Tag Archives: prayer

why we’re afraid to pray for healing

too often we find our prayers infrequent and frail.  when we hear that someone is ill or not well our automatic response is more “that’s too bad” rather than “let’s pray.”  if we actually do pray for healing for another person we keep it general and not too specific.  and we are sure to add on to our prayer “if it is Your (God’s) will” to get God off the hook…or ourselves.

why is that?

it may be that we’re not sure what his will is, especially when it comes to healing.  yes, there are certainly inscrutable things about the Lord’s will in specific cases.  however, there are things about God’s will that are relatively clear.  healing, surprisingly, is one of them.  again, there are instances where he may not provide healing for some reason but in general it is reasonable to think healing is his will.

  1. when Jesus inaugurates his kingdom he proclaims the gospel AND demonstrates the gospel through healing. (matthew 4:23, 9:25)
  2. when Jesus sends his disciples on their short term mission trips he sends them out, commanding them to proclaim the kingdom AND to heal (the 12 in luke 9:6, the 72 in luke 10:9)
  3. we never see an account of Jesus in which he turns people away from healing or says it is not the Father’s will
  4. Jesus instructs us to pray for “His kingdom to come and His will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.” if heaven is where God’s kingdom and will is fully established and in heaven there is no sickness or pain, then we ought to ask for healing to be unleashed here on earth.
  5. lastly, our actions betray us. when we do not see healing then we conclude it must be God’s will that we not be healed…but then we continue to pursue medical treatment.  aren’t we disobeying God then if we truly believe that?

 

it is not a matter of IF healing is God’s will, it is just a matter of WHEN.  this leads us to the second reason why I think our prayers may be so weak willed.  as americans, we’re terrified of disappointment.  we’ve twisted our theologies of prayer to protect ourselves and limit God.  we’ve found believers in other countries, especially those not cushioned with wealth, to be of tougher faith who don’t give up on God and prayer at the first sign of disappointment.  often they do not have the luxury of health care so they go after God in ways that we can learn from.

in fact, Jesus teaches us, through the story of a widow who keeps going to an unjust judge to get justice (Luke 18:1-8), that perseverance in prayer IS faith (v.8).  when full healing didn’t come to a blind man after Jesus laid hands on him, Jesus just did it again (Mark 8:22-25).  He was fine to acknowledge that healing is a process.  if Jesus had to pray twice for the same healing we could surely pray twice (or more).

just so you know that the kingdom of God isn’t just a matter of talk, i’ve experienced more breakthrough as i’ve kept asking of God in my life.  one night a couple months ago at our discipleship school, right after a teaching on healing prayer, we prayed for anyone who was feeling any physical ailment.  each person we prayed for was not healed instantaneously.  however, when we pressed in to pray a second time, without fail, people felt a significant decrease in their physical symptoms.  i took the teaching challenge to enter into any opportunity to pray for people’s physical healing for the following week.  again, when i didn’t stop with one prayer, i witnessed healing.   one sister with chronic pain in her knees went from barely being able to walk to me to joyfully walking down the stairs.

even if the answer does not come right away he may be shaping us for the better in the asking.

let us persevere with God beyond what we’re comfortable with.

 

*special thanks to chris rattay for many of his insights concerning physical healing

believe

believe
all i see is a desert /
thirsty no water no response /
where youth are the walking dead /
sweat and tears no gain /
put out my heart to have it rejected /
again and again /
i long to see new life /
youth hungry for eternity /
not falling to what the haters say /
stepping up in courage /
going after what God came after us for /
feel His rain in my soul /
Jesus, if you can, please bring us life!

“if you can? anything is possible for the one who believes!”

one saturday morning in january /
God rains down /
FIRE! /
Your intimate music opens up ears /
Your word cuts to the quick /
opening up the father wound /
revealing how we’ve put our baggage on You /
our Heavenly Father can’t be put in a box /
His love breaks through every boundary /
He calls His angels over to rejoice over us /
there’s a river coming that you can’t stop /
a new generation full of the Spirit of the Son of God /
inviting all who’re open to a turnt party for eternity /
where the wine only gets better and better /
believe

3 things that keep us in the peace of Jesus  

i was reminded this past week that Jesus was born into chaos and was at peace in the midst of chaos…He indeed is the Prince of Peace.   we could all benefit from some of that.

months ago i was blessed by a meditation on philippians 4:4-6 in a particularly stressful time of life and in light of this season and in view of the tensions of these days i revisit these truths.

