On-the-Spot Prayer

“I’ll keep you in prayer,” we say as we walk away from a conversation, never stopping to think about it again.

Think of how different things would be if we prayed for people right there, on the spot. What would we start to see? Healings? Miracles? Testimonies? Tears? Nothing?

That’s just the thing—a lot of us don’t know because we never pray for people in person! A dead silence fills the room when the small group leader gets to the dreaded, “Who wants to close us out?” moment. As though talking to God on behalf of a group is the most terrifying thing we could ever do.

I remember asking a person in church once if I could pray for them, just to get a refusal. Someone refused prayer inside of a church! And it wasn’t an attempt to bring them before everyone so that we could all lay hands on them, but rather a side conversation in a lobby.

Jesus did ministry on the spot and often.

You have leprosy? Watch what happens.
You can’t see? Check this out.
You can’t walk? Stand up.
You have demons? Not for long.

This is how ministry works. This is how we were taught to do it. We watch the apostles pull the same moves as Jesus all throughout Acts.

Yes, all the heroes of the faith had closets where they lifted others up in prayer, but they also trusted in their God to provide for His children right there in that moment.

Don’t be afraid. If nothing happens, you will survive.

And if you can find the courage to do so, pray more than once! Why? Because even Jesus had to!

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.”Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” (Mark 8:22-26)

If God-in-flesh had to pray more than once, surely we can assume a few hundred prayers on our part might be worth it!

Have courage. God is the healer, not you. There is no pressure on you other than to ask God to give the good gifts He loves to give.

And if you do feel pressure, it may be because the need is less supernatural and more tangible. And in that moment God may be asking you to provide for your brother or sister.

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Healing Service

Incase you’re not aware, I believe in healing. Therefore, I am psyched for this upcoming event at our church:

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And since that flyer has a bunch of small text, here’s the poster we put up aiming the street so people would be aware of it:

Apollos: Healing Session 2

Today we narrow in on healing within Jesus’ ministry. How did he do it? What stood out in his healing escapades. How can we learn from it?

This week comes in video form as the lesson is a bit more visual than usual. That being said, the video is below. And if you didn’t download it last week, here’s the handout we are looking over during this video. You can also catch up with healing session 1 here.

If you’d rather listen to the MP3 despite the video above, you can also download the MP3 via the Apollos podcast on iTunes. HOWEVER, my podcast bandwidth may be over this month. Therefore, you will probably have to wait until next month to download it so it really would be best to watch the video above.

NOTE: If you visit the podcast on iTunes and the latest MP3 is not on there yet, do the following:

  1. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes
  2. Go to the podcast section in your library
  3. Right click on the Apollos podcast
  4. Click on “update podcast” on the pop-up menu
  5. The latest MP3 should begin to download

If for some reason this doesn’t work, the latest MP3 will show up on iTunes fairly soon when it has refreshed the RSS feed. if you want it immediately, just download it here.

Apollos: Healing (Session 1)

When it comes to spiritual gifts, people probably believe the most in healing—though it’s usually God at work through the “surgeon’s hands” rather than the Holy Spirit. And it seems that when God does show up and supernaturally heal someone, He doesn’t even get the credit. People assume the doctor had the wrong diagnosis before they truly believe it was God.

On top of that, many Christians have left the faith or have grown angry with God because of this spiritual gift. Perhaps they’ve lost a loved one and have blamed it on God. Or perhaps they prayed for healing and it never came. Whatever the case may be, healing can become a very confusing gift to operate in.

For session one on healing, we will watch a documentary by Darren Wilson entitled The Finger of God. This movie focuses in on a few supernatural themes such as signs and wonders and healing. My goal in showing you this movie is to give you visual proof of God’s healing powers. Next week we will talk more in depth on healing as you read through this PDF. But again, I want you to see it in action so first we will watch this movie.

Now since you’re following this online, it’s going to require a small financial contribution. You can download Finger of God on iTunes for only $6 (or you can rent it there for $4). Consider this your tuition fund ;)

This movie challenged me and really opened me up to missions and the supernatural world of God. So please—don’t skip this section. The weirdest stuff is at the beginning and then it will settle down and get… well… less weird.

After watching it, try to find time before next Monday to look over and meditate on the verses in the PDF attached. What can you learn about healing through them? We will discuss our thoughts next week.

Roger

“Ah crap,” I thought to myself as I spotted a homeless man down the sidewalk. “All I have is twenties on me.”

I have tried to make an effort while in Chicago to stop by every homeless person I run into and at least pray for them. I’m not sure I’ve followed through on it but I think I’ve made a good effort so far.

