Prayer For Sale – Merchandising the ‘Doves’
By Joseph Jerry Umaru (Joseph2Nations@yahoo.com )
***Permission and encouragement to reproduce and re-transmit this article is hereby granted, but only in its entirety, including author’s name and contact details at the end of the article, and without any alterations.
Step with me into the Temple at Jerusalem and watch a poignant scenario unfolds:
“On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'”(Mark 11:15-17 NIV).
Our opening Scripture above seems to look like a ‘mere’ recorded action and remarks of Jesus Christ upon His arrival in Jerusalem, but, what a wealth of revelation lies within it.
For the past few days now, I have been meditating on the above Scriptural text and have tried to link it to a disturbing trend currently going on in the Church – especially in the Pentecostal wing of the Church.
I have often wondered why the Bible gave doves a special mention in the account given in our opening Scripture when other animals were also been traded in the Temple.
However, a dear friend of mine; Bro Abel J. Tsado recently told me that he believes the Bible gave dove such a special mention because; dove is one of the emblems of the Spirit, and that just as doves were been merchandised in the days of Jesus, so also are the gifts of the Spirit (‘doves’) been flagrantly merchandised in the Body of Christ today.
I had initially planned to write on “Revival” this month, but had to shelve that article to give room for this (Prayer For Sale – Merchandising the ‘Doves’), because of a trend I have observed in the Body of Christ which has disturbed me for quite sometime now.
Yes, it has bothered and nettled me for long, but I kept my mouth shut for such a long time and searched my heart to make sure I was not harbouring a religious and judgmental spirit…
I am not against sacrificial giving and am also aware that God works in mysterious ways. At the same time, I believe my concerns (as expressed in this article) are honest, and my ‘neo-conservative’ arguments valid.
What’s the point am trying to put across here: There are ministers of the Gospel in our days that are overtly or covertly ‘merchandising the doves’ – selling prayers (so to speak)…
HEAR THIS: In the part of the world which I live, some preachers are trying to give us the impression that prayers, gifts of the Spirit cum prosperity and breakthroughs can be purchased by just putting fat offering (money) in an envelope/handkerchief and then have a preacher pray on it. Call it a “stock exchange Gospel”.
It is not uncommon these days to see a preacher mount the rostrum asking those believing God for the fruit of the womb, visa, healing, breakthrough(s), prosperity etc to put say, 30 thousand Naira (our local currency here), 25 thousand naira, 10 thousand naira, 5 thousand naira etc in an envelope/handkerchief, write their desired breakthroughs in/on the envelope/handkerchief and then bring it up to the altar for ‘rocket-speed’, ‘failure-proof’ prayers.
Such preachers will then go on to tell bait-like tales of how other Believers elsewhere have practiced their ‘magic formula’ and have obtained ‘near-instant’ breakthroughs – all in an attempt to lure their unsuspecting victims.
To me, that is akin to selling prayers – merchandising the doves (the gifts of the Spirit, so to speak).
That is not to say there can be no rare/exceptional cases when/where God will ask a preacher to take such special SEED from the people. But even at that, the people should not be coaxed into it.
Manipulating the people to give under duress is akin to witchcraft – trying to control and manipulate a fellow human through ‘soulish’ means.
There are preachers who will tell the people that; before they (the preachers) got their breakthroughs, they sold their houses, cars, TV sets, plots of land etc, and that; for one to get his/her desired breakthrough(s) you should/MUST do the same.
To me, that assertion do not always holds true. God deals with us individually as only Him knows what constitutes an ‘Isaac’ (a ‘god’) in our lives at a particular point in time.
We are all contributing to God’s universal epic – God’s bigger story of salvation and He deals with us individually and often times, differently. We must never forget that awesome truth.
We must avoid the temptation of legalizing God’s personal commands to us. As you may well know; legalistic people do try to take God’s word to them and make it a law for everyone. That ought not to be.
Sure, God did asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, but never was such a demand made of anyone in the Scriptures after it was made of the great patriarch. Comb the Bible records and never once will you find God repeat such a demand of anyone! So, such special demands should be seen more as an exception rather than a rule.
What’s the point am trying to make here? God deals with us individually – what He demands of Bro A might not necessarily be what He would demand of Sister B…
A few years ago, while I was still in the university, the Lord told me to hand-over to Him (sow) my first scholarship assistance (financial aid) which the state government was about to give us. I battle it over for a couple of days but eventually obeyed the divine command, and that has opened me up to a world of ever-increasing blessings and unfolding progressive divine revelations…
But of course, that does not mean I should go about proclaiming that anybody who wants to be blessed of God must sow his/her scholarship aid – it does not always go that way. The best I can do is to encourage the people to always be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and be always willing to turn over whatever He demands of them – however precious such thing(s) might be to them, and however painful giving it in might look.
