Here's an article on prayer with related truth.
As a bit of an introduction, awhile back I said I would deal with the prayer for someone to be saved and the prayer for someone to be healed and more about the prayer of faith and in God's will. Then I said I would deal with history. Here is history. The parts about history and prayer will relate to some philosophical basis for the wrong way of praying and then a look at what believers were writing in history, and even changes in the writing about prayer as we get further along. On to VI.
If we are not relying on scripture for knowing that for which we're to pray, then we are depending on something totally subjective as a basis. A person does not know, because He can't know, and he prays for it anyway. He probably has faith that God can do it, but He isn't sure that God will do it. He might say he knows, but this isn't a biblical knowledge, so it isn't even knowledge, and neither can it be faith, because of that. As this relates to what is called 'praying' in churches today, I see a few plausible causes, which can be tied to what's happened in the past, that is, history.
The historical era that began revivalism has affected all things theological and ecclesiastical. I understand that some might become peeved when I say revivalism. When I say revivalism, I am referring to something that is different than revival. Opposition to revivalism is not contradiction to revival. If you don't know that, then it would be get up to speed, perhaps by reading Iain Murray's Revival and Revivalism in which he differentiates the two. Revivalism is a false theological position that links to or identifies with several related historical issues or positions, including keswick theology, Wesleyan perfectionism, higher life movement, Finneyism, and a Chaferian model of sanctification.
Some would say, "I'm not a revivalist." Neither am I. However, many, many who are not revivalists still have revivalist instincts or tendencies. They might not be full fledged, but it is still there. That also includes me. I'm open to correction on this. It's in my past, but it has been all over evangelicalism and fundamentalism and still among the most separated unaffiliated Baptists, who would claim not to be either evangelical or fundamentalist.
Interpretation of certain passages and even application have arisen out of the influence of revivalist teaching and tradition, if not from the revivalists themselves. If I were going to characterize what I'm talking about, it could best be described as making the performance or practice or events in eras of miracles as normative for today. I wrote about this in a previous post on unacceptable degrees of normativeness of the book of Acts. A huge majority of these men would repudiate continuationism and yet practice and therefore believe a sort of continuationism. Some of this surely relates to and affects how or what they pray. I think it should be considered rather than immediate outright denial.
What am I talking about? A gift of healing from an era of miracles is a prayer for healing. Apostolic revelation from an era of miracles and inspiration is an extra scriptural knowledge or understanding of who will be healed or saved or physically delivered -- this is nothing someone would "know" without being "told." A revivalist would pray for evangelistic results and "get them." According to him, he got special power for special consequences because he prayed, and the consequences became the "evidence" that he had received the power. Parallel with an era of miracles or the book of Acts, he sees a Pentecost-like "revival" to answer the prayer for salvation or someone healed like the apostolic gift of healing.
The results of the prayer are still arbitrary and ultimately unverifiable. Why isn't the power more widely utilized? You can't test the validity, because it was private and whimsical. Something legitimate and long lasting could occur for different reasons than declared. "Success" encourages more of the same.
Someone who totally embraces the sufficiency of scripture may in practice undermine the sufficiency of scripture. We have a more sure word of prophecy, greater than an experience as valid as the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. 2 Pet 1). We should enjoy what God promised, what we know we will receive in answer to prayer.
The Two Realm Theory or the Two Story Truth
Post-enlightenment and probably a vital cause of revivalism was a new concept of truth, which I'm calling here, but not originating with me, either a two realm theory or the two story truth. I've read it most recently in Nancy Pearcey's excellent Total Truth, which I've not yet completed. The two realm theory goes that there is an upper story of nonrational, noncognitive experience, which is the location of personal meaning, the realm of private truth, and then the lower realm, which is rational and verifiable. Explaining it as "two story," one story is subjective, relative to particular groups, and the other is objective and universally valid. The latter is where you get the haves and have nots. Some get a personal connection and others may not. There are those that swear to have it, but it is non-verifiable. It's personal. You've got to take his word for it -- it's his truth.
In the sense that I'm describing the above two realms or two stories, there is a mystical realm and then a scientific one. This is a form of relativism or maybe just sheer relativism. The truth of these experiences is relative to the one having or possessing them. They become unquestionable. Who am I to know that you don't know that God will save this person or heal that person?
I recognize that many or most (if not all) will protest this section. I'm not saying that someone would ascribe to it on paper, admit that his position comes out of this post-enlightenment influence or new way of thinking. Some reading might recognize this as foundational to and descriptive of postmodernism. Modernism claims to depend on man's reasoning, a cognitive approach. A pendulum swing from that looks to private, personal experience as validation, which approximates postmodernism. However, we live in a world that has left pre-enlightenment thinking. This is the influence of secularism, perhaps represented by what Jesus called "the leaven of Herod."
When you consider how a particular doctrine or practice has changed in the history of Christian doctrine, you track where we start hearing something different. You ask why? What were the influences? These look like the obvious choices.
In the next post, I'm going to look into historical writing on prayer. Will we see that men in fact, pre-enlightenment did pray for the sick and the unsaved? Of course they did. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the differences in how the sick and the unsaved are prayed for, among other differences that I discussed on the prayer in the will of God or the prayer of faith. What I am saying here, however, is that prayer has changed like a lot of other practices in the Christian life, and the above are the best explanations for what happened.
More to Come