But before I pray I like to give them a little bit of money, because they obviously have to eat. I want them to see that I care about their lives. I want to bless them both physically and spiritually. For this reason, if I can, I like to give them some money to reach to their every day needs.

I don’t want to just come across like, “Yeah, I’m going to keep my money, but can I pray for you?”

In fact, the only homeless guy who rejected my offer for prayer was the only homeless guy I didn’t give money to. I didn’t exactly show him Jesus very well before asking to pray for him as I rejected giving him cash. I’m not saying that’s always the case, but it might have been in this one.

Now you should probably find some kind of a balance. I’ve heard stories of people who are addicted to giving away their money to those who need it. Now if you’re going to have a struggle, that’s a good place to be, but remember to take care of your family too and whatnot.

But hey, I doubt many of us really struggle with that, so I’m speaking to the majority of us in this post.

I noticed a sign on top of a suitcase as I neared the homeless man. It mentioned something about health problems and while I wasn’t exactly in the mood to do ministry at that moment, I decided to pull out my wallet anyways.

“Hey man. Sorry, I only have a little bit of change on me. What’s your name?” I asked.

“Roger,” he replied. “What’s yours?”

“Jamin.”

I reached into the depths of my wallet and pulled out what was probably about 20 or 30 cents and handed it to him.

“Do you mind if I pray for you?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Cool. Now I saw that your sign said you had health problems?”

“Yeah. I just had surgery to get my appendix removed, but I also have some other problems. My heart isn’t doing too great and I have high blood pressure,” he said as he reached into his suitcase and pulled out a container of pills. “This is the medicine I have to take to keep myself healthy. I mixed them together in this container so it doesn’t take up too much space.”

“I see. So is there any physical pain in your body then?” I asked as I took a seat on the ground next to him.

“No, not so much any more. Most of that was all in my appendix and now that that’s gone I feel much better.”

“Alright. Well hey, I’ve seen God heal people on the spot and so I just figured that I’d also pray for your health and we’ll see what happens. I mean, not everyone gets healed, but how about we pray and see what happens?”

And so I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed that he would be healed of all of the sicknesses he still had.

I had asked if he had any measurable pain so we could test it on the spot and see if anything had changed, but since he didn’t, I suppose he’ll have to wait to find out at his next doctor’s appointment.

I do believe God heals. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve watched people healed on the spot. I’ve even prayed for some minor healings for some people and seen them answered. And on top of that I have heard story after story after miraculous story of healings. Jesus did it and I believe He called us to do the same.

So then, do I have an anointing for healing? So far, I’d say no. But I have to pray for another hundred people or so to really find out. The thing is that I know that God heals and I have seen Him use me to do it on rare occasions. For that reason, I am going to pray for healing no matter what. If I don’t see an answer I’m going to pray again and again and see if anything changes. He has shown me that He heals and I believe that I am now held responsible to pray.

John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard Churches, went through that struggle. He started praying for healing in his church and for months no one was healed. But he persisted and prayed again and again until one day, God broke through. Sure, people weren’t healed every time, but when God really broke through, Wimber saw some of the craziest healing miracles you could ever see—and he saw them often.

So I will pray—especially for the homeless man who has little money to do anything about it.

After praying for Roger I felt I had to give him some more money. It’s hard when you build relationships with homeless, because they develop pretty fast. So I reached back into my wallet and handed him a twenty—something that many people are against. Many think it empowers bad habits when you give the homeless too much money and I imagine that it does sometimes. I’m sure some homeless use their money to go get a beer or cigarettes or something like that, but I felt it was okay in this situation. And even if I was wrong, I believe I still left a mark on him.

“Use this wisely,” I said, handing him the bill.

“Oh I will,” he replied. “Three nights a week I get a room at this cheap motel in the area. This will help a lot with that.”

“Awesome. Hey, you mind if I take a picture of you? I just got a new camera.”

“Yeah, sure.”

The Spiritual Power of Forgiveness

There are many important subjects to research when it comes to Christian counseling, but I believe that there is one subject in particular that ranks much higher than the majority. This is the subject of forgiveness. This is an attribute that every Christian is supposed to have in their life, and yet few ever operate within its power. But when they do, I believe they will find that this topic is freeing, life giving, and restorative—even if it is an incredibly difficult to do at times.

Forgiveness is one of the things that we as Christians are commanded to do. In the same way that Christ forgave us, we are to forgive those around us, lest we be handed over to our torturers (Mt. 18:23-35) or unforgiven by God Himself (Mt. 6:14). We are to forgive one person over and over again should they transgress against us, even up to seventy times seven if need be (Mt. 18:21-22). It truly is a big deal, and if we do not treat it like one, we will find our lives full of bitterness, depression, and pain.