Am I in anyway downplaying the place of sacrificial seed-sowing in the life of a Believer? NO, and a thousand times, NO!
I believe STRONGLY in giving and I pray everyday for that grace to keep increasing in my life. The place of a regular, consistent, sacrificial giving in the life of a Believer cannot be over emphasized.
As a matter of fact, I am of the opinion and conviction that; giving is the highway to abundance and that until that understanding dawns on an individual, he or she can be more anointed than Melchizedek (king of Salem), poverty will still be his/her bedfellow…
What I mean by that statement is this: Giving/sowing is the pivot around which all the essential principles of Kingdom prosperity revolves.
But, be that as it may, giving should not be done under duress/compulsion. The people should not be coax into giving. They should not be made to feel emotionally “guilty” that because they are genuinely unable to give a particular pegged amount they are eternally missing out on an anointing which a man/woman of God is about to “merchandise”.
Some preachers will even go as far as telling the people: ‘if you don’t have the [pegged] amount here, go and borrow and bring it.’ To me, that sounds like a Pharisee-like approach.
God’s Word clearly says:
“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” (2Corinthians 8:12 NIV).
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Corinthians 9:7 NIV).
Even when the Tabernacle was about to be built in the wilderness, God made it explicitly clear to Moses that only those who are willing should contribute to the construction of the Tabernacle – no coaxing, no manipulation, no gimmicks, no bait-like tales, no intimidation, no sweet-‘tonguing’! (See Exodus 25:1-2 and Exodus 36:3).
Talking About Pegging ‘Breakthrough Prayers’ To A Particular Amount: A friend recently told me that if the Temple administrators in the days of Jesus had pegged Temple offerings to a particular “fat” amount, the widow in Mark 12:41-43 would not have had an opportunity to sow her ‘generationally’ celebrated “widow’s mite”. She would have been ‘technically’ “disenfranchised”. Selah – pause and think about that.
So, what’s the moral of the story as narrated in Mark 12:41-43 and Luke 21:1-4? It’s simply this: The value of an offering is oftentimes not necessarily determined by its amount (fatness), but by the spirit in which it is given.
Let me also point out at this juncture that; breakthrough prayers should not be exalted above individual’s personal relationship with the God that answers prayers…
The Principles of Christ must not be pursued at the expense of The Person of Christ.
The Principles of Christ and the Person of Christ are ‘comrades-in-arms’ (so to speak), and none should be pursued/pronounced at the expense of the other. Telling people to ‘sow’ fat offerings to God (The Principles) without a conscious effort to connect them to Christ (The Person) would be an exercise in futility.
**Dr. Selwyn Hughes, a man to whom I owe so much, puts this thought in a more compelling way when he wrote in the October 2, 2008 issue of his daily devotional; ‘Everyday With Jesus’: “…Without Christ’s presence in one’s life the principles given in the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-16] are impossible to keep…when Jesus presented the principles outlined in the Sermon on the Mount, He was not saying; ‘Live like this and you will become a Christian’; what He was saying was, ‘Become a Christian and you will live like this’”.
That is to say, you cannot extract The Principles of Jesus e.g sowing/giving, and present them in isolation of His Person…
For the Christian, prosperity and breakthroughs comes by FIRST and FOREMOST having a personal, transformational, dynamic relationship with The Person of Christ and after then, operating His Principles – and NOT the other way round…
Yes, that’s the Kingdom way to genuine prosperity and breakthroughs – that’s the ‘Old-time Religion’ way!
Oh, how I wish this message is preached from more pulpits…
Anyway, let me drop my pen for now. Let me bring this article to sleep here. And I had better do that fast lest I over speak and end up being tagged a religious extremist and a mean-spirited heresy hunter.
Maranatha!!! Yes, come Lord Jesus, come purge Your Church as You have promised You will do – presenting Her to Yourself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but holy and without blemish. Amen, Hallelujah – Amen.
**Selwyn Hughes quoted with the permission of CWR, London, UK.
_____Joseph Jerry Umaru
Emails: Joseph2Nations@yahoo.com, Josephdegreat@yahoo.com,
Phone: (+234)-8036-814-178 and (+234)-8052-917-334
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