DOCTRINAL ERROR – Prayer in Agreement
By far, the favorite doctrine of all Word of Faith teachers, used over and over again by those asking for money to fund their organizations, is claimed to be found in Matthew 18:19 where the following is stated:
"Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven." (NAS)
The claim is made that if two or more Christians agree about a specific issue, then whatever that issue might be, when stated to God in faith as a prayer request, it must be accomplished by God according to the wishes of the believers. This is claimed to be the Prayer of Agreement or "bringing our faith into agreement with yours" or "releasing the power of the prayer of agreement." When used by the leadership of Word of Faith organizations, it is stated that they and their associates or organization will agree with the prayer requests that are made known to them, and that the power of their Prayer of Agreement with those requests will cause those requests to be fulfilled by God, according to what they claim is stated in Matthew 18:19. This is a remarkable claim and, if it is true, would place tremendous power into the hands of Christians worldwide.
However, is the Prayer of Agreement what Matthew 18:19 actually teaches? The premise sounds so good and is based on the Scripture, so how could anyone disagree with that teaching? The difficulty with the Scriptural foundation is that many Word of Faith teachers base their doctrines on "proof" texts which they claim support their beliefs. In many instances the single verse provided appears to confirm the teaching, but on closer examination it is revealed that the verse has been pulled out of the context in which it was given and the verse is claimed to say what it does not. A fabrication is perpetrated, which covers an ulterior motive by the teacher, and the Scripture is used in order give credibility to what is being taught. This is true in the case of the Prayer of Agreement. Sadly, many people have been deceived by the claims and have expressed disillusionment because of the false promises that have been made, using the doctrine of the Prayer of Agreement as the basis of authority.
Matthew 18:19 is not a verse isolated within itself, because it is part of a group of 6 verses, beginning with Matthew 18:15 and ending with Matthew 18:20. These verses deal with a single subject, are a single unit and comprise a teaching spoken directly by Jesus Christ to His disciples, so it is imperative that leaders present the verses as Jesus Christ intended and taught. If the verses are claimed to teach what they do not, then the teachers are claiming that Jesus Christ was a liar and they are speaking the truth, which assumes that they are of better moral and spiritual character, and have greater understanding than Jesus Christ. This is not acceptable. Verse 19 cannot be separated from that unit of six verses and must be interpreted within the confines of that unit.
WHAT VERSE 19 IS NOT:
1. Verse 19 has NOTHING to do with requests to God by a believer, in relation to health, wealth, happiness or any other aspect or desire in their own life.
2. NO request is made to God by the individuals in the verses.
3. God is NOT asked to agree with or grant any request that is made.
4. The subject of verse 19 is NOT about prayer and prayer is never mentioned.
5. The two persons of verse 19 are NOT individual Christian believers making requests for themselves.
WHAT VERSE 19 IS:
1. It is part of the unit regarding the subject of the DISCIPLINE of sinning Christian believers, introduced in verse 15.
2. There are FOUR people in verse 19, not just 2 - there are people who ASK and people who AGREE. It must be determined:
Who are the people who ask?
"...about anything that THEY may ask..."
The subject of THEY refers back to verses 15, 16, 17 18. Jesus is speaking to His disciples and they are the subject of THEY and are identified in verse 1, "At that time the disciples..."
Chapter 18 is entirely dedicated to teaching by Jesus Christ to His disciples. The people who ask are His disciples who are placed in the teaching, as examples, in the roles as leaders of the church.
To whom do they make their request?
"...that if two of YOU agree..."
The subject of YOU refers back to the previous identification in verses 15, 16 and 17. Again, the TWO are the disciples in their example roles as leaders of the church.
For what do the people ask?
Verses 17 and 18 provide the answer in relation to the sequence of events in verses 15-17. They ask in relation to the sinning brother introduced in verse 15, and their request is for the approval of the means of discipline to be administered by the leadership of the church.
To what do they all agree?
Verse 19 is the answer, "...that if you agree on earth about anything that they may ask..." It is the request for the type of discipline to be applied against the sinning brother that is to be agreed to by the leadership of the church.
So, when the text is actually read and verse 19 is properly retained and viewed within its context, the passage reveals its true meaning, as it is seen that the unit refers to the method and process by which a sinning Christian is confronted by other Christians and the manner in which church discipline is to be administered by the leadership. There is a specific process and order to be followed when the administration of discipline is found to be necessary.
The order is as follows:
Verse 15 - Sin is recognized by a fellow Christian in the life of another Christian, and that person goes to the sinning individual and confronts that individual regarding the sin. If the sinning person repents, all is forgiven and well. If the sinning person does not repent, then:
Verse 16 - The fellow Christian is to take ONE or TWO more other Christians and confront the sinning individual again. If the sinning person repents, all is forgiven and well. If the sinning person does not repent, then:
Verse 17 - The entire fellowship church is to be told. If the sinning person repents, all is forgiven and well. If the sinning person does not repent, then:
Verse 17 - The person is to be exiled from the fellowship of the church. That is the meaning of the binding and loosening on earth (verse 18) that is also taken out of context by Word of Faith and most charismatic teachers. The leadership had the power to exercise discipline and their decision was final when based on the proper application of the disciplinary process. Witnesses were available and testified as to the facts of the case, the words of the sinning Christian were stated and a judiciary decision was made by the leadership of the church, in relation to that person's connection with the fellowship. It was NOT A DECISION IN RELATION TO THE SALVATION OF THE SINNING CHRISTIAN, but only in relation to their association with the fellowship.
