Released on May 10, 2016 Anne Graham Lotz’s latest book is sure to make its mark in the “Christian” publishing market. The reasons for this are twofold. The book is authored by someone with the evangelically hallowed name of “Graham,” which itself is enough cause to prompt the Biblically-astute to cast a discerning eye. Secondly, in the world of “Christian” publishing, false “prophets” create genuine profits.
Already LifeWay, the media arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, is pushing this unscriptural nightmare on the unsuspecting and the undiscerning with an introductory offer priced at $16.99. (Which is exactly $16.98 more than I paid on Amazon for Ronnie Floyd’s The Power of Prayer and Fasting, overpriced though it was. Perhaps, if enough true Christians avoid Lotz’s latest lamentable tome, it too will rapidly sink to the deserved obscurity that Floyd’s achieved. Lotz will, by the way, be on hand at the LifeWay exhibit at the upcoming SBC annual meeting.)
The Daniel Prayer is a mess, and a dangerous mess, at that. Lacking any pervasive Scriptural logic, unless contemplative, egocentric mysticism counts, the tome seems borne mostly out of an overly mystical, decidedly anthropocentric form of American Christian theology, with the emphasis being on “America,” not “Christian.” That such a system could be even considered “theological” is erroneous since it gives mere lip service, not strict adherence, to Scripture, elevates man’s desires far above the plans of God, and promotes its tenets with the underlying theme that America is the new Israel. Lotz perpetuates this fallacious theology throughout the text.
The subtitle of the book, Prayer That Moves Heaven And Changes Nations, highlights an apparent denial of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God that remains consistent throughout the book. In the Bible of Lotz’s world, it seems, the lessons of Old and New Testaments hide a secret from all but the most mystically-devout and experientially spiritual. However, knowing those secrets give us the power to dictate actions for heaven to achieve. Done the right way, with the right sincerity, in the proper location, and “in Jesus’ name,” our success should be seen as nearly guaranteed.
Lotz proceeds to unpack the secrets that give man the power to make heaven “respond and rally to our cause.” (p.257) Lotz slathers this endeavor with ill-used Scripture that promises to ensure its certain fulfillment, such as John 14:13-14, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (Of course, Jesus will save America because, you know, America is His chosen nation!)
Meant to evoke, evidently, Elijah’s fire and cloud, the book’s cover itself is imbued with certain spiritual mysticism. Flip open to the endorsements. Those alone should be sufficient to dissuade your purchase, while also triggering discernment tocsins to sound. Kathie Lee Gifford, (Who knew she was such a theological benchmark?) Richard Blackaby (No doubt solidifies the mystical, experiential elements of the text), Gretchen Carlson (Cuz she’ll probably mention it on TV if her endorsement is included) and Ronnie Floyd (Well, the SBC is the largest protestant denom in the nation, and, … oh yeah, StrifeWay … err LifeWay!) and others all offer glowing endorsements.
But it’s the dust jacket biography that gives the most crucial endorsement and it’s one that should not be obscured to unimportance, either, for it proudly touts what is the fundamental problem with Lotz. ”Anne Graham Lotz, called ‘the best preacher in the family’ by her father Billy Graham …” I hope you recognize the huge Biblical problem with this. If not, please refer to 1 Timothy 2:12.
Lotz indeed describes herself preaching on several occasions in the book. To do something Scripturally and apostolically forbidden, even with the nodding approval of the elder, though erroneous Graham, is an out-of-the-gate disregard for Scripture. If you can’t obey something this simple, your exposition of other Scriptural teaching should be justifiably suspect.
The impetus for the book (besides the obvious profiteering from false prophet-ing) is little different than others who bemoan the cultural sewer that America has become. America is losing favor with God, according to Lotz, and that calls for the Daniel prayer. She proceeds to excise this prayer from the historical narrative of Scripture and promote its modern incantation as a miracle fix for the woes of America.
She identifies “three reasons I believe God’s patience may be running out” with America. (p.19) These are the continued national tolerance of legal abortion (Yes, it is a horror.); the legislated, governmental attack on marriage (Yes, this too is evil.); and, third, America’s abandonment of Israel.
However, as noted evangelist George Whitefield said, “The sins of the church are far more offensive to God than the sins of the nation.” And, with this book, Lotz is serving only to contribute further to the sins of the church by misleading the faithful with her fundamentally flawed teaching.
