If there was one word that I had to choose to describe how I felt as I read best-seller, sought-after speaker and pastor Joseph Prince’s newest release The Prayer of Protection, it would be astonished. This book has very much blown my mind like no other book I’ve come across. I have never read a book which manages to insult so many different people in so many different generations, as this reading will prove offensive to anyone who suffers, anyone with diseases like AIDS, anyone with an addiction, and anyone who takes the New Testament (NT) in historical context seriously. But Joseph Prince has succeeded in doing just that.
In all my past reviews I have engaged a book with an open mind, looking for the good (even when it’s hard to find). That said, there is no good in this book. I hate to give very bad reviews, so on that end I will provide a longer-than-usual post to defend my position that this book is a very poor read.
In every chapter (there are 12 total) there is at least one self-promoting testimonial listed in its entirety. These are letters from people who are thanking God for Joseph Prince and speaking of his ministry’s influence in their life. As stated, these letters are listed in their entirety! (Not a snippet or a paragraph here or there). That is a lot of pages! I counted 25 pages altogether of these testimonials, 3 1/2 in ch. 2 alone and 3 pages in ch. 11. It’s evident that besides advertising himself in his own book, Prince is trying to fill in more and more pages. That the editors didn’t point this out to him is beyond me (maybe they didn’t care?).
Laziness is also evident in the writing style, as in many parts of the book it feels as if Prince is trying to teach a very small child big grown up things. The tone of the book switches back and forth from a type of over-polished mechanical tone to a very joyous pep-talk that reminds me of someone simply trying to hype up a crowd. Phrases like “Hallelujah! Isn’t God great!” in every section are not only repetitive but also seem to indicate that Prince is just trying to insert more words in each chapter.
A preoccupation with a life of ease
Joseph Prince evidently has forgotten which side of heaven he lives on. According to the reading, we are not (as Christians) to experience any discomfort and no amount of suffering. To defend his strange stance he mentions Job and says that Job’s suffering is abnormal for those in Christ. He says that the apostle Paul had authority over death to live a long life but gave up such authority in order to be with God sooner. All the martyrs in the time of the NT also could have lived long and fruitful lives but they, as well, gave up this authority. In making such remarks Prince spits on the grave of all those who have been martyred in history as well as in the present day: he is spitting on the cross of Christ which is about a God who suffers with humanity.
Uncountable exegetical fallacies
There are simply too many to count (I plan on having a few posts dedicated to the individual texts themselves which are, it seems, on every page).
Hyper-triumphalism is a constant motif, as Prince seems to think that those in debt just need to have more faith, those who live in dangerous places simply need to pray his special prayer of protection, etc.
Highly Offensive on (it seems) Every Page
Prince (as noted at the start) insults many different people. Anyone who is going through hardship is doing so (according to this book) because of lack of faith, or because they haven’t learned to activate God’s angels (see ch. 8, Activating God’s Angels where he makes a straw case that we actually control angels). In one chapter he makes absurd claims that we have authority over death in that we (not God) control and determine when we will die. If you have AIDS (according to the theology presented in this book) it is because you let that happen and don’t have faith. If you die young, it is your fault (as “Jesus died a young death so that we can live a long life”; once again Prince is spitting on the very cross he claims to proclaim).
All of us have a free choice to use our faith to believe God for a long life. How long a life? That depends on you–according to your faith and satisfaction be it unto you (p. 150).
This is insulting to any Christian who has lost a Christian family member or friend prematurely, as it pretty much says they did not activate some special authority and were not in the special realm Prince apparently is in (in which he controls when he will die).
The amount of people he insults is inexcusable and unforgivable (Prince evidently does not know what it means to be pastoral, though he, in fact, is a pastor).
For anyone who experiences danger, they simply haven’t activated the Protector’s protection. If this is true, Christians in China need Prince’s book and theology! They simply haven’t activated God’s angels; or perhaps the Christians who give their lives in martyrdom don’t pray Prince’s prayer of protection and don’t live in the realm he is in (in which one can decide when one dies!). This goes beyond the triumphalism that I’ve encountered in Pentecostal/charismatic circles and from motivational speakers, as Joseph Prince tries to present the cross without the obvious element of suffering that is part of the package; after all if we want to follow Jesus we must pick up our cross daily according to Luke.