“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

1. uncovering joy

–  it’s easy to get out of touch with Jesus in the busyness and the pain of life.  that’s why the ancients had spiritual exercises to keep them in step with Jesus.  One helpful exercise is called the prayer of examen.  If has two parts.

– The first part is called the examen of consciousness (uncovering joy):

  • ask God “God, how have you shown your love for me today?” (this is the essence of joy in Jesus)
  • pay attention to what God reveals
  • rejoice in Jesus for what he shows you

***as i’ve been asking God to reveal his “joy moments” to me, God’s been reminding me he loves me through my sons.  as amos hugs me and nathan smiles at me i am receiving God’s assurance that he cares for me, even when things aren’t going as i’d like.  this gets me back in touch with the joy i have in Jesus.

“5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6A Do not be anxious about anything…”

2. uncovering anxiety.

–  the word for anxious here can be related to “merizo” meaning to be drawn in different directions.

– anxiety IS not Gods will for you.  He said don’t be anxious about anything!!

–  here the second part of the prayer of examen can be helpful: examen of conscience (uncovering anxiety).

  • knowing we are in the Joy of Jesus, we can ask God “God, please reveal to me the root of my anxiety or any offensive way within me”.
  • pay attention to what he reveals
  • surrender that anxiety/twisted thinking to God.

***a while back i started feeling pain in my jaw.  i have been grinding my teeth.  through counsel and prayer I was able to uncover the anxiety. the situation with youth group was just the surface.  what was at root of my stress was my fear of failing as a leader.  i was not trusting in God but myself.  as that was uncovered i was able to deal with the root of my anxiety.

“6b but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

3. thanks to Jesus

– sometimes we’re trying to pray but we’re so caught up with the issue being thankful is the last thing in our mind.  this keeps us from peace and it drives us back to anxiety.  that’s the problem we only see the issue and not Jesus.

– i’ve learned a third prayer that i’ve found to be really helpful for me to focus in on a Jesus.  this is why this prayer is particularly helpful if one is struggling with habitual sin or oppressive thinking.

– this final exercise is called quietening prayer: its a habit one can develop that helps give thanks and center in on an aspect of Jesus, to build within us a reminder of his presence.

  • pick an aspect of Jesus.
  • do a breath prayer: “(breathe in) thank you Jesus, (breathe out) you X”  (ex “thank you Jesus, you are my peace”).
  • be open to anything he reveals.

***often in work and in life i find myself going on “auto-pilot” and before i know it i find my self in bad spaces and so wound up with pressure. an aspect i love about Jesus is that although there were so many demands upon him he was never busy. so when I’m getting worked up about something i take a deep breath and pray “thank you Jesus, you walk with me.” i am brought back to balance with the assurance of not only his presence, but that he offers to walk with me until i’m home…with Him.

my work and God’s work

it has been quite a busy month.  there’s a lot that still needs to be accomplished.  but it’s good to know God is always at work…if we just stop to notice.

being away on paternity leave a month ago opened my eyes up to my own insecurity and identity wrapped up in the work that i produce.  although having plenty of time with my family and newborn son was full of windows of joy, there was a gnawing sense of not feeling “productive” being unable to do all the work i’m usually a part of. why is it that if there isn’t visible exciting results of my labor, there’s a part of me that doesn’t allow myself to enjoy God and what he has given me?  isn’t it God’s will that i am joyful and thankful in ALL circumstances just as much as that i do good?

as i returned back to work there was still that sense that i needed to catch up for the lost work at best and at worst haunted by what i imagined was people’s disapproval that i wasn’t doing enough.  many of the people i am reaching out to were struggling or unresponsive.  the focus of the work was just on maintaing.  one night at youth group i gave a teaching on our Heavenly Father’s commitment to love us and was challenged to, along with the youth, listen to what God wanted to speak to us.  as i looked out into the group of people present, i saw in my mind’s eye kernels of wheat sprouting and i sensed God say to me “don’t focus only on what you see…I am at work.”          

later that week, through a facebook post of all places, God led me to this stunning passage in scripture:

Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

– Jeremiah 17:5-8

here i was wearing myself out with what i could do and the results of MY work when i was not trusting what HE could do with what is ultimately HIS work.   if i looked back in the past months he had been leading me through chapters 40s-50s in the book of Isaiah…the constant theme is how HE is God and we, or anything else we set up to focus on, is not.  i just hadn’t been making the connections to work.

don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t just throw our hands up in the air and neglect our responsibilities with the work God’s entrusted to us.  it’s just that at the end of the day who or what are we really trusting in to get things done?  for me, in my heart of hearts, that trust was not in God.  if you’re unable to sleep at night stressing about all that you need to do maybe it’s not God that you’re trusting but yourself.  so i kept doing what He put in my care but i threw my weight into prayer to God for the results.  i got a little bold in asking God to do what He promised he was about in His word.  it’s been pretty sweet to see Him at work now that i’m looking at it with fresh eyes.  one of the people i’ve been i’ve been investing in who had been ignoring my calls/texts initiated with me and has been coming to church after a long absence.  through an urban leaders conference we went to last weekend, i got to witness God softening and ministering to the hearts of a number of young leaders that had been distant but God’s been opening them up to His goodness again. God has been exciting me with visions of things to come…that still haven’t happened yet.

we still got a ways to go.  i still have a ways to go.  but let’s not be like shrubbery in the desert.  let’s be fruitful trees planted in His Living Water.

trees water better

God can do our work better than us

“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” 

This month we had a big fundraiser dinner we were planning for the non-profit I work with.  I was just focused on what I needed to do, which was to work on a video slide show.  As time progressed I knew that there were very few people who signed up to attend the event, an event which would be critical to outreach to donors to continue this important work of investing into the people of our community in need.   If we don’t get pledges for support our non-profit cannot continue to exist.  Yet, in my selfishness I didn’t take time to really think of the impact to our community of having this event flop.  I made a video.  One of the advisors gave me detailed feedback to make it better.  I bristled in response with what I had put my time into.  My pride was hurt.

“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’”

The night before the event, I was frustrated, we were under pressure to finish many things still, still less than half of our expected numbers of guests, and, to make matters worse, we were having conflict amongst ourselves.  Around midnight, I texted a number of friends to pray for us and the banquet that would be happening in less than 24 hours.

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.”

My advisor initiated a conversation with me and we resolved our issue around 1:30am.  I showed up at the banquet hall an hour prior to the event at 5pm to meet with the rest of the team.  Once there I began to realize I had forgotten about a speaker for the video, a screen for a projector, and a power strip.  All things I needed if we were going to show a video.  Even the one thing I was entrusted with I failed to completely follow through with.  Phone calls were made by my advisor.  Different people from our community came through with each item.   People came trickling in, many as last minute additions, and before we knew it all 50 seats was taken.  In fact, more people kept on coming.  We had to squeeze in two more tables!   Different people in our community shared about how they had been affected meaningfully by the existence of our non-profit.  Even someone who does not live in our community stood up to speak and challenged everyone present to consider supporting this non-profit to become an institution that could spread its positive impact beyond just our community.   Needless to say the event was a success.  People were encouraged.  Our community worked together…all in spite of my shortcomings.   God stepped in…and it made all the difference.

“Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

net-fishing-sea-of-galilee-thomas-r-fletcher

the student becomes the teacher

why waste time praying?  it doesn’t get things done.  how can that situation or person change?  it’s hopeless.

maybe you’ve heard these lines before.  maybe you’ve believed them.  i certainly have been discouraged by these lies.  my young friend sergio has taught me better.

i met sergio over a year ago when he was 14.  he gave his life to Jesus last winter and I had the privilege to mentor him for a couple months in the spring.  when we first started meeting up, i remember he asked me how he could improve his prayer life.  as a football athlete, sergio is a fairly disciplined person and even then he impressed me with his commitment to pray daily.

the first thing you’ll notice about sergio when you meet him is that he’s a big guy, but what you won’t notice until you get to know him more is that he has an even bigger heart.  his heart is heavy for people.

throughout the course of our conversations he asked me to pray with him for a number of people.   in tears, once he asked me to pray for his family that was going through rough times and specifically his brother-in-law who was being a destructive element in his family.  on another occasion we prayed for his friend wilbur who he wanted to see experience the love of God and the church family.  he also asked me to pray for a friend named eduardo, who is “a beast” when it comes to physical training for football.  yet, another time he asked me to pray for his friend david who had quit the football team due to some disagreements.

we prayed.  i’m sure sergio prayed more.  we didn’t see change right away.

