Oh man, you guys. I found the best (read: funniest) book ever at the library. I want to review it for you, but I don’t know how that’s possible. I think the best approach is to just quote some choice passages — but even that’s hard, because it’s basically a cover-to-cover laughfest. And it’s really kind of unfortunate, because the author, Frederick Price, is actually taking the Bible at its word and explaining how a believing Christian can truly get anything they ask for in prayer. Seriously … I feel your pain, Christians; it must feel like you can’t win no matter what you do. Try to make your religion sound halfway reasonable, and we get on your case for ignoring the explicitly ridiculous statements made in your supposedly holy book. Stand behind that holy book, though, and you end up sounding like an oblivious buffoon. (I have a suggestion on how to escape this seeming catch-22. Perhaps you can guess what it is.)
Price begins with what’s actually a familiar atheist objection to the mainstream Christian understanding of prayer. He argues that “no” or “wait” don’t count as answers.
I want to share with you one of the biggest blessings of my life: God’s instruction manual for prayer. This is not some gimmick. Don’t think for a moment you are treating God like a supernatural candy dispenser. Quite the contrary, the principles I am going to share with you involve taking God at His Word. They require that we “put up or shut up” with our faith. That’s why some people resist what I’m about to tell you, because it’s all about faith — faith, and knowing God’s promises.
There is a way to pray so that you know God hears you and has already answered your prayer. There is a way to pray in faith — all the time — a way to get answers.
And no isn’t an answer. [p. 3]
Big promises, huh? I’m not going to make you find a copy of the book in order to find out what this incredible recipe is. There are only seven steps to getting your “prayers answered every time, and always with a yes and amen.” From pages 191-2:
- Determine what you want, and find scriptures that promise you that.
- Ask the Father, in Jesus’ name, for what you want, believing you will receive it when you ask.
- Let every thought and desire affirm that you have what you asked for.
- Guard against every evil thought that comes into your mind, and watch closely your associations and observations.
- Think constantly on the promises on which you base the answer to your prayer.
- Think on the love, mercy, goodness, and blessings of God to boost your faith.
- Make every word relative to what you’ve asked in prayer a statement of faith instead of a statement of unbelief.
Price’s interpretation of what scripture promises is absolutely breathtaking. Citing Deuteronomy 28, he argues,
Now, while cars are not specifically mentioned, it seems pretty clear that if you are blessed in the above manner, you’ll be able to buy any car you want. Certainly “herds” could have referred as easily to horses as to, more likely, cattle. If we Christians are indeed the “seed of Abraham,” as Paul says, then we are promised prosperity. So you can either pray for a car, or pray for the money to buy a car — either way, it has been promised to you. And God doesn’t care if you have a Volkswagen or a Ferrari or a Ford. They are all the same to God. (he has heavenly chariots!) some Christians can’t really believe for the car they want because they feel unworthy or guilty asking for something that is very expensive. God does not care about the expense. He lives in the most luxurious, wealthy city to ever exist. Our earthly concepts of wealth are dwarfed by His riches — and I don’t mean just spiritual riches. Don’t think your request is an affront to God. If He has provided for it and promised it, you are fully within the rights He has given you to ask for it. [p. 16-7]
He’s really into the car thing, too. Later [p. 92] he offers a similar example, saying that when he was “first starting out in faith,” he bought a car with a monthly payment of $151, which was more than he could afford but he managed it somehow (thanks to God, presumably). “Since that time,” he continues, “I’ve bought two cars for my wife that cost $60,000 apiece and paid cash for them. Here’s the point: we didn’t start there, but you have to start somewhere.” Therefore — and I’m not making this up, really — you shouldn’t start out by praying for your cancer to be cured; start by praying for cures for your “headaches or upset stomachs” and work your way up.
