Makestraightpaths.com examines the teachings of the religious
group variously known as “the Family,” “The Family International,” the “Children
of God,” or the “Family of Love,” and evaluates these teachings from a Christian
This page is one of a
series examining the Family's teachings on prayer.
Prayer is very important
in the Family. Family members have been taught to pray "without ceasing"
for everything. They are taught not just to pray for everything,
but to pray about everything. That is, they are to ask God what
should be done in every situation. Family members are taught that prayer
is a means to accomplish their various tasks. When they pray,
they are confident that God
will answer their prayers, and that their tasks will be completed much better
than if they had not prayed.
The Bible, of course,
repeatedly instructs God's people to call on Him in prayer, and lists
numerous benefits and blessings that come from prayer. The Bible calls
for incessant prayer (1 Thess 5:17), and portrays prayer as a
means of communicating with God, and of beseeching Him for the things
that we lack.
However, there is at
least one aspect of prayer that the Family seems to have taken beyond
biblical limitations, reading more into the texts than are actually there. This is the belief in the Family that through prayer, believers
actually exercise a certain amount of control over what God does or does
not do. That is, the Family believes that God has granted His people the
right to access His power through prayer: when a believer prays, he has
been given the right to use that power more or less as he wishes.
Family teaching in this
regard shows similarities to some in the Pentecostal movement, where
the founder (Dad/Berg) had his own origins. Dad/Berg taught his followers that God was like the Genie of Aladdin's
lamp who has to answer believers' heartfelt requests when they
pray in faith. In other words, Dad/Berg
taught that when true believers sincerely prayed in faith, then in
general God was obligated to answer their prayers: believers
could in effect command God what to do.
There are, of course,
several qualifications in this teaching: people should not expect to get
their prayers answered if they are asking selfishly (James 4:3), and
sometimes the timing is not right, but in general, Family members believe
that God, who is all-powerful, has deliberately restricted Himself to
working miracles in answer to prayer. Therefore, when Christians pray,
God is obliged to act. It is not as though Family members believe that
they are superior to God, rather they believe that prayer is the means
whereby one may not only influence God, one may actually convince Him to
work according to our own faith, plans and desires. Therefore, if one
prays wholeheartedly in faith, God has to answer. If this is
true, then Christians actually have some control over what God does or
does not do. Dad/Berg taught that God has specifically confined Himself
to operating according to our prayers.
This page does not discuss
prayer in general, specific aspects of prayer, or other beliefs rooted
in Pentecostalism. Rather it examines the specific Family belief that a
Christian may command God in prayer, that a believer has the right to
tell God what to do, and that God is more or less obligated to respond
according to the faith of the person praying, and according to the
details of the prayer itself.
Dad/Berg made much of the verse in the book of Isaiah in which God apparently
authorises His children to command Him what to do.
Isaiah 45:11 Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of
Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and
concerning the work of my hands command ye me. KJV
Dad/Berg, who used the
King James Bible almost exclusively, delightedly pointed out that this
verse shows that God's people may not only ask Him about the future
("things to come"), but that they may come to Him in such boldness that they
can literally tell him what to do ("command ye me"). Dad/Berg said that God was pleased
with such prayers because it showed that the person praying had a lot of
Isaiah 45:11 (in the King
James Version) became an important memory verse and a 'promise' that one
could claim in prayer: "Jesus, you said that we could command you in
prayer, so I now ask you to..."
Unfortunately, Isaiah 45:11 does not say that believers
may command God. In fact, it is only in the
King James Version that it appears to say this, and then only if this verse is removed from its
context. In other words, if the verse is read in its context in any other
version than the King James, it is almost impossible to interpret it to
mean that a believer may command God - quite the opposite, in fact!
There are two important
points that may be said about the Family's use of the Bible. The first
concerns the King James Version, and the second is about the importance
of reading the Bible in context.
First, although there was
a general (unannounced) move towards the New King James translation
after Dad/Berg's death, the prominence of the King James Version
highlights the fact that Family members know very little about the
process of translation, or of the accuracy of most modern
translations. It is almost as though Family members believe that there
were only two steps to get our Bibles to us: (1) God gave the original
text in the original languages, and (2) God supervised the translation
into the King James Version.
While the King James
Version probably uses the most beautiful language of any translation,
unfortunately it is universally recognized as being one of the least
The crucial point to bear
in mind is that no translation is perfect, simply because
translating one language to another inevitably involves loss of meaning.
The range of English translations available reflect the attempts to
balance translation of overall meaning with literal meaning.
The former produces the versions that are more paraphrased, while the
latter results in the literal translations. The point is that Bible
study that is confined to one English translation will inevitably be
flawed. If one wishes to study the Bible accurately and honestly, one
must not only consult a range of translations, one must also use
extensive Greek and Hebrew dictionaries (freely available online). The
Bible was not written in English, and it certainly was not written in
the King James Version. In general, Family members rarely, if ever,
compare translations or research the original meanings of words.
