things jesus didn’t say #9 | touch wood

7 10 2014

“I pray that it works out for you, touch wood.” At which point you find the nearest wood or wood effect furniture (does that still work?), or for comedy value, touch your head. Yes Jesus was a carpenter, but that was his trade, not his prayer ministry technique. The only time he would say touch wood it is if he needed you to hold a speck whilst he took the plank out. 


Is it a harmless phrase? Yes and no. Yes, because there is no spiritual power in wood, so invoking its power is harmless. No, because there is no spiritual power in wood, so invoking its power is harmful. Harmful as it contributes to the eroding of trust in God as the one to whom we pray. And harmful when we touch our own heads, as we do ourselves down and reveal a disturbingly negative sense of our own worth.

We believe in an actual real God who actually really answers prayer. Not in magic or superstition – or worse, a God who doesn’t listen unless we touch a particular type of natural material (or wood-effect laminate – again, does that work?).

I know most people don’t really believe in the power of touching wood. It’s just words. But words are never just words, are they. They carry a meaning.  Do we trust in the mysterious and magical power of wood (or wood effect…) to look after us, or do we trust in the God who made it.

Let’s mean what we say, or not say it at all. 

More in the cartoon series of things jesus didn’t say:
#1: stronger // whatever doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger
#2: dreams // follow your dreams and believe in yourself
#3: reason // everything happens for a reason
#4: harder // prayer harder
#5: third // on the third day, nothing important happened
#6: handle // I won’t give you more than you can handle
#7: other // other your neighbour as you other yourself
#8: tolerance // …faith, hope and tolerance. And the greatest of these is tolerance.



6 responses

7 10 2014

I agree that we need to be clear, at least in our own minds, about The source of our salvation. However I always understood that touching wood was a reference to the wood of the cross, and meant that we were calling on the sacrifice of Jesus to undergird our prayer. It probably does slip into the category of a superstitious gesture and we should say something like God willing instead. I really appreciate your thoughtful writing. Blessings.

7 10 2014

That’s interesting, I didn’t know it might actually be related to Jesus…

8 10 2014
Enid Russell

Just want to say thank you for this. I hear the phrase quite a bit still & never know how to respond, tho’ I want to. Thanks for helping me understand the ‘problem’ more clearly. I hate superstition, but realise it’s important to be gentle in any attempt to debunk it.You’ve reminded me too that a tad of humour may help…

8 10 2014

Thanks Enid – glad to have been a help. Sometimes humour can help us see the absurdity of beliefs!

8 10 2014

A daring post, I feel… Only because in our all accepting, all embracing, multi faith, mixed belief, anything goes, type of society, standing up for the power of meaning and specifically, putting a negative spin on a popular superstition appears to err towards fundamentalism.
I am completely with you on your post. I think it was kind of brave.


8 10 2014

Thanks ff… I agree, it’s a funny old world when believing in the meaning of your words sounds like fundamentalism. Where does that leave everyone else?!

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