Lotz trots out the prayer of Daniel as the secret weapon to prompt God to act according to our noble desire to save America. It worked for Daniel and Judah, and since America is implicitly also chosen by God, such prayer will work for us too. The only problem with Lotz’s presentation of the miracle working prayer cure recorded in Daniel, however, is that it was not his prayer that caused heaven to do anything. (If God’s plans are not foreordained and are awaiting our input, folks, we’re in an eternity of peril!)
Daniel found himself at a time in history when Judah was under God’s judgment, captive in Babylon. But this captivity had been prophetically proclaimed, as was Judah’s eventual release, long before the actual events took place. In other words, while Daniel’s prayer represents Judah’s contrition and plea for release, the divine plan to do just that was already in place. God’s plan was unfolding, and Daniel did not cause that. (Nor will this prayer’s incantation today do so for America, FYI.)
Disregarding not only the flow of prophetic history in the Old Testament, the book exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding, and mishandling, of Scripture. Lotz proclaims throughout it a consistently high view of man (and herself) with a correspondingly low view of God. Coming from the richly endowed Arminian pedigree of her father, it is not unexpected that Lotz would have such a view.
Early in the book, she commends herself for her own salvation. “The most important commitment I have ever made has been to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” (p. 27) While that sounds laudable, the presumption that man chooses God thus prompting God to act is persistent in the text. (Important Biblical truth … we do not change God’s mind, and, please, pray whatever prayer you can that we never will!)
The book, in fact, is decidedly more about Lotz and her heaven moving prayer experiences than one might find palatable for a book that purports to teach believers about actual Biblical prayer (It does not do that, I assure you.) By my count, 997 times over the course of ten chapters, comprising 260 pages (excluding preface, appendix, and quotes from Scripture), she uses the pronoun “I,” or about 100 times per chapter.
Lotz lauds herself for everything from choosing God, to knowing Scripture, to using prayer successfully, to getting messages, and “messengers,” from God, to understanding prophetic messages from the news. (You remember the 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria? Yep. There were also 276 souls on the ship at the time of Paul’s shipwreck. God explained this to Lotz and her daughter at the time of the kidnapping. She failed to explain what the coincidence meant, but perhaps a forthcoming “Lotz on Divine Numerology” book will explain. Please swipe that credit card again, and put your Bible away. You won’t need it.)
Soteriologically, Lotz denies faith is a gift from God. Chapter four opens with an encounter she had while on a Fox News panel. A co-panelist, Rev. Jonathon Morris, had “remarked that faith was a gift that he was grateful God had given to him.” Hearing this thoroughly un-Graham-compliant comment (Yet absolutely Biblically correct, even for a priest of the apostate Roman church), Lotz plots to correct him. “I knew that if I had the opportunity to address what I felt could lead to a misunderstanding, I needed to take it. A few moments later, I was able to emphasize that faith is a choice.”
(Well, so much for correcting misunderstanding there, Anne. Instead, she exhibited her own fundamental misunderstanding of Scriptural truth in what could have been a great witness opportunity to a woefully deceived disciple of anti-biblical Roman theology. What’s that verse about the blind leading the blind?)
Faith is most assuredly a gift from God. To deny this is to deny clear Scriptural teaching. Jesus says in John 6:65, “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Those words “come to me” mean “have faith in me,” and that capacity is “granted…by the Father.” Paul repeats the same truth in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
(FYI, if you equate “faith” with an act of your “conscious will power,” here’s a clue … you don’t have faith. You have choice, driven, however nobly, by your fallen nature … and there is nothing salvific about it. “We love him because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19)
Not failing to capitalize on the opportunity to encourage someone to choose God (despite Paul’s pithy Old Testament quote in Romans 3:11 that “no one seeks after God”), Lotz includes the miracle inducing prayer of instantaneous salvation , a/k/a “the sinner’s prayer,” for readers to recite after their own personal selection of God. (Yes, I’ll take Jehovah for eternity, Alex.)
Including the critical words “Thank you for inviting me to enter into a covenant with You,” Lotz’s version of the patently unbiblical supplication goes on for three paragraphs in the book, since, apparently in written form, you can be a bit more verbose than when performing the salvific, evangelical ritual at a Sunday morning altar call (Folks gotta get to Cracker Barrel, ya’ know. Better move on with it!).
