Guys, look. Come over here for a second. Pull up a chair, have a seat. Scoot a bit closer. That’s good. Now, listen. You know I care about you, right? Well, I’ve got something to say to you.
Stop “decreeing and declaring” in your prayers.
There. I said it.
Look, I get it. I get why it’s becoming a thing with Christians. You feel like it actually shows great faith. You feel like it rests on the authority we have to pray in Jesus’ name. You may even feel like you have more of a chance of having your prayer answered if you pray with such confidence. I know where it comes from. It started out in charismatic churches, and churches that teach prosperity gospel. But it’s becoming more and more popular now even with Christians outside of those traditions. And it’s simply wrong. It’s not biblical. We do not have the authority to decree and declare that things be a certain way. Only God has that authority.
Jesus actually gave us a very clear teaching on how to pray. Today we call that teaching the Lord’s prayer. Here it is:
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)
And here’s what it would sound like if prayed by someone today. (Credit to bibleissues.org)
Our Father, I decree and declare that thou art in heaven;
for had we not done so, Thou mightest have fallen from heaven like lightning
We speak forth your kingdom on earth and decree that thy will be done
We confess that our daily bread is provided
We declare that we are forgiven and we release forgiveness to our debtors
We are loosed from temptations, we bind the evil one IN JESUS NAME
For we declare that thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever amen.
Please note the actual Lord’s Prayer sounds nothing like the prayers we pray when we “decree and declare.” In fact it sounds decidedly unlike that. It sounds humble. It petitions. It recognizes God’s power and authority, and minimizes our own. This is the exact opposite of what we do when we “decree and declare.”
Decreeing and declaring puts the focus on us. It puts the focus on our authority (even when we might give token mention to the fact that our authority comes from God). It uses language that sounds like the answer to our prayer is under our control. And in so doing, it also has the unfortunate side effect of giving people false hope. “Name it and claim it!” “Decree it and it will be so!” …Except when it isn’t, of course.
Jesus, the one person who actually does have the authority to decree and declare, sets the example for us in the garden of Gethsemane. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) He does not pray according to his own will. He does not demand. He does not declare. He does not decree. He petitions, humbly. And he finishes his prayer with the beautiful statement, “not my will, but your will be done.”
This is how we should pray.