Picture this: a man wrings his hands together, raises a palm, says some words, and expects something to happen as a result. What’s going on here? Depending on the context, it’s either magic or prayer.
How do you define magic? I Googled specifically how fandoms would define magic, since we’re talking about the magic we find in fandoms and whether or not it’s “good.” The Superpowers Wiki defines magic as the ability to use paranormal methods (rituals, symbols, actions, gestures, language, etc.) to exploit or manipulate supernatural forces.
How do you define prayer? Consider how a non-Christian might define it. John Q. Public might not see us drawing symbols or ritualistically sacrificing small animals, but he sees us making actions and gestures and saying certain combinations of words, sometimes not even in English. Then a supernatural force called God is supposed to do something, right?
There are only two or three real differences between these two concepts. One is the specific supernatural force in question. If it’s known as Dormammu, a wellspring found in a country only accessible through magic, or simply “the Force,” we’re clearly talking about fiction. Since we here in the real world have no way to access that supernatural force, there is no inherent danger in watching or reading stories about people manipulating that force or even pretending to be a make-believe character manipulating that force (see Christianity and RPG’s.)
HOWEVER, here in the real world there are multiple supernatural forces, and the countable majority of them are not to be tampered with. The Devil and his demonic forces offer power to people who do the right rituals and say the right words. This “magic” comes with the agenda of the Devil and his demonic forces, and opening yourself up to it will only lead to destruction. It’s important to note that if we absorb magical fandoms without discernment, we make it easier for real-world supernatural evil to trick us.
The one and only real-world supernatural force that brings good things is God. When we access this power, it’s called prayer.
The other key difference between magic and prayer is “exploit or manipulate.” When we make the gestures and say the words we associate with prayer, do we expect God to do stuff because we’re asking him to do it? Or are we demonstrating that our desires align with what we believe His desires to be, and we’re willing to put aside our own agenda so He can carry out His own?
That’s the other thing: magic is a labor-saving device. Prayer definitely isn’t. Properly executed, prayer tends to make our lives a little bit harder before they get easier. God often gives us more to be responsible for as He takes care of whatever request we’re bringing to him. It’s not the nice, easy package Dr. Strange or Harry Potter use to make their problems disappear.
If, after considering these facts, you still see a conundrum, the answer is, funnily enough, prayer. When we ask God for the wisdom to know when to avoid a fictional story about magic or to help us pray the right way, not the way that could be mistaken for magic, He sends his Spirit to convict us when we’re stumbling and inspire us when we need the words to say. It’s like magic.
For more, read the article that inspired this post: