I’ve Resorted to Magic (And You Have, Too)
As Christians, we don’t do magic, do we?
Sure, you might enjoy the Harry Potter books and movies (or vehemently protest them). But you yourself don’t engage in tarot readings, spells, potions, or incantations – do you?
I think you do.
But I think you (and I) use different words to mask it.
We call it “faith.” We call it “prayer.” But we mean “magic.”
We use our faith as the great manipulator of God. That’s what magic is – using means to control and manipulate the spirits or gods to give us good crops, better health, great marriages, longer life, or more wealth. It manifests in different societies in different ways – through witch doctors or shamans, Evil Eyes or amulets, incantations or spells. And sometimes, like with Christians, it can be more subtle.
We repeat passages like, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt 17:20). So we “claim” this verse, muster up all the belief we can, and through the power of positive thinking, we seek to manipulate God to do what we ask. And they may very well be good requests – to keep a mother alive, for provision of rain for survival, to protect a child from harm.
And if God does not provide, we wonder if we have asked wrong – if we messed up one of the elements of the formula. Should we have added the phrase (incantation), “In Jesus’ name”? Perhaps I did not read my Bible that day that I asked. Maybe I forgot to do this thing that God wanted me to do first. We know we have stepped into magic when we obsess over the rituals of asking rather than focusing on the Giver.
So what is prayer, if not a way to get something from God?
What is faith, if we cannot muster up enough to make God do what we want?
True prayer, in Jesus’ name, is about obedience and submission. It’s saying, “Your will be done.” It’s trusting Him when our will isn’t done – which can be the most difficult thing we ever do.
I have spent many years chasing magic. I have begged God to heal my mother. He healed her of cancer but allows the dementia to ravage her life. I was broken when God did no miracle to keep my brother alive 4 years ago. How do I know I was seeking magic, rather than running to my Father and asking for the good gifts He gives His children?
By my response when He didn’t give them.
I have given up my future career, my family, my life’s focus for the Gospel. Why aren’t You honoring that?
I read my Bible daily, God! I flee from sin! I seek the truth!
I did all the right things. I asked in Your name!
If prayer doesn’t even work, then why bother?
Friends, I am slowly learning that a life of faith and prayer are radically different from what I once believed. I cannot control God. I cannot manipulate Him. I can only come to Him with my deepest hurts, my ugliest scars, my greatest fears, and ask Him to do something about them. And as I pray, I need to ask for the faith to trust Him to be for me. If I think I can ever have enough faith, or pray the right way, to get God to do whatever I want, then I am not worshiping the God of the Bible. He cannot be controlled. He will not be manipulated. Such a lifestyle will only leave us frustrated that God doesn’t care enough to do everything we ask, and we will become prayerless.
We sit in this middle period between the Cross and the Coming. We see the Kingdom in glimpses and bursts, but not fully. God heals some bodies, but He allows others to become sick and die. He protects some people, but allows harm to come to some. So we wait. We pray, “How long, O Lord?” with all the saints of history. We trust that His activity or apparently inactivity is not due to indifference. And we wait for every tear to be wiped away.
Do you see the subtle work of magic in your life?
In the life of the Church?
Will you repent with me?