The Bible warns against using sorcery and/or magic, but extolls the virtues of prayer.
But both prayer and magic seek to use the powers of supernatural forces to achieve mortal desires. So, what’s the difference between prayer and magic?
I believe the difference is one of control and sovereignty.
When I pray, I pray as a supplicant, as a subject, a servant, an inferior. My prayers recognize the superiority of our Father YHWH ha Elohiym, and my relative inferiority. I pray/ask that God will assist me in some way, but I do not suppose or imagine that, just because I pray, God will necessarily grant my request. God is my sovereign. I am His subject and/or servant. Perhaps He will grant my prayer; perhaps not.
As the Messiah observed near the end of his life, “Not my will, but thy will, be done.” The Messiah thereby recognized and confessed that he, and his will, were inferior to God and His will, and that he (the Messiah) would do as his Father instructed him, even if doing so was contrary to the Messiah’s will and seeming best interests.
But if I invoke magic, I invoke control. I do not plead; I command.
If I invoke magic, I do not pray/ask that God or demons or whatever supernatural power I might care to invoke to “please” help me. I command that supernatural power to help me. In doing so, I implicitly say, “Not thy will, but my will be done.” I act as if I am the sovereign and God and/or demons and/or whatever other supernatural powers I invoke are my servants rather than my masters/sovereigns.
I suspect that, if magic is really possible, it’s a kind of blasphemy whereby a natural man or woman invokes and commands the conduct of a supernatural being like God or demons. I further suppose that, if magic is really possible, those who invoke magic take control over God and/or demons and that control must inspire the rage of whatever supernatural entity has become subject to the powers of a mere mortal.
I’d bet that if it were possible for me to “seize control” over a supernatural being, that being would obey me while I held that control. But that being would hate the humiliation of being controlled by a mere mortal, and would hate me for having seized control over it. I’d bet that the supernatural being that I controlled would simply wait until I made a mistake, relaxed my control, or perhaps even died–and would then seek to tear me apart for having had the incredible audacity to think that I (a mere mortal) could truly seize control over a supernatural being.
Prayer recognizes the power and sovereignty of God over whoever prays. Prayer recognizes “one’s place” in the “natural” (or even supernatural) order of things. Prayer flows from humility.
Magic presumes the power and sovereignty of the man praying over whichever supernatural being is being prayed to. Prayer denies the natural and/or supernatural “order of things”. Magic flows from arrogance.
Magic refuses to recognize man’s inferior status (as compared to that of supernatural beings). That human arrogance invokes the rage of whatever supernatural being that is temporarily reduced to the status of a servant and thereby controlled. Eventually, the supernatural “servant’s” rage will destroy the magician.
It’s interesting that magic is often portrayed as something fun in the movies and on TV. Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice comes to mind as do movies like Bell, Book and Candle, I Married a Witch, and the TV series I Dream of Jeannie. There are other horror stories where the magician is destroyed by his supernatural servant, but mostly we see movies and TV dramas that make magic fun.
However, regardless of whether you can or cannot truly invoke magic, the mere idea that you could seize control over a supernatural being–especially God–is probably an act of arrogance and blasphemy that will not be easily excused or forgiven.
If you need some supernatural assistance, you’d be wise to stick to prayer and avoid even imagining that you can invoke the personal power of magic.
(We might also consider the seemingly odd format for court cases that include a “prayer” to the court. If I “pray” to the court and/or judge, do I thereby admit that the judge is my master and I am his subject/servant? Do I deny my own earthly sovereignty when I write a “Prayer” to a judge? Does a prayer in litigation implicate law or equity? Does a “Prayer” to an earthly judge constitute evidence that we’ve turned our back to God?)