Just Say the Magic Words

One of my friends is doing the hard work of facing the devastating effects of childhood abuse and various unspeakable horrors. She knows that she needs to accept the full impact what happened to her in order to grieve it and forgive the people who wounded her so she can walk in freedom. But one of her friends recently gave her some disheartening counsel: “Oh, there’s a spirit of grief harassing you. You don’t need to go around digging up the past like you’re doing. Just speak your inner healing into existence! Declare that you are healed and whole in Jesus’ name!”

This lady has bought into the dangerous (and unbiblical) “word of faith” theology (WOF) that puts faith in one’s words instead of in God Himself. It’s a religious version of “wishing will make it so,” having morphed into “speaking will make it so.” This wrong thinking can range from an unfortunate misunderstanding of the Scriptures to a blasphemous presumption that creatures can create reality by the power of their words—just like God did when He spoke creation into existence by the power of His word.

It’s certainly an appealing idea, bypassing the hard soul work of grieving and forgiving to get to the prize of a healed heart at peace. Just say the magic words, like waving a magic wand, and POOF! you’re healed! Who wouldn’t want to go that far, far easier route?

Shortcuts don’t work. They do, however, result in major disappointment when people are taught unrealistic expectations of God about promises He never made. One of the most basic principles of Bible reading and study is that “context is king.” We must never wrench verses out of their surrounding paragraphs, chapters, and books. And if we come up with an understanding or application of a verse that is contradicted by other passages in scripture, we need to jettison our wrong thinking.

So, for example, if someone points out Isaiah 53:5 to my friend, which says “by His stripes we are healed,” and promises she can claim healing of any and every pain or ailment, what happens when nothing happens? This wrong-headed promise tempts people to conclude that God is not good, and He is not faithful, because He didn’t keep His word. But that cannot be the meaning of Isaiah 53:5 since the supposed promise of immediate healing is contradicted in other scriptures such as 2 Cor. 12:7-9, where Paul tells us that God said no to his pleas for healing from his thorn in the flesh, promising instead that His grace was enough. Claiming inner healing without submitting to the process of facing the full impact of what happened to her so that she can release it to the Lord not only isn’t truthful, it doesn’t work like that.

WOF taps into legitimate longings for a life free from want, from sickness and death, from pain, which are promised to believers in Christ in the new heavens and new earth. But it illegitimately promises that life NOW. It’s simply a matter of praying in faith, believing not in God’s goodness, but the power of one’s own prayers. Our own words. That’s a form of idolatry.

But this theology is not consistent with reality, which means it cannot be of God. One night I was at an event where there would be a drawing for some jewelry. I watched several people lay hands on the blingy stuff and say, “I claim this in Jesus’ name.” Guess what—none of them won the drawing. What happened? It’s the same dynamic as when believers on both sides of a football game claim victory for their team in Jesus’ name. God cannot grant two opposite requests—or, in this case, demands. (He’s not much into demands of any kind, actually.)

God deals with truth, not fantasy and illusion. WOF violates the scriptural principle of embracing truth, such as the psalmist’s powerful statement in Ps. 51:6, “You desire truth in the innermost being.” Another friend, Cathy, was dying of cancer, but she refused to believe what the doctors said. She insisted right up to her last breath that she was believing health for herself, and would not talk to anyone about funeral arrangements or even what to do with her house and her possessions because that would be faithless. But she wasn’t putting her faith in God, who was actually calling her home, but in her wishful prayers.

Beware of spiritual shortcuts, especially those that are created by your own words. If there were such a thing, don’t you think Jesus would have bypassed the Cross?

Sue Bohlin

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor.

She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions.

Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.


  • Avatar


    That was really great to read

    That was really great to read Sue – I have been on both sides of this discussion . It helped me to look at things a little differently. I have been giving myself a hard time recently going through similar circumstances to you first described of your friend. If only it was that easy – to speak or pray it out of existence. Thanks sue.

  • Avatar

    Melanie Newton

    Letting God be God

    Thank you for your stirring reminder that God's sovereignty cannot be conquered by our wishful thinking and speaking. He is God alone. We can't twist his arm through any WOF or other gimmick. I hope your friend isn't so confused now that she doesn't know which way to turn. 

    • Avatar

      Sue Bohlin

      Twisting God’s Arm?

      Thanks, Melanie! I'm glad to say that my friend is grounded in the Word enough to recognize spiritual garbage when she sees it. For one thing, she sees the good fruit in others who have taken the tougher path to legitimate healing, and sees the rotten fruit of people in pain who push out a smile and say with forced cheeriness, "I am healed and healthy!"

      I get it. There was a time when someone another polio survivor laid hands on my leg and claimed that I was healed in Jesus' name. Nothing changed. I continued to limp, as I do today. Then when I learned he stuffed paper towels in his boot because of his withered foot, and always wore long pants to cover up his withered leg . . . I saw the same fruit as my friend.

      I'll take honesty, even if it's full of disappointment.

  • Avatar

    Sara Alexander

    Well said!

    Wow, Sue.  This is fantastic.  How many hearts have been crushed and faiths shattered by such groundless theology.   Thank you for proclaiming the truth!

  • Avatar

    wendy O'Neil

    How do we know which promises

    How do we know which promises we can claim, if any?  Everyone likes to claim that God has plans to do us good, to give us a hope and a future based on Jeremiah 29:11 but later in Jeremiah 44:27 Bod says, "Behlld, I will watch over them for adversity and not for good….  I never hear anyone quote this as a promise.  There is another verse that I marked somewhere in my Bible but can't find at this moment that says the exact opposite of Jer 29:11…

    I''ve wondered why it's never quoted since it says–the exact opposite.

    • Avatar

      Sue Bohlin

      The right promises to claim?

      Hi Wendy,

      The Jer. 44:27 passage, if you look at the context, is written to a certain group of unrepentant, idolatrous people in Israel, and God is promising judgment on them because of their sin. So there's no point to applying it to anyone today.

      The 29:11 passage, on the other hand, correlates perfectly with God's plans for His children when you look at the big picture of the church and kingdom life after death. So it's appropriate to claim that promise for ourselves.

      Glad you asked!



  • Avatar

    L. J.

    Just Say the Magic words

    Thanks for this article on just saying the magic words and claiming Isa. 53:5.  I believe as the author does that it is not a blanket promise.  In fact, taken in context I find it refers to our sins that Jesus made provision for healing/forgiving on the basis of His sacrifice on the cross.  The article was well written, and I will keep a copy for future use as I have family that are tending towards the belief of speaking healing into existence.

    • Avatar

      Sue Bohlin

      No magic words

      Thank you so much for writing. Desiring to speak reality into existence is a theology problem–people are confusing themselves with God!

Leave a Reply