Over the last few decades, the practice of decreeing and declaring has spread like wildfire across Africa. This practice comes from the Word of Faith movement and its emphasis on the power of words and the need for positive confessions in every sphere of the Christian’s life. To “declare” is to state out loud a fact, and to “decree” is to issue an authoritative command. For proponents of this movement, this practice is a powerful aid to prayer.
Africans are familiar with the power of incantations from our traditional religions.
It is understandable that people want to pray better. Decreeing and declaring invites people to picture the better future they desire. Then they can speak authoritatively about that future and their desires. It is also a way to release the pressures of daily life, through positive words. We Africans are familiar with the power of incantations from our traditional religions. So it seems intuitive to us that our Christianity should look similar.
Three Examples of Decreeing and Declaring
I want to give some examples of decreeing and declaring. These examples have all been pulled randomly from the web and social media. But they reflect the general tenor of statements by the practitioners of this movement.
- “What are you declaring today? What are you saying and confessing? Start declaring the end from the beginning—start saying what you want to happen instead of confessing your circumstances—and you’ll see changes in your life. Start praying the solution instead of praying the problem.”
- “The authority God has given his children is to have dominion and power over all things. We declare that lives are transformed and hopes are renewed.”
- “Do you know the power of decrees? The Bible was not created just to read…The word was meant to be spoken. Out loud. Every day. Over any circumstance you have going on that needs to be changed.”
Are these statements based on a solid understanding of biblical faith and prayer?
The question for Bible-believing Christians is this: are those statements based on a solid understanding of biblical faith and prayer? The answer we find when we search the scriptures is clearly no. There is no biblical support for decreeing and declaring. Below I will briefly review the biblical texts often cited in support of this practice. You will see that many of them are alluded to in the statements above.
1. “Calling Those Things which are Not, as Though They Were” (Romans 4:17)
The subject of this verse is God, not Abraham.
The entire verse says: “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (KJV) Crucially, the subject of this verse is God, not Abraham. Paul is teaching us about an attribute of God. Abraham did not have this ability. That’s why he trusted God to call things into existence. Abraham never confessed nor declared anything. God declared it and made it happen.
2. “Thou Shall Decree a Thing and It Shall be Established” (Job 22:28)
Eliphaz’ words cannot be used as an instruction for good theology.
The main question to ask about this statement is: who made it? It wasn’t God. Neither was it Job. It was a statement made by Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends. And if you read the book of Job through, you’ll know that later God issues a smouldering rebuke to these friends. He says: “you have not spoken of me what is right” (Job 42:7). Eliphaz misunderstood the ways of God, so he was reprimanded for his errors. Therefore his words are unwise counsel. They cannot be used as an instruction for good theology.
3. “I Will Declare the Decree” (Psalm 2:7)
This verse is teaching us to proclaim God’s decrees, not our own.
Can this verse bear the weight placed on it? The whole verse says: “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (KJV) The psalmist is talking about a decree made by God. The psalmist heard this decree and is sharing it with others. “Declare” is actually a common word in the Psalms, meaning ‘to proclaim.’ Essentially, then, this verse is teaching us to proclaim God’s decrees, not our own. We must tell others what God has said. David didn’t decree. Neither should we.
(d) “Concerning the Work of My Hands Command Ye Me” (Isaiah 45:11)
Nobody can command God.
The context of Isaiah 45 is God’s plans for the nation of Israel, to deliver them from Babylonian captivity. In case anyone reading the prophecy of Isaiah will doubt the ability of God to carry out his promises, starting Isaiah 45:9 God asks a series of rhetorical questions, challenging doubts in God’s promises. Isaiah 45:11 is an interrogative, even a condemning, question. “will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?” The implied answer is that nobody can command God. To think otherwise is a gross failure to understand who he is.
Decreeing and Declaring Reduces Prayer and Ridicules God
So, none of the scriptures commonly cited in support of declaring or decreeing support the practice. When understood in their context, they actually reinforce God’s sovereign power over against the weakness of mankind. Prayer is like oxygen to a Christian. But for it to be effectual it must be done obediently, using appropriate words and especially in the right attitude. Presumptuously commanding God doesn’t please him. It insults him.
Presumptuously commanding God insults him.
We must avoid any mechanical ideas about how prayer works. Prayer isn’t magic. God is no genie. We do not say “open sesame,” expecting God to answer every prayer or whim. To decree and to declare is not how God wants us to pray. To “pray” this way is to dishonour God. May God allow us to learn how to pray in a way that honours him.