There was a popular charismatic Christian mantra the 1980s and 1990s known as “name it and claim it.” The idea was that Christians would articulate a particular desire—usually material—and claim that as God’s promise to them as believers. Psalm 37:4 often accompanied this confession of faith: “take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (NIV) and Proverbs 13:22b “the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (NASB). It was a widely popular faith proclamation that stood in sharp contrast to humble hearth and home. As a matter of personal interpretation, I would have to say that God’s desire for humankind is somewhere in the middle. After all, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “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” (Matt 7:11, Luke 11:13). Indeed, of what use is poverty to advancing the Gospel? For some, diverting all material wealth beyond the base necessities to the betterment of the needy is a divine calling with deeply gratifying spirituality, but it is not terribly attractive to outsiders. On the other hand, the hoarding of immense wealth when there is so much need is flatly repugnant. People imagine Jesus as poor, but not only did he lack for nothing, he had enough to incur tax liability and to merit a staff accountant. Yet monetary reserves were not his primary concern as shown in Matthew 17 when he instructs Simon Peter to obtain a silver coin from a fish’s mouth with which to pay the temple tax. All this said, however, it occurs to me that the “name it, claim it” faith confession might be more powerful in its psychological dimensions than its spiritual standing.
During Tim Tebow’s stint in college football, more than a few commentators remarked that Tebow had amnesia in the best possible way because he never seem to remember past mistakes, losses, or let-downs. Tebow remained positive, expectant, and eager for every single athletic match and he always looked forward, never backward. Freeing oneself of the past, thinking only of tomorrow, and using the present as a bridge to get to tomorrow is a life that few people can live. The presence or absence of a plan is what makes such a life constructive or destructive. With a goal, forgetting the past frees us to continue trying without becoming discouraged; without a goal, forgetting the past condemns us to repeating past failure.
So this is where, I think, “name it, claim it” actually worked. By naming a desired vehicle, for instance, and repeating the faith affirmation every time a negative indicator presents (a strange noise, a flat tire, etc) the forward-looking perspective allows us to blow off negative energy, redirect it into positive energy, and turn the time otherwise lost to idle worrying into increased productivity. And best of all, placing the task of attainment into God’s hands removes the stress of attainment that might otherwise discourage us from persevering. If after a year of diligence and frugality, one still has not saved the funds to purchase a vehicle, discouragement could easily trick one into losing focus. But if the attainment or fulfillment of the goal is cast into abstraction then there is nothing to deter continued pursuit of the goal. While it might well be the case that God is rewarding the person’s faith, it seems more probable that the person is actually reaping more from psychological empowerment than from divine intervention.