Second, the Bible cannot
be properly understood unless it is read in context. This point is
covered in greater detail on Make Straight Paths
here, but in short, Bible verses
cannot be removed from the context in which they are found. They
must be read in conjunction with the surrounding verses, in the
context of the chapter, book and location in the Bible. They must be
read in the contexts of the historical situation, the geographical
location, and the linguistic style. They must first be understood as the
original writers (inspired and anointed by the Holy Spirit) intended the
original hearers to understand them. In general, Family members know
very little, if anything, about contextual Bible study. Therefore, it is
likely that most - if not all - Bible studies ever produced by the Family are
A very brief survey of
the passage containing the "command ye me" phrase reveals that it is
preceded by an interesting reference to a king of Persia named Cyrus
(Isa 44:28, 45:1). God names Cyrus as the one chosen by God to
accomplish His will, to initiate the rebuilding both of Jerusalem and
its temple, and to defeat in battle the kings of the surrounding
nations. This message is intriguing because at the time of this
prophecy, King Cyrus was not yet born, and would not come to power for a
century and a half!
There are probably many
reasons God names Cyrus so many years before the man was born, including
to inspire faith in prophecy, to encourage the captive Israelites and to
show them how to relate to the man who would one day be instrumental in their
deliverance. However, the passage itself explains one of God's
main purposes: to demonstrate irrefutably the supreme power and
authority of God, the sovereign Lord of the universe.
3 "I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of
secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The Lord, the God
of Israel, who calls you by your name. 4 "For the sake of Jacob My
servant, And Israel My chosen one,
I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of
honor Though you have not known Me. 5 "I am the Lord, and
there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you,
though you have not known Me;
God wanted everyone to
know beyond doubt that He was Lord of all. Cyrus had to know this,
Israel had to remember it, and the surrounding nations had to know it.
Next in the passage, God
directs the topic away from Cyrus to declare that He alone is the
Creator God, who is the author, not only of the universe, but also of
righteousness and salvation.
5 "I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
7 The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the Lord who does all these.
8 "Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness;
let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it.
I, the Lord, have created it.
God then rebukes those
who would question what He was doing. In consideration of the majesty,
power and authority of God, people are in no place to think they know
better. In fact, "grave danger" (Isa 45:9 NET) or "woe" (Isa 45:9 NASB)
awaits those who argue with Him.
"Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker — an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!
Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?'
Or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands'?
10 "Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?'
Or to a woman, 'To what are you giving birth?'"
The next verse, of
course, is verse 11 ("command ye me" in the KJV). Comparing various translations is
very interesting here, because there are two distinct ideas that the
original Hebrew contains. English translations usually bring out one or
First, the NASB
translates the verse as God's instruction to His people that in light of
His supreme power and authority, they were to ask Him what they
should do, and trust Him for what He was doing.
Isa 45:11 Thus says
the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
"Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons,
And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands.
Second, most other
translations bring out God's indignation at being questioned.
Isa 45:11 "This is
what the Lord says — the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or
give me orders about the work of my hands?
Isa 45:11 Thus says
the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
"Will you question me about my children, or command me concerning
the work of my hands?
Isa 45:11 This is
what the Lord says— the Holy One of Israel and your Creator:
"Do you question what I do for my children? Do you give me orders
about the work of my hands?
Isa 45:11 Jehovah,
the Holy One of Israel, Israel's Creator, says:
"What right have you to question what I do? Who are you to command
me concerning the work of my hands?
45:11 This is what the
Lord says, the Holy One of Israel,
the one who formed him, concerning things to come:
“How dare you question me about my children! How dare you tell me
what to do with the work of my own hands!
God then reaffirms His
Isa 45:12 "It is I
who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the
heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host. NASU
After that, God briefly mentions Cyrus again.
Isa 45:13 I will
raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways
straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not
for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty." NIV
Isaiah 45:11 either says
that believers should trust God for what He is doing, or it rebukes
people who think they know better than He does. The one thing that this
verse does not say is that believers may command God what to do.
Family members who take
the King James Version out of its context and 'command' God in prayer
are actually doing the very thing that this verse condemns!
According to His
Prayer is not demanding
that God fulfil our requests. In fact, the beloved apostle John took
pains to point out that whenever we ask God for something, we should be
aware that He will grant the requests that are according to His will.
By implication, He does not grant the requests that do not agree with
1 John 5:14-15
14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask
anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that
He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests
which we have asked from Him.
In this epistle,
John repeatedly stressed the crucial importance of believers' obedience.
In fact, no one can say that they know God at all unless they obey Him.
1 John 2:3 By this we
know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
Obedience is linked with
saving knowledge of God. Christians who do not keep God's commandments
actually do not know Him at all.
1 John 2:4-5
4 The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His
commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever
keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By
this we know that we are in Him:
John listed several areas
of disobedience that the recipients of this epistle needed to be
reminded of, including a lack of Christian love, love for the world,
denial that Jesus was the Son of God, lust for material
possessions, sexual lust, idol worship and other unnamed sins.
