Healing on the streets
Jenny Baker, shares her experiences of being part of a team that prays for healing on the streets every Saturday afternoon in her local high street
Last year at our prayer group we had a visit from the community worker of a local Anglican church, inviting us to come and be part of a new ecumenical group to go out to pray for people in the high street of the busy town of St Albans every Saturday afternoon. I had recently been challenged by reports I had heard coming from the US of people going on to the streets and seeing God work miracles. This inspired me to volunteer to be a part of the Healing on the streets team and I have been really excited by what I have seen so far.
Healing on the streets is an initiative that has come from a Vineyard Church in Coleraine, Northern Ireland and has spread throughout the UK. Permission to be on the streets has to be sought from the local council and the police and then the methodology is quite simple. You meet for prayer and praise for one hour before going out, then you claim the ground through prayer on the street before you set up your banner and chairs and then hand out leaflets telling of our belief that Jesus healed 2000 years ago and that He still heals today.
Sometimes they are waiting for us to turn up
Through the leaflets and the conversations we have with passersby we offer to pray with people for healing or indeed for any requests they have. Our team in St Albans, which varies from 620 people, goes out every Saturday between 2-4pm and by being faithful to these timings we now have regulars who come each week, sometimes they are waiting for us to turn up! These people, who suffer from mental health problems, alcoholism or loneliness, may never go to a church, but they are open to prayer. Of course, some of them just want someone to listen to them; the advantage of being out on the streets is that we have the time to be able to do that.
People need to see and experience prayer
For many people the Church has become institutionalised and so non-believers can pigeon hole Christians. Healing on the streets allows us to challenge this perception and offer a personal touch of the love of Christ through our face-to-face contact, the laying on of hands and the building of relationships. People need to see and experience prayer. In St Albans city alone the statistics of those permanently ill, disabled or with a limiting long-term illness are staggering. Others have lost faith and are disillusioned with life, so being out on the streets meets them exactly where they are, without putting any pressure on them to attend a church. Many of us will continue in the week to pray for those we have met and we keep a record of conversations and prayers so that an intercessory team can continue to pray for the needs for those we have made contact with.
Would they mock us?
We have been amazed at the things we have seen. One remarkable incident was when a large group of teenagers started to congregate and we thought they were going to start some trouble or at least mock us. But they started coming forward for prayer in full view of their friends. A couple of lads asked the Lord to bless their footballing ambition, which was great, then one asked the Lord to take away his tendency for violence. This absolutely stunned us. Last week a lady came back to us and thanked us as she no longer has to have a cataract operation as the Lord had healed her. Then minutes later someone else came to tell us that following our prayer for her husband he was now much better. One man, who has come back week after week, wasnt able to speak at all at first, and now he is beginning to say a few words. We have laid hands on people whose back and leg pain has lessened as we have prayed. They have been amazed.
As the months have passed I have prayed with many people and have been so humbled at the words God has given me to speak right into their hearts. I have found that He often leads me to those who have left the Catholic Church and I have been able to listen to the pain they have suffered or the frustrations they have had. Recently I prayed for a young man who felt he was not worthy of prayer as he had left the Catholic Church after his Confirmation. He had not been back for about 5 years. We talked for a short time and then he allowed me to lay my hand on his arm and pray for him.
Many people are open to hearing the Gospel especially when it is accompanied with faith for a demonstration of the power of God.
Before I experienced this street ministry I felt nervous about what to expect, but have found that many people are open to hearing the Gospel, especially when it is accompanied with faith for a demonstration of the power of God. It is not always easy to go out on the streets, particularly when it is cold or raining and often you can think of other things to do on a Saturday afternoon, but I have always come home thanking God for the incredible ways in which He works. Sometimes I have had to pinch myself to be sure I am not dreaming, when I look and see people sitting in chairs with hands being laid on them in prayer in the middle of the high street outside Ladbrookes!
Another fruit of this initiative has been the blessing of working with others from different denominations, some of whom have been surprised that Catholics have been keen to be involved, and so it has been encouraging to see how they have warmed towards us. We have learnt from one another and recognise that God uses each of us and always anoints unity. As an Anglican from the team put it, Gods fire in our hearts is making us the same.
It is more frightening thinking about it than doing it
I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us, the Church, out of the building and on to the streets where His love and power needs to be seen. This is the time and we must take our opportunity, this is a freedom that we may not always have, to say what we want to people on the streets. I know that there are those of us that cannot imagine doing anything like this, but I have found it is so exciting and it brings faith alive as one of our team said, Its more frightening thinking about it than doing it!
For info see www.out-there.org or contact jenny@ faithcafe.org Jenny Baker is part of the CaFE team and a member of the parish in Berkhampstead.