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Praying for the sick

Author: John Ryeland

Praying for the sick

John Ryeland, the Director of the Christian Healing Mission, shares some of the insights he and his team use when praying for the sick.

I wonder if this sounds familiar?

Matthew plucks up courage and comes up to receive prayer for his bad back. He tells the prayer team his problem, and after several minutes of discussion about how it happened, what it feels like and that it’s getting worse. The prayer begins. “Dear Lord, you know all about Matthew’s bad back and how it’s causing him pain and stopping him from doing the things he longs to do, so stretch out Your hand and bring your healing. Please cause the pain to lessen so that he can go out with his family this afternoon. In your name - Amen”.

Surely there must be more to prayer than this!

Prayer ministry must involve more than simply taking someone’s request, rephrasing it, and saying ‘Dear Lord’ at the beginning and ‘Amen’ at the end!

Matthew could have prayed that on his own!

Here’s another scenario: Mary picks up her sticks with difficulty and hobbles slowly towards the prayer team.

Their hearts sink as they watch her approaching.

What can they possibly say that hasn’t already been prayed many times over the past few months?

However, they do their best: “Dear Lord, we thank you that despite her many difficulties, Mary is here. We ask you to bring healing to her knees. We don’t understand why the arthritis seems to be getting worse and her mobility is deteriorating. We understand that the pain is getting her down, but we place her in your hands and ask for your healing touch. Amen.”

Having mentioned the ill-health, noting that it is getting worse and acknowledging the adverse effect of it upon Mary, the focus of the prayer is now very firmly placed on the gravity of the problem.

Mustering up faith for healing is getting harder all the time.

At the Christian Healing Mission, we are learning to take an approach that lifts the attention off the enormity of the need and off our own uncertainty in what to pray.

Instead we focus on three elements in turn:

  • Father
  • Son
  • Holy Spirit

Let’s look at each of these.

The Father’s Love- Whenever I am praying for someone, I take time to encourage them to relax, take their mind off their problems, and recognise that they are deeply loved by their heavenly Father.

After all, this is one of the central themes of the New Testament.

One of the greatest things the Spirit does is to bring us an awareness of the Father’s love for us.

Paul writes about this in Galatians 4.6 ‘…God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father”’.

I think that unless we know and truly grasp the love of God for us, we are always going to find it hard to approach him for healing, or with any other requests.

It is so easy to question how God really feels about us and suspect that although he might possibly heal others, he’s unlikely to do the same for us.

However, if we can grasp this sense of Father God’s deep love for us, a door is opened and everything becomes possible.

So when I start to pray for someone, rather than focusing on their prayer request, I begin to gently worship Father God for his love for them - consciously thanking him for choosing them, adopting them as his very own child, and for loving them so much that he gave Jesus for them.

This has the effect of lifting their attention off their problem and placing it on the fact that they are a much loved child of God - but it is far more than this.

These words of worship to the Father are also a spiritual activity.

Whenever we focus on the Fatherhood of God, the Holy Spirit is also at work bringing a new awareness of the depth of the Father’s love for each person.

The presence of Jesus - Jesus told us quite clearly that he would be with us (Matthew 18.20 and Matthew 28.20).

However, although we are told he is with us, this does not mean that we have any real awareness of him. Interestingly, in Luke 24.13ff, we are told the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

As they walk along with downcast faces they are joined by the risen Lord in physical form, walking only a few feet away from them - but they miss him completely! If those disciples missed Jesus, so can we!

Once I sense that the person I am praying for is engaging with the love of God, and beginning to take their eyes off their own issues, I will ask them a simple question: “Where is Jesus for you, right now?”

This does not require a deep theological response, but is about how they are experiencing the presence of Jesus at that very moment.

This can be very personal.

For some it can be a very physical experience; I have watched people take Jesus’ hand and seen others embrace him.

One lady gently tilted her head to the side, because she sensed Jesus standing next to her and wanted to rest her head on his shoulder.

Sometimes the experience is not physical, but might be in the form of a picture or general awareness of where Jesus is.

Other people have a deep sense of peace, and I like to think this is them catching what flows naturally from the ‘Prince of Peace’, spoken of in Isaiah 9.6.

However, the presence of Jesus is not meant to be simply a nice feeling but rather a transforming presence; and this transformation often begins when specific needs are brought to him. Rather than me asking God to meet the person’s need, I have found it more effective for the person to speak directly to Jesus. It is interesting that when people tell me about their issues it can take a long time, as they feel they have to explain the whole story.

Yet when they talk directly to Jesus, it is amazing how quickly they can share very deep issues, because they know that he knows all the details and understands.

As with any conversation, both parties should have a chance to speak. However, when it comes to listening to the voice of Jesus there is sometimes an element of panic, as many of us feel that we don’t hear God’s voice as clearly as we might like.

The truth is that we often do hear God speaking to us, but we simply don’t recognise it as him.

We expect his voice to be clear and distinctive, when it may be simply a spontaneous thought or picture that comes to mind, or a Bible verse that suddenly occurs to us.

I like to think that when we make time for Jesus to speak, it is him setting the agenda for what he wants to do. I believe that he has a vision for my total transformation, and may well have an agenda for how this comes about.

We may want things to happen in a certain order but Jesus may have other ideas! I remember praying for a man suffering with a bad back.

He had a sense of the presence of Jesus with him, so I asked him to tell Jesus what he would like him to do for him, and he requested healing for his back.

I went on to ask what he felt Jesus might be saying to him.

He replied that a picture had come to mind of someone he knew, but their friendship had recently become very strained.

When I enquired what he felt Jesus was saying through this, he replied that before asking for more healing for his back, he felt he ought to go and make peace and restore the friendship.

He left in as much pain as he had arrived, but with a sense of God’s agenda for him.

Often God’s agenda can coincide with ours, but on occasions He might have other plans.

The presence of the Holy Spirit- Finally there is an opportunity to invite the presence of the Holy Spirit to come.

It’s tempting to think that in order for healing power to be released when we pray, we need to feel the power of the Holy Spirit within us and if we don’t, we assume he is not there.

Paul makes a challenging comment about this in Ephesians 1.18-21: ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’

Paul was not praying that we will receive more power, but rather that we might have an awareness of the power that is already available to us.

He goes on to say something even more amazing; that the nature of this power is like resurrection power.

This is the power available for us, whether or not we feel it - resurrection power! Just the other day I was leading a group through an exercise like this, and afterwards a lady testified that the pain in her wrist had gone without anyone touching her or even praying for her.

Similarly another lady testified that the pain in her feet caused by fallen arches had been healed, again with no-one touching her or praying for her. Subsequently she wrote to tell us that her podiatrist had prescribed different shaped insoles due to the change in the shape of her feet.

Praying for other people is a huge privilege; it is about us being door-openers for others to revel in the Father’s love for them, to enjoy and experience the presence of Jesus, and to receive something of the healing touch of the Holy Spirit upon them.

The joy of this approach is that it is not just applicable to the healing ministry or for use when praying for others. Whatever your own situation, try it out for yourself and enjoy discovering anew the wonders of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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