Following the required signature and date lines for any written, and duly uttered, sinner’s prayer, Lotz, presumably donning her pastoral preaching garb, proceeds to issue absolution to the reader. “Praise God! You have entered into a permanent covenant with the living God! You are eternally secured!” (pp. 102-103)
(Look. Please. If you are basing your faith on a prayer like that, even with the perhaps false absolution given you by a pastor, do as Paul exhorts, “Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith.” 2 Corinthians 13:5. If that prayer’s all you’ve got, chances are you’re not really saved.)
At one point in the text, Lotz promotes a universalistic notion, one not unfamiliar to her father who infamously touted on Robert Schuller’s “Hour Of Power:”
“I think everybody that that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And that’s what God is doing today. He’s calling people for ‘eh, out of the the world for his name whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world uh they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but uh they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have. And I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.”
Lotz somewhat echoes her father’s words. “The good news is that God truly loves you and me. He is always on the side of His children – Jews, Gentiles, Palestinians, Americans – whoever will come to Him by way of the cross through faith in Jesus Christ.” Propounding the Biblically-erroneous notion that “we’re all God’s children,” Lotz at least emphasized faith in Christ, but, then, her notion of “faith” is one you create, you maintain, and merely prompts God to act in response. God’s uninvolved until you do something.
(Is it any wonder that assurance of salvation is so lacking in the modern church? Assurance built on my mustered up sincerity of faith is a woefully treacherous foundation on which to build eternity.)
The book is rife with lots about Lotz, and not merely via her epic use of the first person pronoun. Scriptural promises, are heavily narcigeted to become specific promises for Lotz. Far beyond merely twisting something like 2 Chronicles 7:14 to be about America (she does that, too, on page 61), she engages texts of Scripture by personalizing them for herself, her friends, and her family. Indeed, it seems that for any promise of Scripture, somewhere in the divine mystery of bestowing blessings, God meant that promise specifically for Lotz too.
Consider the episode described in chapter six when Lotz engaged in prayer for a friend who’s husband had undergone open-heart surgery. She received a text message, which itself was imbued with mystical meaning – “I could never remember receiving a text message from her before this one” (Well, she was in a hospital with her husband, after all, an environment not all that conducive to an audible conversation, perhaps). Failing to abide by the unwritten “texting in kind” rule, Lotz called the woman anyway.
She asked to pray for the lady and her husband over the phone (who hasn’t done this?) but noted that “I had no idea what to pray for or how to enter into what they were experiencing, but I knew God knew and that as I prayed, He would give me the words. And he did.” He did, by giving her words that almost any of us who have ever prayed for, or with, someone in a similar circumstance probably also used – for God to guide the work of the doctors, that God’s peace would be known, and that health would be restored. For you and me, this may be a no-brainer. But for Lotz, God intervened to tell her what to pray.
This episode continues a few pages later when Lotz reveals the power of claiming the promises of Scripture, this time for her friend’s husband. “As I prayed, Psalm 73:26 came to mind, which promises, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.’ So I claimed that promise in prayer for her husband. Within the week, he was released from the hospital to continue his recovery at home.” (Asaph, that Psalms author, had open heart surgery? I didn’t know that. Look, this whole “promise claiming” technique, especially on behalf of others, is rather sketchy when you actually look at Scripture … just so ya’ know.)
Lotz states, numerous times in the tome, that God does speak to her. Sometimes it’s that “impression” speech which God uses. Other times, of course, it’s the “still, small voice” He employs. “I seemed to hear God whispering to my heart, Anne, you don’t have to fast anymore. I will give you a baby. You will have a son.” This was the encounter of divine conversation with God early in her marriage when she followed “Hannah’s example” in Scripture to get God to give her a child, specifically a son. (Perhaps in an act of disobedience, though, Lotz did not name the child Samuel.)
The book gives two criteria for prayer. The first is that every prayer – the Daniel prayer included – must be sincere. It’s very hard for God to refuse a sincere, impassioned prayer. Now, while our prayers absolutely should be sincere, that sincerity does not, as Lotz implies, add an iota of power to our supplication. (FYI, the power of prayer is not actually IN the prayer; it is in the One to whom we are praying.) We should be sincere because to approach God in any other manner is tantamount to cavalierly mocking him. Additionally, we should approach God in prayer with an accompanying sense of awe and reverence, as well as with obvious humility.
