I have been disturbed lately about the content of prayer training in many churches. The emphasis seems to be on calling on God with a list of wants, and then waiting as He fulfills the requests. This attitude of God as similar to a genie, a magic spirit who takes on human form and grants three wishes, no matter what they are, can be detrimental to people’s faith, for God is not human and He does not give us everything we ask of Him. What father does?
Yet, when it is time for the offering, so many deacons and other church leaders stress to people that “the more you give to the church, the more God will give to you.” They make it an investment that leaves the notion that God takes notes of each person’s giving, and whether He fulfills the demands of each parishioner depends on what you put into His bottle. It is like saying that it matters how many times you rub the genie’s bottle, with each dollar given counting as one rub. But, this is not the way God works at all, and so many people get angry when they pay their tithes, or give more than expected, but retain the same problems and heartaches.
It is why the prosperity gospel bothers me so much, especially the idea that as Abraham’s seed, all of God’s people are meant to be wealthy and have all of their wishes fulfilled. Indeed, according to this reading of the gospel, a poor Christian is am oxymoron, meaning it should not be possible. If you are not rich and consider yourself a Christian, then there is something wrong with how you are worshiping God, in terms of your giving and offerings. When I hear this message or versions of it, often as a hidden message, I just want to scream for the truth to be told.
For me the counterargument to this type of religious message is that God never promised everyone a good life, one free of difficulties and troubles. Nowhere in the Bible does God indicate that His blessings are for sell to the highest giver. The notion that giving means receiving seems to indicate that God is like a gum ball machine, meaning put money in at one end and wait for the blessing to come out at the other end. To even suggest that God is up for sale is religious, to me.
For me, prayer is not about give me, give me, give me, and give me more. It is about letting God know your troubles and asking for His assistance to resolve the troubles. Like any good father, not everything one asks for is granted, because not everything we request is right for us or good for us. Garth Brooks has a song that I love that is titled, Thank God for Unanswered Prayers. In the song, Brooks emphasizes that for some prayers, God’s answer is “no.” Yet, people still want to believe that all that is neeeded is to pray to God, tell Him what you want, and, like a genie in a bottle, He gives it to you.
I am glad that God does not work that way. I am happy that He does not fulfill every wish that we have, mainly because so few of us, me included, really know what we want or what is good for us. We ask for things or events, not knowing what the future holds and how having the requests answered affirmatively would be detrimental for us. But, thanks be to God, He knows what will happen in a few days, a few years, or a few centuries; therefore, He answers according to His will for our lives.
I John 5:14-15 states, “And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask.” So, it does not come down to how much money you give to the church, for God’s help is not for sale, but what is God’s plans or will for your lives. He is not like a genie in a bottle, granting wishes all willy-nilly according to how much we give to Him. He always does what is best for us.
If it took money for Him to bless our lives and help us, I would still be a poor woman in my hometown, having never lived my dream job or be sitting here about to go to the beach and soak up the sun (see picture above). I would have died a long time ago from the violence in my life, and I would be an insomniac, unable to sleep during the difficult times in my life. These dire events would have happened because I had absolutely nothing to give to God but my faith that He would hear and answer my cries; all I could offer to Him were sacrifices from my lips of praise and thanksgiving for His past help.
So, my testimony today can best be stated in Psalm 4: 5-8, “Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord. Many people say, ‘Who will show us better times?’ Let your face smile on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”
It is wrong for religious leaders to say that money begets money, fame, fortune, and good health, when it comes to God. He is not a genie in a bottle, meaning that if you rub His ego with your money, He will give you everything you ask for. Life with God does not work like that. It is the level of your faith, trust, gratitude, and hope that God notices, not your bank account, houses, salary, or how much you can give to Him.
He prefers sacrifices of obedience, rather than silver or gold. Until we learn this fact, people will continue to be angry and lose their faith when troubles and trials come. They expect that when they put their money in the offering plate, they should receive something back in return, and the more they put in, the greater the blessings they should receive. Sorry, but, thankfully, that is not how God works.