Robert Atwongyeire

A Damning Theology and Practice of Prayer

While it appears spiritual, it is erroneous to call fire on believers’ problems. We don’t bind demons or Satan in hell. Because we simply don’t have such authority or power. You cannot command Satan. Thus hours of prayer spent in these ways is corrupt and unbiblical. Christians must grasp a proper theology of the nature of their enemy, spiritual warfare, and prayer. 

Prayer is important to many people, Christian or not. It seems to be intertwined with human DNA to seek divine help. Prayer happens everywhere: at shrines, in exam rooms, on the football pitch, in mosques, during travel, and in churches. The Bible itself is full of prayers and praying people. In fact, prayer is at the heart of all communications between God and his people. Such is the seriousness of prayer. But prayer can also be right or wrong, sound or erroneous, even heretical. Thus a proper understanding and theology of prayer is crucial for a Christian. It matters to God how we pray.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism provides an excellent, biblical definition of prayer. It describes prayer as, “offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” 
But recently I’ve noticed a huge emphasis among Christians on praying that casts out, binds, and calls down fire from heaven to burn Satan along with other problems in their lives. This practice is built on the presupposition that Jesus gave believers authority and power over spirits, principalities, and heavenly beings. Thus the believer is encouraged to bind and cast whatever stands in the way of their progress or prosperity. Through prayer, they call down heavenly fire against Satan, as well as those spiritual beings in league with him. However, casting and binding doesn’t seem to be the primary shape of most biblical prayers.
Believers Don’t Hold the Keys, Jesus Does
To support the above practices, Christians and especially preachers will often appeal to Matthew 16:19. They understand this verse to mean that Jesus gave believers the keys of heaven and hell, to bind and to loose anything above or below. However this understanding of Jesus’ words isn’t only a bad one, but it reveals a horribly presumptuous view of mortal man. 
When Jesus spoke to Peter, he referred to the gospel that he’d entrusted to them, the disciples.
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Confronting Death: Does Everyone Rest in Peace?

An unbeliever’s suffering doesn’t end with their physical death. A worse fate awaits them in the afterlife. What a tragedy! The unbelieving dead don’t rest in peace. Insisting that they do sounds humane and kind, but it’s seriously misaligned with what God teaches in the Bible. “God will say to those on his left ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41; John 8:24).

I thought I had taught and grasped the Bible enough to be prepared for death. But when I lost my dad in 2011 the pain, grief, and emptiness was devastating. Death created a void. Bereavement felt like being made mute, becoming unable to speak. It’s a troubling and difficult thought that one day you and I will be no more. We will all die. 
These last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic were terrible. Countless people died daily, all around us. We’ve all witnessed enormous fear, suffering, grief, and loss. Emotions ran wild. The pandemic had everyone searching for comfort, for hope. And similar to most of human history and almost every culture, the idea that the dead are now in a better place could be heard everywhere. These words slip effortlessly from our mouths. But they are hollow comfort.
Do Deceased Loved Ones Rest in Peace?
The thought that you may never see a loved one again is unbearable. So we’re always looking for consolations to help us escape, denying the terrifying possibility. For many years we’ve turned to various phrases:

“They’re resting in peace”
“She’s watching over us now”
“You can still make your late father proud”
“He’s in a better place now.” 

I understand why these are attractive. More so, I can relate to wanting them to be true. They are ways to ease grief and pain, to lessen loss. But despite our wishes, the dead are gone and their fate is already determined. This is a gut-wrenching reality. For who would readily affirm that their departed loved ones could actually be in a worse place than their earthly toil? Christians shouldn’t turn to these expressions for comfort. Instead we must ask what the Bible says about deceased unbelievers.
What Does God Say?
I’m sympathetic to all those who’ve lost loved ones. It was a tragic day all those years ago, when my dad died in my hands. So I’m familiar with the feelings of hopelessness that accompany the death of a breadwinner, a father, and pillar of the home.
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