Between 2012-2013 I attended a small Mennonite seminary in Indiana where I met many of your typical General Conferencers and studied the usual: peace, justice, and spiritual formation. Everything about this experience was to be expected of a Mennonite community, but there was one thing in particular that stood out for me. A middle-aged woman, who I’ll call Joanna, came from the Church of God in Christ denomination. She strongly believed in prosperity Gospel and constantly brought it up in every single class. While many people became frustrated with her because of her personality and her theology, I was strangely attracted to this woman. Eventually, I asked her after class to explain more about why she believed in “Name-It-And-Claim-It.” The discussion proved to be quite eventful because afterwards I came away with the realization that I also believe in this theology.
Now before you get carried away and start thinking I have become the next Joel Olsteen, let me explain. Joanna’s understanding of Name-It-And-Claim-It (or Prosperity Gospel) was a lot different than what many of us think of today. You see, historically, Prosperity Gospel was about claiming the authority of Christ and being bold in our requests. It was less about getting a new car or a promotion and more about asking God for our daily bread. Prosperity, in her understanding, simply meant praying for our direct needs, not necessarily selfish desires.
There are Biblical verses to support this mentality. In the book of Proverbs, Agur writes, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, otherwise I might become so rich that I boast or else become poor and beg and so defile the Name of my God.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+30%3A8&version=NASB) By looking at the Lord’s Prayer, we discover our calling to pray with boldness and integrity – not skirted with nice language, but instead in a direct way. We are also told that “you do not have because you do not ask.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+4%3A2-3&version=NASB). The Bible displays God as a good Father who wants to bless us and who has our best interests in mind. Therefore, it is not intrinsically wrong to ask God for a special request, but we must be careful to make sure it is in alignment with His will. Therefore, I would suggest always ending these requests with a clause such as “if it is Your will” or “Thy will be done.”
Talking to Joanna radicalized my prayer life and has made me more bold as I approach God. What I have learned is that the way we pray impacts the outcome – for example, we can focus on the negative aspects of our lives, or else, we can acknowledge what God has given us and use His authority to gain even more. For example, during a period of intense loneliness I once prayed that I might have a friend. After praying this for several weeks with nothing happening, I shifted the focus of my prayers. I then began praying, “God, thank You for the friends You have placed in my life and the ones You will bring in the future.” Here, I did not pray in a weak way “Lord, if it’s Your will, I would kind of sort of like a friend,” but rather with confidence claiming the friendship. After I prayed this prayer God brought three friends into my life within a three week time period. I also felt happier and less in need.
I believe that God deeply cares about all aspects of our lives: spiritually, emotionally, and materially. He may not give us a new car or a promotion, but He WILL provide for our daily needs if only we ask Him.