5. Stepping Out - Let Us Pray
So let us be a people who, knowing the love of God, choose to recognise our circle of comfort, choose to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and choose to obey and STEP OUT and away and across the room and reach out a hand, “Hullo, my name is David.”
Let’s be friendly, let’s be good at making friends.
Why? Because God loves every person, they are as valuable as you and me, and because they would be infinitely better off if they too knew the Jesus who loved and died for them. Befriend them even if they would never follow Jesus – because that is what Jesus would do.
And eventually you will have the opportunity to share your story. Last week we worked on our short story – our 100 word one.
To help you we have set up an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can email your story to that address, Erik, David and I will get them and will respond to you with helpful hints about how to improve it. With your permission we would like to use these stories from time to time. They are so interesting and encouraging. Please let us know if you would rather not have them used like that. We will always ask you first anyway.
We heard several stories last week and this week I would love you to hear Annie’s.
I grew up believing in a God who loved me, so I made a decision to trust Him and follow His plans for my whole life. This choice was really challenged when my husband, who I loved very much, got brain cancer. How could God who loved me allow this to happen? I had many questions and it was really painful, especially when Simon then died. However in calling out to God and listening to His quiet words, I know He has been with me and given me a thread of hope through it all, which I continue to hold on to.
As we keeping taking risks, keep stepping out, we hope one day to have an opportunity to pray for friends, or anyone really. To pray for all sorts of things, their physical healing, their finances, their relationships, children, careers, decisions and so on.
Today my aim is to inspire and equip you to take the next step into being someone who can be a means by which Jesus impacts someone’s life by prayer. This can take many forms. For example:
- My friend, Andrew Myatt, who leads the Oxford Vineyard was running a weekend marriage preparation course recently and at the end he and his wife offered to pray with the 3 couples on the course. One couple weren’t followers of Jesus, one were and with the third the woman was but the man was not. Anyway when Andrew and Mandy prayed for this third couple nothing much seemed to happen. They left and as they were about to climb into their car the man said, “You had better drive, I am not up to it”. When she asked why he explained that when they had prayed he felt a rush of heat in his body and was quite woozy. “Oh” she explained, “that was God’s Holy Spirit”. “Oh no,” he replied, “this was real!”
- On Saturday 24 May we are running a training day on this with the help of Jamie Watters, the Senior Pastor of Glasgow West End Vineyard – particularly aimed at learning to pray for those who may not know Jesus and whom we may not know either; those outside our usual circles of comfort. There will be some training and we will also be going out onto the streets of Leeds to pray for people. I recommend you come – even if only to stand on one side and watch. Please book in asap because we expect the day to sell out.
- Kate and a team of friends have been praying for a group of people who don’t know Jesus in another way. They called it a prophecy party - four woment of the Vineyard spent an evening with five women, friends of Kate's, and shared prophetic words for them and then prayed for them.
Permission and Confidence
What does Jesus say about prayer, for ourselves and for other people?
Well, the first question that came to mind for me was: why do we feel confident that God cares about whether we pray and what we pray for? After all, God is the master of the universe, why should he care about my concerns?
Fortunately, Jesus gives us specific permission to pray and to ask for things. Matthew, one of the close followers of Jesus and who is one of the four people who wrote down what Jesus said and did, records the following statement made by Jesus:
Matthew 7: 7 - 11
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. … Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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!”
We get to ask because God, our father in heaven, has given us permission to ask. Like a human father wishes to do the best for his child, so God wants to do the best for us.
At the same time, Jesus tells us to pray with that confidence. When asked by his followers how we should pray, Jesus says the following:
Matthew 6: 5 – 8
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
So, we should not pray because we want to show off how good our connection to God is, or how devout we really are. As Jesus says, the attention we get for our public demonstration of piety and faith is all the reward we can hope for.
Equally, we can’t trick God into doing what we want him to do by speaking a lot. We can’t make God give us what we want by telling him first how cool he is or by showing him how good our theology is by laying down a sermon before we come round to asking him for something.
You may have experienced something like it. You ask someone to pray for your stubbed toe or something, and they close their eyes, put on this fervent expression, and then they begin: “Oh God, you are a great God. And today is a wonderful day. Oh, what a wonderful day it is, because you have made it and you are good. Oh God. And yes, we can’t actually see the sun right now because its grey and miserable out there. But we know it is there, in the same way that we may not see you all the time, but we know you are there, even when we feel bad. Oh God.”
By this time you find yourself wondering what you’ll have for lunch. If you get away from there by lunchtime that is. I’m being a little facetious, I know, but I hope you take the point. We have God’s permission to be blunt, to tell him straight out what it is we want.
Matthew goes on to record a few cases where people come to ask Jesus to heal them. Let me show you a few:
Matthew 8: 2 – 3
A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.
Or again a little later:
Matthew 8: 5 – 7
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion [an officer in the Roman Army] came to him, asking for help. "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."
