The right way to pray Psalm 91.

In a follow-up to her previous article, Holly Pivec responds to one of her reader’s questions:

“Why can’t believers ‘decree’ Psalm 91 as protection against coronavirus?”

Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

Why can’t believers ‘decree’ Psalm 91 as protection against coronavirus?

Holly writes:

Why can’t believers ‘decree’ Psalm 91 as protection against coronavirus (as I stated in my latest blog post)? One of my readers asked this question. Here’s my answer.

Satan’s Misuse of Psalm 91

We can learn something from Jesus’ response to Satan when Satan tempted him to “claim” Psalm 91 by jumping off the temple (Matt. 4:5-6). Jesus didn’t deny that God promised protection. But he did point out that Satan was misusing Scripture by not taking all of it into account (Matt. 4:7). So, we must follow Jesus’ example and not claim isolated passages of Scripture for ourselves without taking into account what the Bible also teaches us in other places.

So, what do we see when we take all of Scripture into account? We see that God often does deliver his people (for example, Daniel in the lion’s den or the Israelites in the parting of the Red Sea). But we also see that bad things, including illness, still happen to his people (for example, the apostle Paul’s illness referenced in Galatians 4:13). Yet none of these bad things are outside of God’s control or purposes (Romans 8:18-39).

Jesus’ Example

Consider Jesus’ own life. He suffered. Yet in John 7:30 we see that, for a certain period of time, evil people were not allowed to lay a hand on him because he was under God’s supernatural protection. But the time did come when they were allowed to arrest and crucify him. Jesus did not want to suffer. Yet he wanted God’s will to be done above his own and was willing to suffer if that was what God willed (Matt. 26:39). God had larger purposes for Jesus’ suffering in mind.

The bottom line is that God is sovereign, and He often does protect his people. Ultimately, of course, he will always protect his people when we are with him in eternity. But even when he doesn’t spare us from present trials, it’s for his bigger purposes.

The Right Way to ‘Pray Psalm 91’

So, what is the takeaway for us? Should Christians “pray Psalm 91”? The answer depends on what you mean by “pray.”

The wrong way to “pray Psalm 91” is to “decree” or “declare” it in a name-it-and-claim-it, magical worldview type of way. To decree Psalm 91 seems like an attempt to manipulate God if someone thinks that, by speaking certain words, they are somehow guaranteed protection by God from troubles in this present life.

The right way to “pray Psalm 91” is to believe the words of the psalm and have a peaceful confidence in God, trusting him to protect us as we go about doing his will. But if we do get sick or experience some other type of trial, we still have peace and trust that he has greater purposes for the trial he has allowed us — in his love and wisdom — to endure.

Protection From God’s Judgments (But Not All Trials)

One more point worth mentioning is that the promises in Psalm 91 appear to be promises for protection of believers from the judgments of God sent against the wicked. The interpretive key seems to be Psalm 91:8. The terrible things mentioned in the psalm, including “plague” and “snakes,” were judgments God specifically sent against his enemies or against unfaithful Israelites (see Ex. 5:3; 9:15; Lev. 26:25; Deut. 32:24). This observation is noted in the ESV Study Bible in the comments on Psalm 91.

So, the promises are not promises that believers will never get sick or be killed. They’re promises that they won’t face God’s wrath. This is an example of how having a good study Bible can be very helpful.

Source: Holly Pivec, ‘Spiritof Error’ blog, Published March 22, 2020. (Accessed March 22, 2020.)

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“Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians 4:16

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