summer came and sergio became busy with other things in life.  he asked to stop meeting up, which was a little disheartening for me, and I didn’t see him for a while.  i prayed for sergio as often as I could remember.   i saw him periodically throughout the fall through my work of directing tutoring for the sports teams at lincoln high school.  another youth leader working as a coach opened up time for other football players and friends to meet up and discuss life.  sergio began going to these informal meetings along with a number of other young men.  a little over a month ago sergio started coming out again to youth group with about five other youth.

this past month Sergio rededicated his life to Jesus.  he approached me soon afterward and told me about how much more joy he had in his life now that he’d come back to Jesus.  the topic this past month for youth group has been prayer.  i’m so encouraged by how sergio sets an example for his friends of entrusting one’s heart to God in prayer.

as we looked back, i realized every person i remember we had specifically prayed together for was positively impacted. 

his brother-in-law has a daughter with sergio’s sister and he is now contributing more to the family.

his friend wilbur, that he wanted to invite to youth group, is attending regularly and sergio has asked me to join him in regularly praying for wilbur to experience God’s goodness.

his friend eduardo also comes out to youth group now and is growing in prayer.

–  his friend david even comes out to youth group too and is part of a loving community.

God works through prayer.  if you don’t believe me, ask sergio.

sergio and friends adj
sergio (far left) and his friends making a mad rush to grub on some seconds at youth group

hunger pains

i don’t think it’s a coincidence that since our church leaders have challenged us to pursue God in prayer this month, the youth leaders have experienced spiritual attack. 

we’ve been studying the book of Acts as a church and we are seeing a pattern that has also been true historically in the life of the people of God: there is a crisis or gaping need, there is desperate prayer, there is a visitation of power, and there is transformation.  Our church elders sensed God leading our church to seek Him more earnestly for transformation in our lives and community.  In the lent season of 40 days leading to Easter we have been challenged to join in on at least one of the prayer meetings happening every day of the week (except fri.) and to fast from something in order to have our “hunger” filled by Him.

it is hard enough to not turn to the things that we usually do, things that do not fully satisfy us, to cope or escape from worries of this life.  fasting and prayer forces us to deal with the hunger in our souls…to turn to God.   but satan doesn’t want us to do that.  he tries to make this pursuit of God even harder.

our youth leader team has experienced that this past month.   the week the elders presented this challenge to the leadership team, all sorts of spiritual attack broke out.  all 7 of our youth leaders, as well as the pastor of the youth leaders, experienced unusual and disruptive occurrences (demonic near possession of a family member, demonic paralysis and disturbing visions, very distorted and disturbing dreams, relationship strife-standstills, and crazy night time diarrhea for me before my first big church fundraising push).  then the sunday the prayer push announcement was made to our whole church, the youth leaders happened to have a meeting.   there was an abnormal and uncharacteristic amount of tension throughout the meeting.  we couldn’t seem to agree on how to apply this prayer push to the youth.   even after some prayer the meeting still ended with a sense of division.   our team members felt a mixture of frustration, confusion, hurt, and anger.

after some conversations we realized our youth group leader team was under spiritual attack, with things happening in our own lives largely outside of our control.   the youth leaders started a prayer chain throughout the week.  we asked various people to pray for our next youth leader meeting.

that youth leader meeting happened a couple days ago.  I thought I had an idea of how it would go down.  I was wrong.

i thought we would be ready to hit the ground running.  but we weren’t ready.  there was still some hurt, confusion, tension…a block.  I had to let go of my own plans.  after listening to each other share and some personal prayer time to little avail, we had to come together and ask God what was blocking us from uniting.  then God started revealing scriptures to the team and, one by one, us youth leaders began confessing and dealing with stuff we weren’t really seeing clearly before.  the tension began to clear, the fog started to lift.  we asked God to show us where He wanted to guide the group.  then God started showing us various visions, images, senses, and words.  we shared out what God had revealed to us.  and lo and behold, each of us had a piece of the puzzle that came together to make a picture of where God wants to lead the youth next.  the creative juices were flowing and a general plan came together within minutes.  it was awesome.  God led our meeting and I don’t know how it couldn’t have come out better.   we closed our meeting worshipping God.

we are back on track as a team.  the battle is won, but not yet finished.  we are hungry and we’ve taken some hits. but we know God can fill us if we turn to Him.   

our team of youth leaders
our team of youth leaders