Q&A: Televangelism and Prayer

Televangelism and Prayer

Question

I see people on TV who heal people with nothing but a word and a prayer. They say they are from God. My parents do not believe that they are for real. They think that they put on an act to entertain people, but I do not know if I feel the same way. I believe that still today, you can get anything you ask for in prayer, if you believe. But on the other hand, some of the things people do just seem too unreal. Do I have the right to doubt? Is doubting them, the same as doubting God? Do you think what they do is for real? Can you abuse the power of God by faking his healing powers?

Answer

Let me start this answer with a little illustration:

There were two young brothers whose father was a very loving, wealthy man. The younger boy was enthralled with the wonders of his Father's wealth -- so enthralled that he was always asking his father for more toys, and more candy, and more stuff. His older brother greatly appreciated and respected his father's wealth, but did not feel it was proper to assault his father with constant petitions for gifts. The older brother knew that he would inherit the father's wealth one day, and was content to live under his father's care until then. He asked his father only for things which he really needed, and only for things he thought his father would think were reasonable.

Now, the father frequently thought his younger son's requests were unreasonable, and he often did not grant his requests. But sometimes he did, even when the requests were unreasonable. He did this simply because he loved his son. Because the older son did not ask for unreasonable things, the father did not give him many unreasonable things. Because he only asked the father for the things he really needed, the father did not give him many things he did not need quite as badly.

The younger son's requests were a bit too wild and absurd at times, and the older son's requests were a bit too reserved and infrequent. As it happened, the younger son ended up getting quite a few more good things from the father than his older brother did -- because he asked.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Many preachers and healers often presume upon God's favor, and often believe they have a right to more blessings than God has promised us as this stage of redemptive history. God has promised to give us the full blessings of the kingdom (health, wealth, etc.) only when Jesus returns. Until then, he gives us tastes of the blessings to come, and promises us suffering and persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).

Further, the TV preachers often presume that Christians have a private right to these blessings -- that they can claim these blessings from God in faith, and that God must deliver. Most Christians, I would wager, believe something similar. Most believe that if they ask in faith and in Jesus name, God will answer their prayers. But this isn't actually what the Bible teaches. These ideas are often based on passages like John 14:13-14; 15:16 and Mark 11:23-24. In these passages, however, Jesus was speaking directly to the disciples, and not to anyone else. These promises do not apply to Christians at large, but only to the apostles. The verses in John are statements in which Christ delegated his power and authority to the Apostles as he ordained them for the apostolic ministry they would perform after his death. They function in John's gospel as a defense of the Apostles' authority to teach the truth, thereby refuting the false teachings of others that had arisen in the church prior to John's writing of his gospel. Mark 11:23-24 is also about authority (see the context of Mark 11:28-33). In the context of Mark's gospel it demonstrates that the ones who performed miracles and who turned the Jewish religious establishment upside-down (i.e. the Apostles) had authority from God to do so. The miracles they performed proved it (compare the many miracles in recorded in Mark). In fact, as we look at the biblical history recorded in Acts, we find that the Apostles possessed incredible miracle-working powers, and that God consistently answered their prayers. This is just not the case with other believers. Great men of faith in the Bible often had their prayers unanswered (e.g. 1 Sam. 12:16-23), and were even told in advance that their prayers would not be answered (e.g. Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11).

Do some TV preachers "fake it"? Yes, they do. Investigative reporters have demonstrated on multiple occasions that some of these guys are just hucksters. They wear wireless receivers and get fed information on the people in the audience so that it looks like they are receiving a "word from God." Do they present fake healings? Yes, some do. Those that have been caught doing this often say that they do it in order to inspire faith in others, so that others will come up for true healings. Do they all do this? I'm sure not. I'm sure many of them think they are doing a wonderful service to the world and the church. They may do bizarre things, and they may be wrong theologically, but they still love God and his people, and they still pray earnestly and honestly. They still believe the gospel, and they will be in heaven. God doesn't require us to have a good theology of prayer before he will answer our prayers. He only requires that we be his children in Christ. Moreover, God still answers prayer, sometimes miraculously.

Finally, yes, you have a right to doubt what all preachers do. That's biblical (compare 1 John 4:1). Doubting men is not the same as doubting God -- God is infallible and totally honest; men are not.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.