The second criteria is that, in order to have the greatest “heaven moving, nation changing” effect, prayer should be uttered in private. You can disregard that apostolic instruction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) if you really want powerful, effective, call-fire-from-the-sky kinds of prayers. Those only happen when issued in private. “If we want to pray in such a way that heaven is moved and nations are changed, we must have a secret prayer chamber.” (p. 68)
Lotz seems to be referencing Jesus’ instructions when He taught the disciples how to pray. Erroneously called “the Lord’s Prayer” (it couldn’t be that, for Jesus could never utter a prayer asking for forgiveness; see John 17 for the epic, authentic, “Lord’s” prayer), Jesus says, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:6-8)
Jesus’ point here is not the locale of the prayer, but the condition of the heart issuing it. Whereas the Pharisees would offer prayers to be heard by those within earshot of them (“they have received their reward”), Jesus teaches the humility of sincere prayer that reflects the genuine relationship of the believer speaking with the Father. And, oh, Jesus reminds them, don’t forget that “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
(Kinda makes you wonder how “our” prayers will “move” heaven if God already knows what’s goin’ on. Well, what could be the point of prayer then? Oh, to bring me into alignment with God’s will … I remember now. Plus, He likes to hear our prayers. Oh yeah, we’re also told to.)
For Lotz, having an “experience” is important. Experience is proof. Experience is evidence. Despite the fact that Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4), Lotz encourages her readers to seek experiences as proof of God. “Ask Him to give you experiences,” she tells readers because “that will help to build your confidence in Him.” (p.110) Rather than pointing the doubtful to Scripture, Lotz falls back to the present “spirit of the world” and encourages mystical, experiential, emotionalism as evidence of God’s truth.
(Well, I guess if I had to create my own faith, it’s only fair that God prove Himself worthy of it by doing something experientially impressive for me, right?)
Several remarks by Lotz in the book seem to brush dangerously close to open theism, suggesting that God doesn’t quite know what will happen, but will actively intervene if things seem to be going providentially amiss. Lotz recounts the story of Moses and Pharaoh, noting, finally that “God stepped in and took charge,” (p.117) as if He’d been an otherwise hapless, powerless onlooker. She remarks that “God saw Gideon’s potential,” God knowing that “if Gideon depended on Him alone and went forth in His power, he would indeed be a mighty, victorious warrior.” (p. 197) (Be all that you can be and God might take notice of you too, like He did Gideon … and Anne.)
As any reader familiar with Lotz of late might expect, she does, in this book, promote the heresy known as “circle praying,” a technique borne out of Wiccan witchcraft. Citing the same mystical, non-biblical character of Honi touted in Mark Batterson’s magnum opus of Scriptural malfeasance, The Circle Prayer, she endorses and uses the heretical technique.
Prior to a preaching commitment, Lotz, suffering from diverticulitis and in a panic about the upcoming event, wrote that, “I reminded God, as though He had forgotten, that the platform I used in our revivals was a round platform, centered in the arena, anchored by a podium in the shape of an old wooden cross.” (Well, gee, that sounds like it’d be about as effective as shaking a lucky rabbit’s foot in one hand and an upturned horseshoe in the other at God, but … slathering circles in Christian-ese doesn’t make them any more Scriptural either.)
Besides the mystical empowerment of circle prayer, Lotz engages in other supplication maneuvers that, while drawn out of the narrative of Scripture, are not Scripturally-prescribed for the believer. Putting out a fleece, either figuratively or, as Lotz has done, literally (she implies), will not prompt God to give you a sign. The “Hannah prayer” did not, and will not, prompt God to give you a son. The “whispers of God” that she often hears during her contemplative prayer encounters, or the various divine “messengers” God uses to give her answers, are unsubstantiated with the actual teachings of actual Scripture.
Lotz does not fail, in this text, to address the increasingly popular evangelical topic of spiritual warfare. An entire chapter, “The Daniel Prayer Is A Battle,” deals with the devil. “When we pray the Daniel Prayer, the devil will work feverishly to make certain Heaven remains unmoved and nations remain under his grip.” (Really? How’s he do that?) “But while he is more powerful than we will ever be, we have the authority over him in Jesus’ name.” (Yep, brace yourself. We’re gonna start binding the devil.) “Which is one reason, when I pray, I always pray in Jesus’ name. He is the one who gives me access into the presence of God and authority over my invisible enemies.”