And finally, when Jesus comes to the home of Peter, another of his followers, he does the following:
Matthew 8: 14 – 15
When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
What I like about these conversations that people have with Jesus is how simple they are. The man with leprosy doesn’t do a long speech before he works up the courage to ask Jesus to heal him. He just says, “Please heal me.” And Jesus says, “Oh, all right then.” The Roman officer doesn’t have to demonstrate to Jesus first that he has understood the doctrine of divine restitution through sacrifice, or that he is a true believer. He just comes up and asks for healing for his servant. Finally, Peter’s mother doesn’t even ask. Jesus just touches her and she is healed.
We can approach Jesus with the same confidence. We too, don’t need to do anything more when we are praying for someone than say, “Jesus, please fix this” or “Please heal this person”. Jesus promises that he will answer. And his answer will be good for us.
The Five Step Healing Model
A quick word with those of you who pray regularly for the sick and those in need of help – you have probably been taught the 5 step healing model a number of times and have enough mileage on your tires not to never even think about it. The steps involved come naturally to you through practice and experience. That’s great, you can sit back and ignore the next part.
For the rest of you who may never have laid hands on anyone before or who are still nervous and uncertain, here is a useful entry model to use. It is not the only way to pray for someone, it is not the best way, it is just one helpful washing line on which to dry your laundry.
Broadly; it is a sequence you can follow modelled on what we see Jesus doing. Once you have done this a few dozen times it will just come naturally to you and you can adapt it to suit your way of ministering. Having said that, I was first trained in this over 20 years ago and still pray this way.
Rather than just talk through the five steps Kate and I are going to role play this first and then we will do some real prayer afterwards.
Step One: The Interview
Question: Where does it hurt?
Listen on two levels: the natural and the supernatural.
- In the natural – from my experience and knowledge of the bible, what do I think is wrong here? Not a medical diagnosis. Doctors need a diagnosis to prescribe a treatment but we don’t need one for healing prayer. Ask just enough questions of the person to know where it hurts.
- In the supernatural – has the Lord given a WoK, wisdom or discernment of spirits to understand what is the problem or to draw attention to someone or something?
Step Two: The diagnostic decision
Question: Why is this person ill or in pain? What has caused this?
Again, we rely on the supernatural to discern the root of the problem.
If the person knows what the real issue is then the Holy Spirit will confirm that in our mind. If not then we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal this.
What the person says is usually correct in that it is what they think the problem is. But very often God will give you more or deeper information to help understand what is going on.
The presenting problem is very often a symptom not a cause. Physical problems, emotional damage and demonic attachment can all be involved in a various cause and effect combinations.
- Emotional damage can be caused by physical illness.
- Or an emotional problem may be caused by a demonic attachment.
- Or physical problems can cause emotional pain.
- Or any combination.
Things to look out for are:
- Emotional traumas in the past that leave people with bitterness and anger. In these situations, forgiveness and repentance may be needed before healing can come.
- Similarly accidents and abuse can lead to opportunities for people to become demonised. You need supernatural discernment to know this – and then once the demon is dealt with you can proceed with physical or emotional healing.
- Another area to listen out for is what the doctors may have said in the past. Doctors have to make clinical assessments and speak truthfully with their patients. Nevertheless there are occasions when the words they speak carry extra-ordinary power and have an effect a bit like a curse on the patient.
“This is incurable”
“The chances of re-occurrence are 50/50”
Over time, as you pray for those who are ill and as you study Jesus doing the same you do gain some experience and understanding of these sometimes complex issues.
Nevertheless, primarily, it is the Holy Spirit speaking to us as we pray, in words of knowledge, wisdom, discernment of spirits, guiding us to understand the real issue for which we need to pray.
You have asked the Lord to guide you in your prayer, you then simply go with what you have – you may or may not have certainty about what it is.
This is an important part of healing prayer because it dictates what sort of prayer you are going to adopt at the next step.
Step Three: The Prayer Selection
Question, “What kind of prayer is needed here?”
A deeper question is perhaps, “What does God want to do for this person at this time?” Just because I am there asking doesn’t mean that it what he wants to do right now.
On the other hand, the fact that I am here asking probably means that the Lord wants to heal and has organised this to happen. Part of what is going on is that the Holy Spirit has raised some faith and expectation in my heart that I could pray for this person for healing. And he may well be doing the same in that person’s heart right now too.
If we are being prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray we are in receipt of what we may call an anointing for healing prayer at that specific moment. And this is where the promise comes,
How bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening. I John 5:14
The healing prayer usually falls into one of two categories:
Prayer directed to God (petition)
- This is the most common way in which you will probably find your self praying. The simplest form is, “Lord, please heal Fred of his condition.”
- Equally valid, and perhaps more effective, is for the person for whom you are praying to ask for healing. This means that they know you didn’t do it and raises faith in their hearts. If they declare lack of faith it provides you with an opportunity to encourage and instruct them about God’s desire to heal.
Words from God (revelation)
This is where we speak words given to us by God, not to God.
