When I was a young boy my mother and grandmother attended a very small country church. It was a cobbled together affair of white painted clapboard siding and not much else. There was no carpet on the floor, just pine boards painted with gray porch paint. There was no air-conditioning just cardboard hand fans which were provided by the local funeral service. In the winter heat was supplied by a cast iron wood burning stove. The pews were hand built by some carpenter in the congregation (of limited ability) and were similarly painted with porch paint. It did not have bathrooms but instead had “his and hers” outhouses. To say It was a modest little church would have been an understatement. One of my grandmothers sayings was “you couldn’t cuss a cat in there without getting hair in your mouth”. It was only a slight exaggeration.
Usually the first thing that happened in a service was a hymn number was called out and everyone stood to sing together as there was no choir. The second thing that happened was a call to prayer. Almost every adult would rise and go up to the front of the church and bow down on their knees and begin to pray aloud. This was not some liturgical prayer where everyone was praying in unison. But, instead everyone was praying their own prayer with their own words. It was a sound that I will always remember. As a child sometimes it seemed like they were competing to see who could be loudest. Occasionally someone would have a sickness or injury and would ask for prayer for it. Then the preacher or a deacon would get out a little bottle of oil and pour a drop on the persons head and the whole congregation would come up and put a hand on the person and pray. Sometimes the preacher would quote Mark chapter 16
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name they shall cast out devils; they will speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Occasionally someone would claim that the prayer had caused them to become healed. I believe that some were.
This was in the heyday of the evangelist Oral Roberts. He was very poplar and was on radio and television. I think he must have been the first televangelist. He prayed for multitudes of people and claimed that God healed many. Since then there has been a long parade of televangelists imitating him with basically the same message. All of them emphasize a prosperity gospel that if one has faith they will be healed and prosperous. According to Oral and all his imitators that have followed, all you need is faith and some action, usually in the form of sending a donation to their ministry.
I have often thought about that passage from Mark 16. I have since come to realize that Mark 16:9-20 is not found in the most reliable manuscripts. Still, the apostles and others prayed for people and healed them and the book of acts records the early church speaking and being understood by folks that didn’t speak their language. It wasn’t some incomprehensible gibberish like is practiced today in the charismatic churches, it was a known language. I do believe miraculous signs followed those early christians. And I have wondered why I don’t see very many displays of YHVH’s power now even though the gospel of faith is the main message of christianity today. It seems as though with all this teaching about faith there would be more displays of its power.
So, what is the problem? Why are our prayers not answered? Why are the miraculous signs not following christians of today? Here is what I have come to believe. I believe we have been fed a lot of false teachings. The gospel as taught by Paul and retaught by almost all of christendom is a very ‘faith only’ centric gospel. A simple belief followed by a confession of faith is taught to be enough to grant you eternal salvation regardless of your conduct afterward. If that is true then it stands to reason that it would naturally empower you to do these great miraculous works. I believe that this is at odds with the teachings of Yeshua and the prophets before him. The real teachings of Yeshua, the prophets, his chosen twelve Apostles and the early church are that first comes belief, then repentance. This is followed by works worthy of repentance like repaying for things you stole, asking those you harmed for forgiveness, and making amends. Then obeying YHVH’s laws and commandments.
Yeshua said that the true gospel would be hated and those that preached it would be persecuted. The faith and prosperity gospel is neither hated nor are its preachers persecuted because it makes salvation painless and easy. It is celebrated in palace like cathedrals and its preachers make a fortune writing and selling books while they fly around in private jets making personal appearances at great financial gain.
Proverbs 28:9 says
“He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” What law you might ask? The law of Moses as taught in the Torah, the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, numbers and Deuteronomy. That’s right, if you aren’t trying to obey YHVH’s law then even your prayers disgust him.
When Yeshua was asked “what must I do to be saved” he replied “obey the commandments”.. Believe, repent and obey! That is the true gospel and the true gospel has the power to change your conduct. I am studying and working on myself to more closely obey the commandments because I believe that is truly the key to salvation and I believe it is the key to answered prayer.