Citing the apostle, and following with her own attempted interpretation of the Ephesians armor text, Lotz says that Paul “gives us clear instructions on how to fight the devil.” Yet she engages the Scriptural text from a completely misunderstood premise. Paul explains clearly in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, that the spiritual battle of the believer is against the strongholds (ideas, philosophies, religions) that imprison the world in unbelief. The war for the believer is a war of the mind. It is a battle over how people think, which is why a clear presentation of the Gospel is needed. As “the power of God for salvation,” the Gospel is the truth through which God has chosen to save those whom He will. Spiritual warfare is not, as Lotz presents, a mystical endeavor. Besides, the genuine believer is eternally protected from the wiles of Satan, since Jesus made that very request of the Father in His high priestly prayer (John 17).
But Lotz teaches that “the hiss of that old serpent, the devil himself, who slithers up and sows suggestions in my ear, trying to undermine my confidence in God” is a reality for the believer. Folks, it just ain’t so. The genuine believer is prone to fleshly desires, doubts, and temptations, but if faith is from God, instead of by personal choice, the assurance, both of forgiveness when we fail and of eternal protection, is certain. But, not for Lotz, who says,
“So I just call him out. I rebuke him with the authority I have been given as a child of God. I claim the blood of Jesus to cover me and shield me from his vicious insinuations and accusations. Then I firmly rebuke him and command him to leave as I keep on praying until I prevail in prayer.” (p.252)
(Umm, there is so much that is theologically aberrant, and Scripturally unfounded in that quote that, if she’s encountering that kind of demonic turmoil in her prayer life, the last thing she needs is the Daniel Prayer. It might be more helpful if someone tied her to the bed before her head starts spinning!)
It’s instructive to note the words of Scottish Reformer John Knox in consideration, though, of Lotz’s seemingly ongoing battle with the evil one. “I have never once feared the devil, but I tremble every time I enter the pulpit,” he wrote, indicating the awesome responsibility of rightly handling the Word of God – an endeavor that might just give Lotz less bouts of demonic interruption if she’d do it as well.
Returning to the “let’s pray and save America” theme, Lotz’s epilogue exposes further her misunderstanding of the world itself. “When it comes to our nation, we may think the real battle is with a political leader or a form of government or corporate greed or the purveyors of pornography or the abortionists or radical terrorists or the school board or the city council or whatever obvious, visible enemy we can name. While those are unquestionably real problems, the truth is that they are being manipulated by our adversary,” the devil.
Actually, when it comes to the world, they aren’t simply being “manipulated” by him, they belong to him. Jesus said, in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” The apostle John reiterated this in 1 John 5:20, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Based on Scripture, then, it seems likely that the world will behave just about like it is. We probably shouldn’t expect sinners to act like saints.
Here’s the truth about spiritual warfare. It doesn’t happen out there in the world. The world already – temporarily – belongs to the enemy. Instead, spiritual warfare happens in churches. It happens in pews. It even happens in pulpits. It happens every time a false teacher or a false teaching goes unchallenged by believers, allowed to “creep in” the fellowship of Christ’s followers, and tolerated until those once subtle deceptions and falsehoods blossom forth into alleged truth.
This is precisely what the cumulative nonsense of The Daniel Prayer represents. It’s the fruit of falsehoods, born of poor – or no – doctrine or theology, and ought to be utterly rejected by the true church.
This book is an epic of errors and a danger to doctrine. In the words of spiritual warfare, you might consider this false fodder to be a grenade of experiential mysticism, “prove-God” emotionalism, and man-exalting theology tossed at what will be, no doubt, a craving crowd of eager, Biblically-illiterate, discernment-free, contemplative-prone “Christians.”
Please, avoid this book and stay on the narrow path. Read the Bible. Think. And please, please … pray without ceasing. Your prayers may not save America or stop abortion or insure the sanctity of marriage, but they will show your obedience to His Word. Besides, our Father wants to hear YOUR prayer, not Daniel’s. He’s already heard that one.
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim
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