Lest you think God can do magic tricks any time you ask or something, though, Price offers a bit of clarification:
You must constantly apply the yardstick of scripture — all of Scripture, not just the verses you take out of context. For example, Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If you are five feet two inches tall and can’t jump over a box, does that mean you will be able to walk out and confess, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and dunk a basketball? Absolutely not. The promise does not mean that anyone can sing beautifully, automatically be a great cook, or do exceptional athletic feats. What that verse means is that if God has called you to do something, He will strengthen you to do it. [p. 120-1]
So, God must have called Frederick Price to be a megachurch pastor who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on cars (where’d he get that money from, I wonder…). And interpreting Old Testament verses about cattle as though they refer to Ferraris is definitely not taking verses out of context. Got it. (Basically, it’s only “out of context” when you do it. Not when Pastor Price does it.) That’s step 1 — interpret the Bible exactly as Frederick Price does, and only ask for stuff that that interpretation promises you.
Steps 2 through 7 all essentially boil down to the same philosophy as The Secret: believe that something has already happened, and it will become reality. It’s got the usual escape hatch built in, too. If you try Price’s step-by-step plan and don’t get what you prayed for, it must be that you didn’t have enough faith. Did you ever have a single negative thought or doubt for a moment that your prayer would come true? Then it’s your fault for doubting God! (Still fixated on cars, he literally writes, “If you pray for a Rolls Royce, you better have Rolls Royce faith.” [p. 91]) Yawn. Heard it all before.
There are a bunch of other silly bits I’d like to mention just because they underscore how off in la-la land this guy is. He devotes a meaningful chunk of space to discussing why it’s essential to say “in Jesus’ name” (it’s like the secret handshake for getting God to listen to you), and related, why the “Lord’s Prayer” is not the “right” kind of prayer (it only applied before Jesus’ resurrection). My favorite part in that discussion was this:
Without the name of Jesus, no person — regardless of their religious background or persuasion — can pray a petition prayer and expect God to act on it. However, God will always respond to a prayer of redemption and acceptance of his son. (“Lord, I accept Your son as my Lord and Savior.”) So from that perspective, He will always hear the prayer of anyone — Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist — as long as that person’s prayer is one of acceptance of Jesus. But the name of Jesus is the only name that has any authority or gets any action from a prayer. [p. 52]
Oh, boy … (wipes tears from eyes) … that is so rich. God will hear even an atheist’s prayer, as long as that atheist is praying to God to tell him that he believes in Jesus! What … what does this even mean? Is this book some kind of practical joke on Price’s congregation? I can’t believe that he wrote this paragraph not intending it to be humorous.
It would be wrong of me to end this review without mentioning this passage, which had me literally falling off the couch laughing. It was part of a discussion about how “God cannot and will not trespass on someone else’s will,” which is why God doesn’t just fix everything without us having to ask him first.
This explains why Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Asia, and the earthquakes in Pakistan were not “acts of God” but rather acts of the devil. He is the one still legally in charge of this planet. He has the lease. It is his domain. You may ask, “Dr. Price, do you mean to say that God isn’t more powerful than the devil?”
No! That isn’t what I mean. In the twinkling of an eye, God could flush that old liar into the eternal pit of fire. But God cannot violate His word, and He gave His word to Adam that he would have dominion over the earth. Dominion means you have authority and control. remember that if you can’t sell something or give it away, you really don’t have dominion over it. Through sin, Adam gave up his dominion over the earth to the devil. Therefore, God cannot legally violate the devil’s civil rights when it comes to authority over this world. [p. 24-5]
Christian readers: before you pitch a fit and tell me that Frederick Price isn’t a True Christian™, let me tell you about his little bio in the back flap of the book:
Frederick K. C. Price founded Crenshaw Christian Center (CCC) in Los Angeles, California, which is now the home of the FaithDome, with a church membership of over 22,000. He also founded the Fellowship of Inner City Word of Faith Ministries (FICWFM) in 1990. In addition to pastoring, he is the author of some 50 books on faith, healing, prosperity, and the Holy Spirit and has sold more than 2.1 million books since 1976.
I’m not saying that being popular is the same thing as being right. I’m just saying that this guy clearly represents a meaningful contingent of Christianity, one that’s worth talking about, and I’m not always going to be addressing your specific, personal belief system here. And I’d add — what makes you so sure that he’s wrong and you’re right? You’re both basing your beliefs on your own interpretations of the same text. Perhaps you conclude that his are incorrect because they sound so ridiculous, and you know we don’t live in a world that works that way. But are you really ready to commit to a system where you evaluate claims by judging whether they sound reasonable based on your observations of reality?