I have never been able to understand prayer. It seems awkward that if God knows everything, and God wants what is best for us, that we should ask for it. Yet this is how God has chosen to interact with us. We are told to engage him. It is a bit difficult having a conversation with the Unseen One.
As I mentioned yesterday (read Pt. 1 here) my journey away from Oneness Pentecostalism began with this prayer, “If I am going to wrong direction, please, please interrupt me.” Several years later I am a Christian who loves the Triune God whom Christ has revealed. I sense that Spirit has worked in my life. I have come to greater appreciate the Scriptures and also a respect for those siblings in Christ who came before me. While a critic will have an answer to what seems to me to be answered prayer, it is my conviction that God did not stop my journey because I was being led by his Spirit.
When you have been told that life and death hinges on whether or not one stakes all in the slogan, “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” it is scary to rethink what this means. What if “in the name of Jesus” doesn’t mean that you must say the actual words “in the name of Jesus” for baptism to be legitimate? What is receiving the Holy Spirit is not one and the same as speaking in tongues? This opens the door to many possibilities.
But what if it means exactly what you are being taught that it means? If you leave and you teach otherwise won’t there be a lot of blood on your hands for misleading people? This is what caused a shiver to go down my back.
So I prayed. I asked God to be with me. I confessed that I know as a human that I cannot understand all his ways, and that I am prone to move away from truth and not toward it, but that I really, really thought that where I was at that moment was wrong. I didn’t believe that other Christians were going to hell because they did not interpret Acts 2.38 like we did. I didn’t think that the only “true church” was in the first century plus a handful of “latter rain” Christians who began to emerge around 1906. I did not think that Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, or Billy Graham were either in hell or going there because they preached “cheap grace”. I could not affirm these things.
I was sure that when Jesus said that the “gates of hell” would not defeat the church that this also meant that even if the church had rough times it surely wouldn’t go into an eighteen century long apostasy! I was convinced that when Jesus said the Spirit would lead and guide the church “into all truth” that this wasn’t for a short time, but rather “until the end of the age” because Christ would be with us by the Spirit. While I didn’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity it seemed a bit odd to me that someone would be separated from Christ forever because he misunderstood what it meant when it says, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.
So I prayed. I prayed because I already didn’t know how these things could be true. I prayed because I was beginning to think they were not true. I prayed, I think, because the Spirit was already taking me in a certain direction.
When you pray you may not know why you are praying, how you should pray, or for what you should pray, but pray.
When you pray you signal that to you trust that the God hearing your prayer must be trustworthy to some extent. If God cannot be trusted with my prayers then why should I pray? If you have gone this far it seems to me that there is at least a seedling of belief that the One to whom you pray must be good. If God is good then God can be trusted when you throw yourself helplessly on his mercy.
If you forget everything else you read here please know God is good. This must be your premise. If you think he is out to trick you, or test you, or allow you to fall into apostasy for doubting your pastor, then you have already paralyzed yourself. You have already placed a god of fear before you and that god has control. You will never let the God who is Love lead you.
So with that I invite you to pray to God. If you are thinking that you may no longer fit as a Oneness Pentecostal, but you are scared to find out, pray. Maybe you will stay a Oneness Pentecostal. I don’t know, but don’t do nothing because of fear.
I will resume next week with an invitation to engage other Christians in the global church. We aren’t apostates or pagans. We don’t worship a three-headed Egyptian or Babylonian deity. We love Jesus Christ and we call him Lord. We’d welcome you and your questions (I hope).
If God is good…I tell you He is utter goodness- thank you for your brave witness!
@Virginia: Amen! You’re welcome.
Nice post. Though I have not experience with Oneness, I did have a similar experience with a church in college several years ago, where I was stricken with fear to dismiss the doctrine they were teaching. But the tone of God’s voice is never fear.
Thanks for the post
@dpatrick: Thank you. I hope that this series proves useful for those who come from various, yet similar, backgrounds.
youve done a good work brian!
Thank you Juven!
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