundantly more than give us a spouse. Indeed, he can do more than he we could ever ask or think! I pray that we would remember this whenever we consider the possibility that God would say “no” to our desire for a spouse.

This concludes part III of my responses to Candice Watters.


Blue Sky, Autumn Leaves said...

You are so long winded.

I didn't read through the entire post, however what you had to say about the Bartimaeus story is quite interesting.

I definitly believe that when praying for something, I need to have faith that God will answer my prayers.

When praying for a husband, like Bartimaeus, I make my desire fully known. "God, I want to get married! Please give me a husband!" I strongly believe that God WILL fulfill my desire for a husband. I no longer have doubts on that. However, I don't expect the fulfillment of that desire to be him giving me a husband. Unlike the original illustration of prayer, when I pray for God's will on this matter, I simply pray that "If this is not your will, I trust that you will give me the grace and the direction for my life." The idea is that, if no marriage, then the desire will be supplanted with something else.

And through his ever continuing work in me, sanctification, and his renewed mercies, I believe that as I grow in him, my desires will surely reflect what his desires for my life are. Whether that is home and family or not.

And THAT'S where I have no doubt.

Blue Sky, Autumn Leaves said...

Ok...just to clarify, I don't believe that following an exact formula of prayer is gonna get it answered.

I think that how we pray is a reflection on our attitudes towards God. Are we honest, obedient, open, and trusting? Or are we trying to hide something, disobedient, completely unwilling to have it any way but our way, and distrustful?

So yeah, lessons in how to pray are important, because sometimes the act of doing something over and over and over again changes how you think.

Maybe no formula to get you what you want, but definitly a formula to cultivate a right attitude towards God.

NJArtist said...

I did not read your full article but stopped shortly after your quote of Candace's prayer when I was brought up short by recalling the prayer of Samuel's mother Hannah. In my prayer experience, God does not want nice prayers. He wants prayers reflecting what is going on inside you, not the high priest's view of what you should be saying.
I think both of you should be careful in stating that there is some prescription to be followed in one's prayers.