A communion of slithering snakes and oily rituals

A worshipper eats grass on the instruction of a prophet in South Africa

A worshipper eats grass on the instruction of a prophet in South Africa

Ignatius Mabasa Shelling The Nuts
A FEW years ago I attended an Alpha Course for trainers. Alpha is a course that tells people about Jesus and Christianity. One of the course topics we did was titled, “Why and How do I pray?”

To me it sounded too ordinary and obvious to talk about why and how people pray.

Interestingly, this course also talked about how not to pray for people.

The reasons that were given about how not to pray for people are beginning to make sense now as I read and hear unbelievable antics being done in the name of prayer by some pastors.

In Zimbabwe, and other African countries some really bizarre things are being done in the name of prayer.

While prayer is generally defined as a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity, in Southern Africa it also means whatever ritual is performed by anybody claiming to be representing God, and that ritual is seen or believed to be a solution to a problem.

A ritual is generally defined as a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

In the old world, prayer used to be so ritualised before the advent of the Holy Spirit.

Today, new rituals are being created in the name of God, and some pastors are becoming hypnotists, making people strip, eat snakes, grass, hair, rocks and rats!

One Nigerian pastor is seen on social media placing his designer shoe on a woman’s belly and “praying” for her by pushing, shoving and twisting his leg!

In Zimbabwe — prayer rituals also involve very strange objects, utterances and actions.

I have seen people using water, oils, pebbles, lemons, soil, ashes, pieces of cloth, sticks from specific trees, leaves, needles, candles, sheep fat, clay pots, underwear, eggs, nails, spittle, urine, salt, chillies, milk, the blood of chickens and goats.

The list goes on.

Besides these items, there are also the strange actions which can see decent people being made to do unbelievable things.

One Chiredzi couple whose son was sick and dying was desperate for anything to save their child.

They went to a prophet who took them to a secluded area and told them to undress and walk around an anthill while he ogled.

A lot of things are happening in the name of God, but I can assure you that God is not present in most of these fetishes which have seen many women sexually molested.

In Mutare, another “prophet” used to make people believe he had powers to end fertility problems. Strangely, it was only the women who had the problems.

So, he would invite them for “prayers” at his home when the moon was full.

He instructed all the women to strip naked and give them hoes to go and weed his field.

He would be among them, convincing them of the link between fertility, a full moon and preparing a field for a bountiful harvest.

What else happened in that moonlit night, nobody knows — but, nobody robs a bank, with everyone watching.

Some years back, I had a workmate whom I confided in about my family problems.

This colleague’s face lit up and he declared that my problem was “nothing” to the man of God he knew in Budiriro.

He promised to take me there. So, I found myself one of the many people waiting for the services of the man of God.

As people waited, there were lots of bizarre stories that were being shared about the prophet’s powers.

Eventually, the prophet arrived and there was jostling for positions in the queue.

Some who wanted immediate attention started behaving strangely and had to be restrained by the prophet’s helpers.

The Budiriro prophet’s clinic and prayers were done in public.

Some people had water splashed on their faces, others were given small stones to go and put in specific places in their homes, or workplaces, cars, or to just keep in their wallets.

So varied were the “prayers” such that one pregnant woman was told to go and bring a cooking stick because her baby had to be propped up. The cooking stick was prayed for, and she was instructed to go and keep the stick upright, that way, the baby would stay in the correct position.

When my turn came, he declared that God was showing him that there was a relative of mine who was responsible for my problems.

He described a woman who he was seeing in the spirit and told me that she was my sister.

He went on to convincingly tell me correct facts about her.

Then he said, “I am holding your sister’s spirit in my hand right now. Because she has tormented you, if you give me the go ahead, I can get rid of her right away. Do you want me to kill her? I can do it now and by the time you leave this place you will get a message that she is dead.”

I have never been horrified like I did then.

Too many things were swimming in my head. If I gave him the go-ahead, he would kill her. But then doesn’t God say love your enemy? Doesn’t he say he is the one who avenges?

If I gave him the go ahead to kill my sister, who would be responsible for her death? The prophet or me?

Didn’t God command us not to kill?

If I got my sister killed, would that solve my problems?

What if it did not? And if I were to go to her funeral, what would I say in my condolences?

I don’t know for how long I knelt in front of that Budiriro prophet while my mind burst into smithereens. I was sweating. This was an awkward moment, but I knew what I wanted.

So I told the prophet to spare my sister. He told me to come back if I had a change of heart.

I never went back because I remembered that Jesus says the Devil only came to kill and destroy.

I had been to a murderer’s shrine, and his prayer rituals were from hell.

The objects that are being given the name “prayer” are becoming too many and this is so confusing because it twists and distorts the true meaning of prayer.

One gets the impression that without these objects, it is impossible to talk and be heard by God. This is so wrong and misleading.

For example, there is a craze about “anointing with oil.”

R Stanley, teaching about how not to pray says the Bible does not say, “anoint the oil,” rather “anoint with oil.” It’s not anointing the oil but anointing “with” oil. The Christian ministry becomes a business when the Biblical prescriptions are violated and all kinds of commercialisation of religion creep in. God does not sanctify objects today. I can keep on praying for the oil, even with fasting. Nothing would happen to the oil. It does not get sanctified. We can use oil only as a point of contact to pray for the sick. Attaching sanctity to objects and places is outright idolatry. These are all relics of the Dark Ages. When Christians come back to the Bible, making prayer a business will end.

“A mention must be made here regarding the so-called “blessed cloth” also. The Apostles never prayed over cloth pieces and sent them out to the sick. Rather, the people once took hand-kerchiefs and aprons from Paul’s body to the sick. This was not the normal practice. It was “unusual!” No such regular practice or prescription.

What most Zimbabweans and other gullible people who are swimming in oily rituals don’t realise is that, in the Bible, oils were used to cleanse the skin and protect it from the Middle-East dry climate. Some of the oils were perfumed with plants, flowers, or barks from India and other far-off lands. Because these oils were expensive, they were kept in alabastrons, small alabaster or clay containers, with narrow necks that restricted the flow. Oils, were also used for ceremonial purposes.

Kings were anointed with holy oil at their coronation to show that they were consecrated to God. The term Messiah comes from the Hebrew mashi’ah which means anointed one. The question for us today is, who is anointing us? Who is turning rocks into “bread” and for what reason?

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