Verse 18 is a comment by Christ indicating the authority granted to the leadership of the church in relation to establishing the final judgment against the sinning Christian who refuses to repent. Their decision was binding and their authority was just as great as if God had made the same decision in heaven.
Verse 19 - The AGREEMENT is in relation to the process employed in verses 15 through 17 that results in the decision to expel the sinning person from the fellowship. A decision was made after meeting with the sinning person by the TWO individuals who accompanied the first Christian to confront the sinning believer. Their decision was in regards to the disciplinary measures to be applied to the sinning believer. These TWO individuals then made a request, based on the decision that they made (verse 19), to the other TWO individuals mentioned in the text, the leaders of the fellowship, who are the ones that must AGREE (verse 19) about what the other TWO have ASKED in relation to what disciplinary measures should be taken against the sinning believer.
It is the TWO Christians (who confront the sinning believer) who ASK, and it is the two DISCIPLES (the leadership of the church), who must AGREE as to what was asked by the other two. If the principles of discipline were followed correctly and the DISCIPLES (the leadership of the church) agreed as to what the request for discipline required, then the request was granted, applied and carried the same weight as if it had been spoken in heaven by God, based on the authority given to the DISCIPLES in verse 18, regarding the binding and loosening. The binding is the discipline applied and the loosening is the discipline removed when the sinning believer repents and is restored to the fellowship.
So, it is the two or more Christians who ASK the leadership of the church to exercise a certain type of discipline against a sinning believer, and it is the leadership of the church who must AGREE as to how appropriate the request for discipline is, in relation to the sinning believer. If the leadership AGREES with what the two or more Christians ASK, then the discipline is applied.
There is NO Prayer of Agreement being taught in these verses. In fact, there is no prayer noted or described at any point in the entire passage. The two or more Christians do not ASK in relation to requests for themselves, but in relation to disciplinary measures to be applied against a sinning believer. The leadership are the ones to AGREE, but they must AGREE, not in relation to personal requests by the two or more believers, but as to the propriety of the request for discipline which the two or more Christians had ASKED in relation to the sinning believer.
Those Christians who continue to accept the teaching of Word of Faith leaders at face value, are lacking in discernment, because they do not search the Scriptures to see if what is being taught is truly what is stated in the Scripture. In the case of the Prayer of Agreement, people are deceived by the teaching of Word of Faith leaders, because they willfully refuse to read the Scripture to see what it plainly states. Lack of discernment always leads to self-deception.
It is a dangerous circumstance when teachers misapply the Scripture in order to support their own teachings and attribute to God actions in which He is not involved. Word of Faith leaders, who claim to be anointed teachers and healers who speak for God, deliberately ignore the true message of Matthew 18:15-19, preferring to teach a false message regarding the direct words of Jesus Christ, and by such action reveal themselves to be false teachers. Teaching the Prayer of Agreement from Matthew 18:19 is not just a simple error or difference of interpretation, but it is a deliberate, premeditated and intentional presentation of a falsehood that is claimed to be truth.
God is not forced, and will not be forced, into fulfilling the desires and requests of Christians based on the "power" of some "agreement" between two or any number of persons. If one wishes to believe that He does operate on those principles, then the doctrine must be found elsewhere in the Scripture, because it is not taught in Matthew 18:15-19. Those who use Matthew 18:19 to teach that God grants prayer requests of any type based on the "agreement" of two or more Christians, or that it teaches the release of spiritual power regarding some alleged Prayer of Agreement, deliberately teach false doctrine. The number of religious leaders who teach this doctrine are legion, but among the more recognizable are, Sarah Bowling (daughter of Marilyn Hickey), Morris Cerullo, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch (TBN), Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, Marilyn Hickey, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Richard Roberts and R. W. Schambach.
The Prayer of Agreement doctrine fits in very well with the Word of Faith assertion that the words that Christians speak in faith have force and authority that is so powerful that even God must obey the request that is made. It is taught by them that Christians can create a world unto themselves by learning to use faith and words, and assuming the right faith and the right words are used, God is subject to that faith and to those words. This is seen in the teaching of Kenneth Copeland:
"Those things are governed by law and the thing that governs those laws are words, say it with me, we've been saying it in our daytime class 'faith filled words', say that, 'faith filled words dominate the laws of death', now say it again 'faith filled words dominate the laws of death'."
Kenneth Copeland's teaching states that there are certain laws that are superior to God, one of those laws being faith. In fact, the law of faith is so superior, that God had to use faith to create the universe, according to Kenneth Copeland. When it is seen how things begin to tie together in Word of Faith doctrine, then the logical conclusion is inescapable. If there are laws that are superior to God, and Christians can learn how to use those laws, then Christians can at least cause God to supply every want and need, and at best those Christians can become gods themselves, possibly even being superior to the God of the Bible.
Leaving the theological nuances of those doctrines aside and dealing with the practical aspects of Word of Faith teaching, it becomes quite apparent how the system operates. The core is the Prayer of Agreement doctrine. If God is subject to the law of faith and to the law of words, then Christians, agreeing with each other, praying in faith with the right words, can make God into a spiritual genie in which every desire must be fulfilled by Him. When coupled with the "Seed Faith" doctrine, in which money given to a Word of Faith ministry will activate the faith used in the Prayer of Agreement, and the money given will be multiplied and returned to the giver many times over, then the reality of the goal is seen. The ulterior motive behind the teaching of the Prayer of Agreement doctrine is to obtain money from adherents. Money is the goal and heart of virtually every Word of Faith "ministry".
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Special Thanks for Check and Balance by Gary A. Hand - On Doctrine