Why “Blood of Jesus” is not Christian Prayer
By: Deji Yesufu
Yesterday I shared Mark Agwara’s post where he had written that it was blasphemy to pray “I cover my children with the blood of Jesus”. I was quite surprised to see the many reactions to the posts and I thought I should shed greater light on the subject through an article like this one. Later in the night, Jumoke Akindele left this comment on the thread:
“I cannot argue this but can you give us the basis for the conclusion that (this prayer) is pagan praying? It is not directly in the scriptures, no doubt, but are there any historical or cultural basis for this conclusion? I know syncretism has crept into the church but I would be glad to know how this is just another show of error in the church practice pattern and what its origin might be. Thank you.”
After she made the comment, I knew my job was caught out for me. In this essay, I would like to suggest a few reasons why no one should be using the “blood of Jesus” to pray. I will also go further to suggest how cultural Nigerian Christianity came to adopt this mode of prayer and I would try to end by stating what true biblical praying should be.
The first thing we want to make very clear, even as Jumoke has suggested in her comment, is that there is no biblical warrant for covering oneself with the blood of Jesus. Christianity is a derivative of Judaism and there is no person in the whole of the Old Testament, where we have a documentation of the Jewish religion, who covered himself with the blood of anything. In the New Testament, and with the advent of the Son of God, there is no apostle or disciple of Jesus that covered themselves with the blood of Jesus. It is even plain preposterous to suggest that anyone would pray like that in the Bible. In Matthew 6, Jesus taught his disciples to pray. When he reached the point where they were to ask God for protection, which is what the “blood of Jesus” is used for in these modern praying sessions, Christ simply said that the disciples should say “… deliver us from every evil…”
The idea of covering oneself with the blood comes from the Old Testament story of the Jews’ deliverance from Egypt. Where God commanded every home to kill a lamb and to put the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their homes. An angel of the Lord would pass over Egypt that night and kill every first born son of the Egyptian. God stated that when the angel saw the blood on the door, the evil will pass over them. Subsequently, Nigerian preachers with their ever poor hermeneutics, rightly adjudged that the lamb in the Old Testament story was a picture of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Thus, by extension, in the same way the blood of the lamb protected the Jews from the angel of death, Jesus’ blood should protect us from all evil. The problem with the application is that no one in all the New Testament made such a conclusion. No one in all 2,000 years of church history made such application of the text. No one, until 21st century Nigerian Pentecostalism. I will still go on to show us the biblical place for the blood of the Jesus in the Christian life. But for now, let me suggest another reason why you should not pray the prayer “the blood of Jesus”.
Jesus Christ is the holy son of God. He is also the second person of the glorious trinity. Our Lord Jesus Christ is God and because he is God, his name is not to be used in vain. The third commandment says that we should not take the name of the Lord our God in vain. The implication of this commandment is often lost on modern people like us because we have very little association with the Jews – at least here in Africa. But the Jews’ so revere the name of God that they never name it on their lips. While we must beware of a legalistic approach to religion, we also must be reverent in the use of the name of our Lord. People who use the name of Christ as an exclamation and those who use it as a course word, are sinning against God.
In a similar vein, those who carry on in prayer, vainly naming the name of Christ, with no apparent reason than just repeating “… Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” are also taking the name of the Lord in vain. Jesus said that we should be careful of vain babbling in the place of prayer (Matthew 6:7). It is equally sinful then to add the name of Christ to such vain babbling. This is why simply chorusing “…the blood of Jesus…” over and over again, is vain babel and this is where the blasphemy come to play: such persons are not reverent about the name of their God; such persons are using the name of their God in an unbiblical manner; and certainly they are not honoring his name. If we understand Christ as our Lord, God and Savior, we will certainly not join a congregation to call his name in vain. Now we come to what the blood of Jesus really is and what it is meant for.
In the Old Testament church, God instituted an elaborate sacrificial system for the Jewish nation through the Levitical priesthood. The idea was this: Man is sinful and men will sin. God has however chosen to come down from heaven, in all his holiness, to associate with man. How does a holy and just God associate with a unholy men? The only way is by somebody or something paying for the price of the sins of these men. The Levitical sacrifices therefore sought to pacify God’s justice through the sacrifice of animals. Instead of God dealing with sinful man, he let out his wrath on the animals. However, God himself knew that this system of sacrifice was deficient and had planned from eternity past, that in time he will send his holy Son, Jesus Christ, who will die and whose blood will act as to appease the wrath of God against sin.
So Jesus lived a sinless life and then he died on a Cross, shedding his blood in the process. By the shed blood of Jesus, you and I can now find forgiveness of sin (Matthew 1:21, Luke 24:46-47, Ephesians 1:7, Hebrew 9). The blood of Jesus is also far more potent than the blood of man or the blood of animals because it is the perfect blood of the sinless man – the God-man – Jesus Christ. So that every time we say the phrase “the blood of Jesus”, we are simply reminding ourselves of the fact that our sins have been forgiven and our sins will be forgiven. It is those who know the reality of finding forgiveness by the blood of Jesus who cringed at the suggestion that anyone might want to be using it for covering their children against evil, or for journey mercies, or for any of those vain things. The blood of Jesus grants to us forgiveness of sin and for this we rejoice.
I have not done any research as to how the phrase “the blood of Jesus” became quite common in our churches but it is clear that the moment the Christian religion begun to be utilized as means for personal well-being; the moment the animist bent in we Africans began to see Christianity as a means to defeating our enemies – both seen and unseen; the next was that people will quite naturally begin to use sacred symbols in the faith for their personal advantage. And then there will be those individuals who had dreams of the night and encountered demonic forces, but who, after they had shouted “blood of Jesus”, the forces were outwitted; such testimonies quickly bring forth practices like “pleading the blood of Jesus”. The whole idea of praying “the blood of Jesus” is the natural outcome of the defective theology that has enveloped Nigerian Christianity – particularly the Pentecostals and since any church that must be relevant today, must adopt Charismatic practices, we now have the practice everywhere.
As we have seen earlier, Christ calls his people to indeed pray that God will keep them from all evil. It is not wrong to ask God to keep his shield around your children; it is not wrong to pray for journey mercies when travelling or even embarking on a short trip; it is not wrong to ask for protection from God from evil. What is clearly wrong is to think that by “pleading the blood of Jesus” you have prayed some biblical prayers for protection. You have not. You have instead used the Lord’s name in vain and you have just uttered nonsense. If you must ask the Lord for his protection, do so simply, plainly and even childishly and God will grant the desires of your heart. The blood of Jesus is a lofty entity in Christendom that must not be bandied around by the unruly and the untaught. By the blood of Jesus Christian we have found forgiveness of sin and I am convinced that if you cherish the salvation you have in God, you will not want to use the means to it in a vain repetitive prayer session.