- Command: you may feel an increase in faith and find yourself saying, “Be healed in Jesus’ name.” Often accompanied by other manifestations that indicate God is at work – warm hands, a tingling sensation, oil or water on your hands, a rush of heat, a conviction of faith.
You may speak to the condition itself, the actual body say. Or you may speak to an evil spirit that is causing the illness. You may say, “I break your power over this person in Jesus’ name.” Or, even shorter, “Stop it”.
This may not sound like prayer but if you read accounts of Jesus’ healing, you will see that he did this a lot.
- Pronouncement: this is similar to a command but comes after the healing. Usually accompanied by a sense of peace, the job is done, the battle is over. You can say, “The Lord has healed you.”
Sometimes it is done in advance (prophetically), “The Lord will heal this condition in 6 days time.”
- Prayer of rebuke: Again similar to a word of command. You discern that an evil spirit is the cause of the complaint and you pray, “In the name of Jesus, I rebuke you, evil spirit. You have no right over this person’s life. Go.”
- Prayer of agreement: this is where you and the person or another agree in the sense that you have become aware of what the Lord is doing and agree about that together. So you pray, “Lord, we agree together and bless what you are doing in healing, delivering this person”.
Or you may agree a course of action together too.
As you make the prayer selection you continue to listen to the Lord and seek his ongoing direction and counsel as you pray.
Step Four: Prayer Engagement
Question: How effective are our prayers?
We have decided how to pray and now we need to engage with prayer.
I usually ask the person to adopt a comfortable position. I prefer standing but if they would like to sit down that is fine. I encourage them to close their eyes (more for my benefit than theirs really) and to hold open their hands in an attitude of receiving. This is not crucial, but helpful.
Of course, except when I need to perhaps concentrate a little on what the Lord is saying to me and want to avoid distractions, I will keep my eyes open so that I can see what happens.
I then ask the Holy Spirit to come. I may say, “Holy Spirit come.” Or if I am feeling a little more verbose, “Holy Spirit come with your healing power” or “Holy Spirit come and show us how to pray.”
External Reactions (Phenomenological responses)
Often people will react to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this is quite subtle: a fluttering of the eyelids, a flush to the face, a change in breathing pattern. An awareness of heaviness in the air.
If I see these I know God is around and at work and so I will pray, “More Lord, I bless what you are doing.”
It is like the wind blowing through the trees, you can see and hear the leaves rustle and stir but you can’t see the air moving.
If there is hurt or sin or the memory of pain or abuse then one is not surprised to see more extreme reactions. This is not surprising because profound and fundamental changes are sometimes happening in people where there is illness and damage.
However, this is less likely where people may have already received a large measure of healing.
Most of the responses you see are reported in the bible in various ways and are evidences of God at work in people’s lives.
It is important to recognise that we do not seek external manifestations. What is going on inside is much more important than what we see outside. Sometimes nothing much happens, or seems to happen, and yet God will be at work in people’s hearts and minds.
Nevertheless, it is worth understanding or at last being aware of the external response so that we can better minister to those who need healing.
We don’t pray for physical manifestations, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come.
After praying for a while I will then ask the person what is going on. I will say, “Is anything happening?” or “Do you sense the Lord’s presence?” or “Is the Lord speaking to you?”
It may be very obvious what is going on to you – but sometimes people are simply not aware of what is happening in their own bodies. They can’t see the evidence of God at work.
At these times I will encourage them and try and build their faith, “Look I can see the presence of God on you in the way that you are shaking and crying. That’s OK, it is just a sign of his presence. He is at work in you to heal. Let’s pray some more.”
At this point of the prayer you may also discover, as you ask God and talk to the person, that something else is going on and that what looked like a physical healing issue actually requires the expulsion of a demon or is the result of some hurt in the past.
So you may go back a couple of steps and go to a different prayer.
There are four main areas in which we seek healing. Usually at least two are involved and sometimes all four:
- The spirit
- Healing of past hurts
- Healing the body
Step Five: Post-prayer counsel
Question: What should they do to keep their healing? What should they do if they have not been healed?
Where people have not been healed one should encourage them in the fact that the Lord loves them and that it is OK to get more prayer. Most usefully in the context of a small group – a housegroup.
Where they have been healed it is often appropriate to provide a small amount of counsel related to their condition. If sin has been a cause of sin then they should change their ways and sin no more.
Always encourage people on medication to check with their doctor before changing anything.
Most often the counsel is to pursue the disciplines of the faith:
- Read the bible and study
- Pray and set aside time for devotions
- Give money
- Find somewhere to serve
- Become part of a small group
Most obviously though, complete and long-term healing comes through the accountable pastoral relationships within the community of faith. In a place where people are part of a small group and know others and are known. Where they can be prayed for regularly. Where there is pastoral oversight to guide them on their journey.
Where you have engaged in conversation with the person it is straightforward to move from prayer to questions to counsel and then to end.
"God seems to have healed you/blessed you, I encourage you to ... , now let's go and pray for someone else/let's get a coffee."
You may talk with them after praying and then go back and pray again several times. But when you feel that you have finished or that nothing is happening, stop.