The NT shows us we are to live between the tension between glory and suffering and informs us of the expectedness of Christians to suffer. While the Western church seems to not want to always hear this, Joseph Prince in his book would blatantly deny this! On p. 201 he notes that God’s divine protection is something we must “receive” and in that chapter also contests that God’s protection is purchased for Christians by Christ’s blood; ch. 12 insults the loved ones of anyone who has died prematurely (or hasn’t lived a long life) as it states a promise to every Christian is not only a long life but a long and healthy one, as well as “fruitfulness” in old age. Here he writes a most peculiar statement: that “Our Lord Jesus died young so we may live long” (p. 194). That sounds really great, but to anyone half-serious about exegesis this is an obvious and flat-out imposition on Scripture.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge, no plague will come near your dwelling. Protection from strains of viruses that science does not yet have a cure for–Ebola, Zika, or AIDS–is God’s promise to you and your household (p. 100).
On p. 100 Prince states that this is God’s promise for our families, stressing that this is God’s guarantee. This is an insult to any Christian suffering from a disease listed above, as it implies your lack of faith (and not God’s sovereignty) stands in the way of you being healed. Here Prince is giving false hope to those who are suffering.
There is safety and protection when we draw near to Him and dwell in His sweet presence, His Word, and His house (p. 101). It’s important to note that Prince is not talking about a kind of spiritual protection but a very literal one.
On p. 103 he notes that protection is guaranteed to all believers of all times just as forgiveness is. (He has equated God’s forgiveness with God’s healing.) He, throughout the whole book, notes that he believes Christians should never have to suffer-they only allow themselves to suffer. From p. 104-105 he “exegetes” (can that word even be used?) the Parable of the Lost Sheep, explaining that it’s about a Shepherd who protects his sheep. Strange: I always thought it was about God finding the nonredeemable (the sinner) and bringing him or her back to his flock. I guess generations of church history got it all wrong.
After reading the book at hand I don’t think it’s speculative to say Prince has a fear of suffering and a fear of not being protected.
Prince has a very strange and scary preoccupation with being protected from any type of suffering and an evident (to me) fear of suffering. As someone passionate about the gospel and about faith in Jesus, I find Prince’s notions to be threatening to the foundations of historical Christianity. His newest release promotes an idea which is utterly contra-Christ and the cross, the idea being ‘Jesus died for you to not suffer and for you to be comfortable.’ I know of nothing which is more anti-Jesus (anti-Christ?) than that. It is evident that Prince does not take half-serious the concept of studying Scripture as he has on every page plunders Bible verses to make them captive to his own pre-determined individualistic theology. He constantly comes up with “unique” interpretations to Bible verses when Bible interpretation 101 states that if you have a “unique” interpretation of a passage, it’s probably wrong and could be more rooted in pride than in an actual revelation from God’s Spirit.
I write this review as a continuist who believes God still operates in the “spectacular.” That said, I cannot identify with the type of Christian who does not see the cross and its implications (namely that it’s normative for Christians to suffer) as central (which is what Prince does without apology throughout this grotesque and terrible excuse for a book). As a student of the Bible I must say that Prince does preach another gospel, a gospel of “think-positive-thoughts” rather than the gospel of “follow me to be crucified” (a pretty negative notion). It does not take a Bible scholar to figure out that Prince is way off in his ill treatment of Scripture.
My friend (and the newest contributor to Overthinking Christian) Alex Pasqal, has this to say about the book:
Joseph Prince goes out of his way to prove how holy and amazing he is; what a great Christian he is; how much he’s done for Christ and for the church. He even gets other people to do it for him throughout dozens of pages of his book. How clever! It is pretty despicable to brag about yourself like that, especially in a book that is supposed to be about something as holy and sacred as prayer. You do not even have to read the first page to see that what comes out of this man’s mind and mouth is lackadaisical and uninspired (just look at the titles and descriptions for his many other books provided in the reading). This book is nothing more than tepid words masquerading as life-changing principles.
I think the worst thing about this book (and there are many bad things) is that Joseph Prince implicitly and explicitly states that you have control over your life-all you have to do is follow his miraculous advice! If you are getting on a plane, well, you can control that plane to the degree that it won’t malfunction or get overrun by terrorists! If you are in an area where a certain disease is prevalent, you can control not getting that disease (of course, the diseases he mentions are diseases that are prevalent in today’s society)! Joseph Prince seems to always go back to the fact that God is in control, but that really is not what he is saying. He truly reminds me of a salesman trying to sell snake oil. If you read enough of the book and compare and feed it through the Bible, you will see this man for what he is-a poor salesperson trying to make another buck off of someone drawn in by a sales pitch.
The amount of hubris this man has is proven throughout the book, as he states that he has the key to being protected from anything and for any reason. The “key” he mentions reminds me of magical wards that good wizards use to protect themselves from evil wizards in today’s popular books and movies. The only reason I would ever encourage someone to read this book is to understand what is being put out into the world and digested by Christians. This book is a lesson to be very careful with what we receive and process in terms of religious literature.
*I received this from the Hachette Book Group for an honest evaluation.