Getting a favourable
answer to prayer, said John, was irrevocably linked to obedience.
1 John 3:22 and
whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His
commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. NASU
John did not say
that as Christians live in obedience to God, God had to answer
their prayers. Rather, he said that God only answers prayer that
accords with His will, so Christians must first align themselves
with His will by obeying Him and keeping His commandments.
In other words, at all
times, God retains His authority to instruct people. The order is
never reversed so that people may instruct God.
John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
Family members may cite
verses such as John 14:14 to 'prove' that prayer in Jesus' name places
an obligation on God to respond. However, reading this verse in the
context of the discussion Jesus was having with His disciples shows a
Jesus' disciples knew
that He would be leaving them soon, and so He began comforting them by
saying that He Himself was the pathway for them to come to God the
Father, and so be reunited with Him.
3 "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and
receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4
"And you know the way where I am going." 5 Thomas said to Him,
"Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?"
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no
one comes to the Father but through Me.
Jesus then emphasised His
own unity with God the Father: the Father and the Son are essentially
one; they are not separate personalities. God is one, although He
has manifested Himself as Father, Son and Spirit.
7 "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from
now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough
for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet
you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen
the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
Jesus explained that
although His disciples saw Him as a man, His words and actions were
anointed, empowered and initiated by God the Father. God was in Him
doing the miracles and speaking the words.
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have
not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father;
how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 "Do you not believe that I
am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to
you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in
Me does His works. 11 "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the
Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
Jesus then promised that
although He would be leaving them soon, His disciples would enjoy a
continued relationship with Him, a relationship which in many ways was
similar to that between Jesus the Son and God the Father. The Holy
Spirit would soon be given as the means by which God could dwell within
His followers, and thereby continue to speak His words and perform
miracles on earth.
12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works
that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do;
because I go to the Father. 13 "Whatever you ask in My name, that
will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 "If
you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
Lest the disciples get
the wrong impression about their own authority and power, Jesus
immediately instructed them that their relationship with Him was to be
characterised by love and by obedience.
John 14:15 "If you
love Me, you will keep My commandments. NASU
He then promised to send
the Holy Spirit in order that He would remain with them and in
16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that
He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the
world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but
you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 "After a
little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me;
because I live, you will live also. 20 "In that day you will know
that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
He again spelled out that
He expected obedience from His disciples. No one who was disobedient
could say that they loved Him.
21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves
Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love
him and will disclose Myself to him." 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said
to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose
Yourself to us and not to the world?"23 Jesus answered and said to
him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will
love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24
"He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which
you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.
To summarise, Jesus
certainly promised His disciples that they would perform miracles, and
that many wonderful things would happen as they prayed in His name.
However, He introduced
his promise with the explanation that it would occur by His own power,
as He would maintain an ongoing relationship with them that was similar
in many regards to that of God the Father's relationship with Jesus the
At all times, Jesus
retains the authority to do miracles, the power to do miracles, and the
initiative to do miracles. Three times, Jesus stressed to His
disciples that they were to be obedient to Him.
To interpret John 14:14
as meaning that Jesus' disciples could demand that He answer their
prayers is to ignore the context of the chapter, remove the indwelling
power and authority of the Holy Spirit and rebel against Jesus' requests
In fact, Dad/Berg's
conviction that believers may command God in prayer reverses this
passage: Jesus said that His true followers would obey Him. Dad/Berg
said that Jesus' followers could command Jesus, and Jesus would - in
effect - obey
Clearly, this is a false
reading of this passage.
God is the Sovereign Lord
The Bible indisputably and unambiguously declares that
God retains all authority and power over all that He does. When
believers pray, they are to have a humble attitude, as they petition for
justice from the sovereign Lord of all creation and for mercy from the
God of everlasting Love.
King David prayed in humility before the almighty God of
all that exists. He did not instruct God what to do.
1 Chron 29:10-13
10 So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and
David said, "Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father,
forever and ever. 11 "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything
that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord,
and You exalt Yourself as head over all. 12 "Both riches and honor
come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and
might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen
everyone. 13 "Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your
Paul prayed in humility, overawed by the majesty of
Christ His Saviour. He did not tell Jesus what to do.
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may
give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of
Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so
that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the
riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is
the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These
are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20
which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead
and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far
above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name
that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22
And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as
head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the
fullness of Him who fills all in all.
The proper attitude before God is grateful humility.
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him
the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and
under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus taught us to pray, not by commanding God, but in
yieldedness to His will.
Matt 6:10 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on
earth as it is in heaven. NASU
Jesus Himself was the perfect example of this yieldedness.
Matt 26:39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell
on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let
this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." NASU
proof-texts used in the Family to justify the teaching that believers
may "command" God in prayer are, with exception, taken out of context
and misused. In fact, some of the very passages containing these
"commanding God" proof-texts actually demonstrate very clear messages
that believers are not to command God.
are to approach God in humility, gratefulness and obedience. There is no
Bible mandate for "commanding God."
© 2011 Make Straight Paths