“But why forgive?” asks the secular world. “Surely there is a better way to deal with those who have wronged you rather than release them from the anger they deserve?” It is an odd concept to most, and it can hardly be understood without Jesus Christ as the focal point. This is partially because there is a literal power within Christian forgiveness. It is the work of the Holy Spirit

This spiritual work has been seen time and time again in a person’s life when they truly forgive. And the power becomes more tangibly seen especially in the charismatic realm. Don Dickerman writes of a girl in who was abused in “all kinds of ways imaginable by everyone in her life… She still had anger, bitterness, and resentment toward all those who abused her throughout her life” (61-3). After this assessment, Dickerman led her through a demonic deliverance, part of the process being “repenting of unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, hatred, resentment, and kindred sins” (63).

It is also not uncommon for the Holy Spirit to release people from sickness and physical infirmities after they have been led through forgiveness. This reminds us of Jesus’ warning to the man He healed at the portico: “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you” (Jn. 5:14). It even reminds us of the disciples’ accusation towards the blind man: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (Jn. 9:2).

But healing can come from forgiveness in other ways as well, especially in the realm of emotion. One study, for example, found “evidence of robust individual differences in the forgiveness-anger relationship… Thus, it is possible that some individuals exhibit a significant relationship between forgiveness and subsequent reductions in anger” (Wilkowski, 836).

I would suggest that one of the reasons there is a difference between forgiveness and anger-reduction in individuals is because some people’s forgiveness may be more genuine or complete than others. Sometimes we can say the words “I forgive you” and not truly mean it; just when like a child says “I’m sorry” when their parents force them to. Sometimes we can truly want to forgive and even say the words out loud, but still hold onto something deep inside that we really haven’t given over. Forgiveness can at times be partial and incomplete, but any release of the bondage of unforgiveness in a person’s life (even if partial) is at least a step in the right direction and brings them closer to freedom.

Another possibility I would suggest for this difference in anger reduction is related to what I said earlier (this may not be the case very often, but I will suggest it nonetheless). I think there is at least a possibility that a person may continue to suffer anger after forgiveness has taken place, due to demonic oppression—especially in those who have suffered extreme situations, such as sexual or physical abuse. Since deliverance from spiritual forces is not widely thought of (or even accepted) by many Christians, I think there is a possibility that counselors may lead someone through all the steps of forgiveness, all the while leaving behind an oppressive and angry spiritual force for a person to suppress rather than be freed of.

I think another reason for the difference in anger reduction is the method in which forgiveness is achieved. I have found in my own life that by confronting the person I am angry with (whether by email or face to face), I am much more able to forgive in full. I have attempted to forgive these same people mentally before I ever confronted them and the difference is astonishing. When all I do is forgive with my mind, I leave a rather large portion of pain within me. It is not that I have not truly forgiven a person, but rather that I have left the situation in a state that screams for attention. I have no physical situation of forgiveness to call upon—just a metaphysical state of mind to think of. But when we at least attempt to mend a situation rather than solve the issue with our mind alone, the burden is lifted with much greater ease.

That is not to say, however, that every situation can be mended. If a transgressor has passed away, then the state of forgiveness will more or less have to be mental. But I think that that in even some of the most extreme situations, at least writing a letter to a transgressor could prove incredibly beneficial to the forgiveness process. It may even move the transgressor into a better life, which is something we should be able to hope for if we have truly forgiven them. That does not mean that we have to trust the person or that we should even ever be around the person again (pending on the extremity of the problem), but I think there’s always room to attempt to make amends.

Another study found that “forgiveness can be effectual in promoting well-being because it is associated with the ability to monitor one’s affective state and self soothe, thereby making it more likely to relate in prosocial ways” (Sandage, 175). This statement shows that the act of forgiveness itself was built to free and restore us. Not only can it reduce our anger, but it can also improve upon our personal life. God is a joyful God who is looking to bring joy to our lives (despite what some may think). For that reason, it only makes sense that He would command us to forgive others because the freedom that the cross represents is found when we do so. It is then that we are able to enter into the joy that the resurrection brings.

When we live in unforgiveness, we build an invisible barrier between God and ourselves that makes it difficult to access joy and its source. Breaking down those walls obviously requires us to forgive, but depending on the situation, it may also take God’s help. So often we tend to think of ourselves as a one-man team and we forget that we have the strength of the Holy Spirit on our side. We are the ones who built the barrier between God and ourselves, but He wants to break it down just as much as we do. Therefore, we must learn to ask for help and allow God to lead us through the process of forgiveness.

