Positive Confession: The Baby in the Bathwater

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L.D. Turner

Type in a search engine the term “positive confession” and you will obtain a plethora of responses, most of them of a negative nature. Outside the Word of Faith Movement, which utilizes this prayer technique to the extreme, it would seem positive confession has developed quite a nefarious reputation.

Before going any deeper into this topic, let me make the following caveat. I am not a member or the Word of Faith Movement, nor am I an advocate of this rapidly expanding segment of the Christian faith. There are numerous aspects of this movement that trouble me, most notably the misuse of certain spiritual principles for personal gain, the misleading of many sincere persons seeking a deeper walk with God, and the so-called “Prosperity Gospel.”

With that being said, let me also say this: I believe positive confession, when properly used in its appropriate context, is a highly beneficial, God-given practice that can facilitate positive change in a person’s life.

I say this with a solid degree of personal certainty because a form of positive confession has done precisely that in my own life. Through the consistent use of this type of prayer, augmented by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, I have managed to deal with several long standing, stubborn strongholds in my cognitive life and, as a result, find increased freedom and flexibility in my walk with Christ.

Having prefaced things with the above, let’s get down to the meat of the matter. I think that the primary reason that positive confession gets such bad press is that the majority of its critics, and even some of its advocates, totally misunderstand the dynamics of this mode of prayer. As a result, this misunderstanding gives rise to a chain reaction of mistaken notions and, taken along with the techniques association with the Word of Faith Movement, many folks end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater. In this case, positive confession is the baby and the Word of Faith Movement is the bathwater.

This is altogether unfortunate because, as stated above, the use of positive confession, in its proper form and context, can be a real asset to the sincere Christ-follower.

Positive confession basically involves constructing your prayer based on biblical promises and worded in a positive manner. After formulating the prayer, you then “speak” the prayer, either out loud or to yourself. Some advocates of the technique insist that it must be spoken out loud, while others contend that speaking silently is perfectly alright. Here is an example of a brief positive confession:

In Christ I am a new creation; behold – the old is gone and the new has come. All things work in my favor because I love God and have been called according to his purpose. I expect blessings and an abundant life according to the promises of Christ.

I can find nothing in this prayer that is heretical, blasphemous, or otherwise untoward. Yet many critics of positive confession would take issue with this and other similar prayers.

The chief complaint lodged against positive confession is that it is a “name it and claim it” gambit that tells God what to do. These critics go on to say that positive confession turns God into nothing more than a “heavenly genie,” a “cosmic bellhop,” or one of my personal favorites, a “celestial step-and-fetch-it.” And viewed from a surface perspective, I can see how those who fail to take the time to truly explore this type of prayer would arrive a these kind of conclusions.

The conclusions, however, are wrong and based on a misunderstanding of what positive confession is attempting to accomplish. Positive confession does not attempt to get God to do anything. When a person prays using positive confession, he or she is not placing an order with a magic genie, a bellhop, or a step-and-fetch-it. Please understand this point: positive confession is not concerned with forcing God to act based on some arcane spiritual law; positive confession, instead, is more concerned with what God has already done.

Of course, this notion has many critics among those of a somewhat conservative ilk and the usual criticism launched by these “experts” reveal that they don’t truly understand the Word of Faith teaching regarding positive confession, nor have they taken the time to explore what most reputable WOF teachers are actually saying about the subject. The net result of all this is that these conservative critics have done much to emasculate the church of its rightful, Christ-ordained power and, at the same time, neutralized the essential transformative nature of the gospel message itself.

Theology is often a more potent force than people realize. Although the vast majority of Christians are only marginally aware of the impact of theology on their walk of faith, the reality and depth of that impact is unaffected by their lack of awareness. The most cogent fact here is that we all, whether we realize it or not, have a “personal theology,” which consists of a set of basic theological principles we hold to be true and sacred. We may arrive at those principles through our own study or investigation, we may have imbibed them from family influences during childhood, or we may have them fed to us as adults by those we hold to be “authorities” on matters of faith.

Regardless of where or how we came by this set of beliefs, they serve the function of filtering the vast amount of spiritual information we encounter and, in a manner that is almost exclusively unconscious, categorizing that information as true or false, useful or useless, standard orthodoxy or dangerous apostasy.

Where we run into trouble is if the theology we have internalized is faulty. This issue is far more critical than most people realize. If we are carrying around an internalized set of beliefs that are in error, we are more than likely experiencing a walk of faith that is erratic, confused, and largely unfulfilling. And if we have imbibed a set of theological principles that fail to equip us to do the job Christ called us to do, our most dearly held beliefs, the principles that guide our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, are our own worst enemy. They are, for lack of a better way of putting it, our own internal Anti-Christ, working at cross-purposes to what Jesus calls us, expects us, and empowers us to become.

Put simply, scripture repeatedly tells us that the goal of spiritual formation from the Christian perspective is to become more “Christ-like.” The formational process is one wherein we increasingly die to our old way of living with its habitual patterns of thinking, behaving, and relating. Yet like the Master before us, our death is not an end in itself but is instead a means to an end – we die in order to rise again. In the words of Paul, we become “new creations.”

This process of character formation is a joint venture between Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the individual believer. As Christ-followers, we are responsible for doing all we can to discipline ourselves and place ourselves in an open, receptive position that will enable God to do his part. We are also responsible for using the divine tools and spiritual technology that Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Christian tradition has left for us to practice. Among these tools is the use of spirit-filled words of power that help facilitate positive change in our lives on all levels. To listen to these ill-informed and misguided voices of criticism that malign the use of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, service, sacred study, and celebration – along with practices such as positive confession, declarative prayer, and positive thinking, is nothing less than slow, spiritual suicide.

If we believe what scripture tells us, then we must understand that part of becoming more Christ-like involves, as much as possible, living in the manner that He lived. This imitation of Christ not only means to become more and more like Jesus in terms of our attitudes, behaviors, and spiritual practices. We are also expected to wield the same kind of spiritual power as Christ did. The Master did not utter empty words when he said:

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I go to the Father. (John 14:12 NLT)

No, friend, these were not empty words nor a wild promise. Jesus clearly would not tell us we could do things that we had no power to do. Later on, just prior to His ascension into heaven, He tells the disciples:

You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes on you. (Acts 1:8 NLT)

Scriptural references regarding the power associated with our words, not just power but creative power, abound. Those who react to the teaching of positive confession without doing the necessary research into the matter reveal themselves as knee-jerk reactionaries doing little more than splashing about in the urine-warmed waters of the theological wading pool. As stated earlier, this phenomenon has gone a long way toward draining the very operative power out of the Christian faith and contributed greatly to its dwindling influence and  increasing marginalization in our social milieu.

Granted, there are excessive and abuses sometimes associated with positive confession, declarative prayer, affirmative prayer and related practices. Keep in mind, however, that there are few spiritual practices and theological schools that are beyond the reach of spiritual excess. Some of the most heretical cults in the past as well as recent times were great prayer warriors or humble servants. Some were especially known for their works of charity. My point here is the same as earlier stated, but it bears frequent repetition: it is vital that we not throw the baby out with the bath water.

As sincere followers of the Master Jesus in this challenging time we would do well to free ourselves from any theological system that robs us of the power and the positive promises that Christ made to us. Christ expects us to accomplish the kinds of things He accomplished in both the physical and the spiritual realms and He also expects us to realize our full potential as Children of the Light. God has given each of us a personal mission to accomplish in this life and further, He has supplied us with the power and the spiritual gifts to fulfill that mission.

In essence, we are to become the optimal version of ourselves for the glory of God and the benefit of others. Any theology that works to thwart that process, either directly or indirectly, needs to be jettisoned with all due haste.

It is vital that we keep in the forefront of our minds just who and what we are now that we are “in Christ.” Created in God’s image, our words also contain creative power. It goes without saying that our words are not as pure or as powerful as the Father’s, yet at the same time, as his “image” on earth, restored and renewed after our adoption by Christ, our words do contain more power than we realize and, augmented by a living, vital faith, these words are vital tools in our spiritual toolkit. Unless you have had firsthand experience of this reality, you may find it hard to fathom that when you speak positive, optimistic, biblically-based promises over your life, promises that are in alignment with God’s will and morality, the sky truly is the limit.

© L.D. Turner 2011/All Rights Reserved

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4 thoughts on “Positive Confession: The Baby in the Bathwater

  1. This is a very interesting post. We must know who our God is and what His interntions and desires are toward us. Then, the way I see it, we can and must say it. Since we’re definitely going to be saying something (we don’t know how to keep our mouths shut), then it needs to be what God is saying about everything. The Word of God says we have everything that pertains to life and godliness, so let’s shout that from the rooftop; that’s the way i see it.

  2. ‘Any theology that works to thwart that
    process, either directly or indirectly,
    needs to be jettisoned with all due
    haste’..
    Just what I need.I have been thinking about this-the slaughtering crusade against positive confession and I can’t help thinking, should we then switch to negative confession.I think the reason for this crusades and with his siblings of cessationism is that most people know their theological books than they know the Savoir.Jesus should not be treated as a creed, a set of beliefs or a curriculum fit only for a theological exposition or an ammunition for destroying denominations that are anti-you.Jesus Christ is a PERSON.More than he is to PREACHED, HE IS TO ME MET.

    1. JOLA:

      Your comments are right on the mark. Thanks so much for visiting LifeBrook and for taking the time to leave a comment. Your insights are most welcome.

      Mick

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