Question: “Is there power in positive confession?”
Answer: Positive confession is the practice of saying aloud what you want to happen with the expectation that God will make it a reality. It’s popular among prosperity gospel adherents who claim that words have spiritual power and that, if we speak aloud the right words with the right faith, we can gain riches and health, bind Satan, and accomplish anything we want. To confess positively is to speak words that we believe or want to believe, thus making them reality. This is opposed to negative confession, which is to acknowledge hardships, poverty, and illness and thus (supposedly) accept them and refuse the ease, wealth, and health God has planned for us.
There are several things wrong with this philosophy. The most dangerous is the belief that words have a kind of spiritual, magical power that we can use to get what we want. The practice borrows not from biblical truths, but from a new age concept called the “law of attraction.” It teaches that “like attracts like”—a positive statement or thought will draw a positive reaction. Everything is imbued with God’s presence and power—not “God” as the omnipresent Creator, but “god” in a Hindu/pantheistic way. The net result is the idea that our words hold the power to force God to give us what we want—a heretical belief. Additionally, the results attributed to positive confession are powered by the faith of the individual. This leads to the old belief that illness and poverty are a type of punishment for sin (in this case, lack of faith). John 9:1-3 and the entire book of Job refute this soundly.
The second problem is that the prosperity gospel misinterprets the promises of God. “Confession” is agreeing with what God has said; “positive confession” is demanding human desires. People who push positive confession say that the practice is merely restating God’s promises as given in the Bible. But they don’t differentiate between universal promises God made to all His followers (e.g., Philippians 4:19) and personal promises made to individuals at a certain time for a particular purpose (e.g., Jeremiah 29:11). They also misinterpret the promises God does give us, refusing to accept that God’s plan for our lives may not match up with our own (Isaiah 55:9). A carefree, perfect life is the antithesis of what Jesus said the Christian life would look like—and the lives that His followers lived. Jesus didn’t promise prosperity; He promised hardship (Matthew 8:20). He didn’t promise that our every want would be fulfilled; He promised we’d have what we need (Philippians 4:19). He didn’t promise peace in a family; He promised that families would have problems as some chose to follow Him and some didn’t (Matthew 10:34-36). And He didn’t promise health; He promised to fulfill His plan for us and grace in the trials (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Another issue with positive confession is that, although the “confessions” are understood to refer to things in the future, many of the statements are simply lies. Certainly, verbally affirming one’s faith in God and deliverance by the sacrifice of Jesus is good. But proclaiming, “I always obey God,” or, “I am wealthy,” is deceptive and possibly against the very will of the God we are to cling to. Especially disturbing are the “confessions” about other people. God has given each of us the freedom to serve Him or rebel against Him in our individual ways; claiming otherwise is foolish.
Finally, the Bible is very clear that “negative confession” does not negate God’s blessings. The Psalms are filled with cries to God for deliverance, and Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7 exhort us follow that example. Even Jesus went before the Heavenly Father with a clear eye on the situation and a request for aid (Matthew 26:39). The God of the Bible is not a cosmic Santa Claus (James 4:1-3). He is a loving Father who wants to be involved in His children’s lives—the good and the bad. It is when we humble ourselves and ask for help that He gives us either release from the circumstances or strength to get through them.
Does positive confession have any value? In a way. Those who are confident they can solve a problem are generally more relaxed and creative. An optimistic mood has been shown to improve health. And happy people often have enough emotional distance between themselves and others to pick up on subtle clues which could lead to successful personal and business transactions. In addition, consistently voicing one’s goals keeps those goals on the forefront; those who constantly think about getting more money will act accordingly.
The dangers of positive confession far outweigh the benefits. All of the advantages we’ve listed are psychological and somewhat physiological—not spiritual. The only spiritual benefit to be had is the fact that people who expect God to move are more likely to see God’s hand in situations. But words are not magic. Our role with our Heavenly Father is not to demand, but to ask for help and to trust. And to realize that our blessings are not dependent on the strength of our faith, but on His plan and His power.