It is possible you have heard people offering up prayers, and within the prayer they would begin to decree and declare. Often the prayer may go something like this,
“I decree in the name of Jesus that healing is coming to my body.
I declare that my finances will be multiplied tenfold in the next year.”
Whether you have heard this type of praying before, the question that remains is what does it mean to decree and declare, and is it Biblical? Are the people who decree and declare when they pray, praying in line with what God has established in his word? Or are they praying amiss? With something as important as prayer this is something that you simply cannot afford to get wrong. Let’s see if we can set the record straight.
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What Does "Decree and Declare" Mean?
By definition, a decree is an official order issued by a legal authority. The key part of this definition is the legal authority. For a decree to be official – which means it can be executed – the person issuing the decree must have the authority or the right to pronounce the order. Without that authority, a decree is worthless. I could stand up in my house and decree that the speed limit on the highway will now be 75 miles per hour instead of 65 miles per hour. While this may be what I want, it is not enforceable because I don’t have the legal authority to make that decree.
To declare means to make something known formally, officially, or explicitly. A declaration is simply an acknowledgment of something that is. However a declaration alone does not have the power to cause what you declare to happen. In other words, there is no creative or causative power in a declaration.
When people decree and declare in prayer, often they do so under the belief that what they decree will come to pass because they have the power in their words to cause it to happen.
Where Did This Phrase Come From?
Where did the idea of decree and declare originate and is this in the Bible? Let me point you to some verses that are often associated with the position of decreeing and declaring.
“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:23-24).
If you were to read these verses with no other context, you would think that all we must do is decree it and declare it and it is going to happen. We must be careful, especially with the verses in Mark, because this is a verse about faith and not about decreeing and declaring. Jesus begins this narrative by saying “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22), which is the catalyst for any answer to prayer and is in line with other scriptures about prayer, for example Hebrews 11:6.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
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Is It Biblical to "Decree and Declare"?
The challenge with decreeing is that this is not the way Jesus teaches us to pray and it is not the way to get answers in prayer. The real key to prayer is not decreeing and declaring, it is asking and believing. Here are some verses about asking in prayer.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11).
“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Repeatedly throughout the Bible we see God encouraging us to ask in prayer, not to decree. I could even make the argument that these two things of asking and decreeing are not in congruence with each other. One major difference between the two is that decreeing puts the onus on us to cause it to happen, while asking puts the onus on God to bring it to pass. What God wants is us to put our trust and faith in him to bring it to pass.
Too often in the decree and declare world they put the power in the words they decree. There should never be faith put in our words, but faith put in God who can answer prayer. The words we speak should be an expression of our faith in God to do what he has said he will do and nothing else.
Some will mistakenly try to get you to believe that since God can speak and cause things to happen just because he spoke it, that we have that same ability. After all we are made in his image, aren’t we? While we are made in his image, he has not given us the ability to decree something and cause it to happen. We can decree from here to eternity but if God does not cause it to happen, then the decree is meaningless.
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A Wrong Turn Decree and Declare Can Take
Another problem with decreeing and declaring is that it centers around us and does not center around God. It also has the potential to remove God’s will from the equation, which again goes against how Jesus taught us to pray (remember “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”).
The other issue is that when you decree and declare, if nothing happens, then it becomes an issue with your faith, and many will forget that God’s will matters in the situation. Some will even go so far to erroneously tell you that you shouldn’t pray “if it be God’s will” because that statement alone is a lack of faith. Well, if this is true then Jesus had no faith because he sure prayed that way and taught us to pray, “your will be done.”
There was a time in my life when I was praying for someone close to me who was sick. I was at a low point, so I called this church which was known for praying for healing. After about 45 minutes, the woman on the phone said the reason your family member is still sick is because you don’t have enough faith. Not only was this deflating to hear, but it was also not true. This is sometimes how the decree and declare movement operates, which is a disconnection from the truth. It does not matter how much you decree and declare, it must align with God’s will for it to happen. If it is not part of God’s will for your life, then it will not happen.
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How Should We Humbly Bring Our Requests to God?
Here are two truths you should never forget:
God will never answer any prayer that falls outside of his will for your life.
We are subject to God’s decrees, God is not subject to ours.
The simple truth and key to answered prayer is alignment. In fact, every prayer that you pray that is in alignment with God’s will, he will answer. The purpose in prayer is not to get God to do what you want, which is often at the center of the decree and declare movement, it is to align your will with what God wants. When your heart, will, and desires are in alignment with God’s heart, God’s will, and God’s desires, then you will pray and ask and God will move. What alignment does is it removes any of the selfish, proud parts of our hearts and puts us back in position where we are trusting God to answer prayer, which is what God wanted all along.
Prayer is not a place where we decree, it is a place where we ask. When we do, we can be confident in our God who is faithful to hear us and more importantly faithful to always do what aligns with his will and what is in our best interest. I leave you with one verse on prayer that sums this up.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.