So far, we have addressed all of the positives of forgiveness and we have yet to see any of the negatives. And while I would like to address a few problems that tend to show up in forgiveness, I still want it to be clear that it is a necessity in the Christian life. That being said, let’s take a quick look at some of the problems that might arise due to forgiveness.

At times forgiveness can cause a continuation of sin. This is something that every Christian has at least realized in relation to God. He loves us unconditionally and will always forgive us when we do wrong. And while it is totally and completely unacceptable, there are times in many people’s Christian walk, where they may allow themselves to do something sinful knowing that God will forgive them. Now I imagine that most Christians really feel the pain of their sin after having intentionally done so, and so their repentance is real. But should we return with a fake apology, we have not really repented or searched for forgiveness, but have rather, like a dog, returned to our vomit and have even lied down in it. This same struggle we have with God can also be a struggle within forgiving marriages as one journalist discovered:

 

…forgiveness may increase the likelihood that offenders will offend again by removing unwanted outcomes for those offenders (e.g., criticism, guilt, loneli- ness) that would otherwise discourage them from reoffending. Consistent with this possibility, the current 7-day-diary study revealed that newlywed spouses were more likely to report that their partners had engaged in a negative behavior on days after they had forgiven those partners for a negative behavior than on days after they had not forgiven those partners for a negative behavior. Interpersonal theories and interventions designed to treat and prevent relationship distress may benefit by acknowledging this potential cost of forgiveness (McNulty, 787).

 

I believe that there are two things we should take away from this study. The first is to realize that the problem here is really within the offender. It is the same way with our relationship with God. The problem is not that God is too forgiving, but rather that we take advantage of His love. We decide to continually live by the flesh rather than by the Spirit and deny ourselves the decency and discipline to live correctly. Forgiveness is not an issue—flesh is. Flesh is not familiar with forgiveness, so when someone extends it to us out of their spirit, it may be abused.

The second thing we can take away from this study is that forgiveness does not always have to be void of consequences or lack conflict. There may, of course, be some situations in which we can move to forgiveness immediately (such as one’s spouse forgetting to the trash out once or twice or seventy times seven times), but there are also issues of greater offense that may not be truly comprehended without conflict. If one’s partner has done something truly offensive, forgiveness still needs to come, but with depth.

There is no reason not to discuss the pain and emotion linked to transgression. This takes us back to what I said earlier about mending a situation with someone from the past. Bringing it up and talking about it helps. It may hurt very much to address the situation (whether the situation is present or past), but it should be addressed and not pushed aside or deemphasized. Or as one article states, “The concept of forgiveness as a response to a transgression is not the same as overlooking or excusing an offense” (Schultz, 104). We may need to use the sharp edge of emotion in our forgiveness, but we who are spiritual should always look to restore anyone caught in trespass in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1).

As stated earlier, forgiveness is one of the most important subjects we as Christians can address in counseling. Not only does it stand as an important topic by itself, but it is also connected to almost every counseling situation you will be in. If someone is not coming to counseling because they need to forgive someone, it may very well be that they need to forgive themselves for something, which is sometimes just as hard. But it is through the spiritual power of forgiveness that we are able to offer freedom, life, and restoration, which are all reasons for Jesus’ death. When we deny each other these liberties, we deny each other (and ourselves), Christ.

Bibliography

Dickerman, D. (2009). When pigs move in . Lake Mary, Fla.: Charisma House.

McNulty, J. K. (2010). Forgiveness Increases the Likelihood of Subsequent Partner Transgressions in Marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(6), 787-790.

New American Standard Bible

Sandage, S. J., & Jankowski, P. J. (2010). Forgiveness, Spiritual Instability,Mental Health Symptoms, and Well-Being: Mediator Effects of Differentiation of Self. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(3), 168-180.

Schultz, J. M., Tallman, B. A., & Altmaier, E. M. (2010). Pathways to Posttraumatic Growth: The Contributions of Forgiveness and Importance of Religion and Spirituality. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(2), 104-114.

Wilkowski, B. M., Robinson, M. D., & Troop-Gordon, W. (2010). How Does Cognitive Control Reduce Anger and Aggression? The Role of Conflict Monitoring and Forgiveness Processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(5), 830-840.

Broken Car Windows

I have seen cars healed through prayer and that God cares about the little things. Listen to the audio clip to hear more or subscribe to the podcast: