prayer and fasting and faith on the earth - part one

I've been kicking a few thoughts around in my head, and working on this post for ages, and I have finally realized that it's going to take me awhile to sort it all out in my head... so, rather than not post anything for weeks, I thought maybe I'd give you a glimpse into what I'm thinking about. :) This only about half a thought so far, so please keep that in mind, but feedback, discussion, etc. is still more than welcome.

About a month and a half ago, Jon wrote an incredible post that raised a lot of interesting questions for a few of us, about the "greater things" that Jesus talked about, and what that really means. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:12-14)

I've already written a fairly lengthy post on this verse and others like it, and a month and a half later, I am still mulling all this over. I still find myself incredibly challenged to seriously consider if I really believe that it's true - and if I do, then why do I not act on it?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine was really not feeling well, and my heart totally went out to him. "Can I pray for you?" "Absolutely." So I went and got Stephie, and eventually we prayed.

It turned out to be quite the experience. I'm not really sure what it was like on his end, or Stephie's for that matter. But there were two dimensions of it for me that just left me wondering.

First, my hand on his shoulder got really tingly. Like seriously, pins and needles - but there was no "real" explanation for why that would happen - we were all sitting down and he was sitting on the floor, so it's not like my arm was falling asleep because I had it raised or anything. I don't really know how to describe it. And I found myself wondering - is this the power of God, flowing through me into my friend to heal him? I'm not sure... but he said later that he felt a lot better when we were done praying for him... which means that God was doing something...

Second, I ran smack into something we talked about on Jon's blog last month. Jon said, "i don't think it is simply a lack of faith that keeps these things from happening. i think it is because we have never practiced or tried, which is because of our lack of faith, which is because of a lack of practical examples." and then he raised a question:

have you ever tried to heal someone? and i'm not talking about "praying for healing." although that is the age old tradition within the church, i don't ever see jesus or the apostles doing that. they don't sit around, talking to the air saying things like, "dear god, if it be your will, please take away her cancer. may it be so, lord. may it be so. for your glory. amen."

no. they walk up, look the person in the eye and say, "be healed." they command it to be so with confident assertion.

That really tripped me up, I have to tell you. Because he's right. That's how they did it.

So this is what I said then:

I'm not willing to jump into the boat that says we can't do this. I've yet to walk up to someone and tell them to be well. I don't know if I can - and to be honest, I AM concerned about what it could do to someone's faith if I said it, they believed it would happen, and then it didn't. So there's the fear that prevents me from stepping out. I'm not a fan of the people who whack you on the head and tell you to be healed and wait for you to fall over - tho I do believe that in spite of the hype and in spite of the people who lie and twist it all for their own glory, honest people who are truly seeking God will still meet Him (have still met Him - I was one of them) in meetings like that.

But what if we could do it the way Peter and John did. Can you imagine that guy at the temple gate? His friends (or family) drop him off in his usual spot for another day of begging. Wow, that'll do a lot for your self-esteem... So Peter had to ask him to meet his gaze. What did that man see in Peter's eyes? What did John see as he watched? I don't know, but I think it was love. Compassion. A truly heart-felt desire to, on behalf of Christ, give this man a shred of dignity he had never known. I can almost see Peter grin as he reached down and took the man by the hand, the twinkle in his eyes as he tells him to get up. This man has never walked a day in his life. And AS he gets up (putting his own faith in line with Peter's?) his ankles become strong, and all the muscles in his legs he's never used are suddenly in working order, to the point where he can jump and leap in a way he'd only ever dreamed of for his whole life.

Imagine it, if we could bring that kind of joy to someone - the contagion it would be - how quickly the gospel would spread...

I don't know if I'm able to get past my lack of willingness to act on what I say I believe - but I hope I will. Because I think part of the point of miracles and whatnot (lol - "miracles and whatnot" - Happy speak for "signs and wonders") is to AID us in our faith - to help us believe. Jesus himself said something to the effect of, "oh for heaven's sake, if you don't believe what I SAY, then at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves" - that's paraphrased, but I think it's the jist and you can look it up in John - somewhere between 14-16, I think. :) He performed miracles as a testimony to who He was - and I think that's still the point. That, and just love...

(It's John 14:11, by the way.)

So that story in Acts 3 that I referenced in those comments has completely captured my imagination... and there is this very small - but very vocal - part of me that is starting to wonder if it is possible to say what Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you..."

"What I have... "


...What do I have? And is it really mine to give away?...


I didn't say it.

...but I wanted to.

I wonder what would happen?

5 comments:

jON said...

i too have experienced the "pins and needles" sensation you speak of. it is generally accompanied by an experience in which i have been making request of god for something (doesn't have to be healing) and then the "p&n" come. i have usually taken it to be the power flowing through me, as you have. it just seems to be right.

not just because of the sensation, but the aftermath of the sensation. i also get that sensation when praying over certain situations that can be many miles away. sometimes i pray over a situation, experience that sensation, only to find out later that someting amazing has happened. a huge turn for the better in some sense.

thank YOU for continuing such an interesting topic and especially being willing to GO OUT AND EXPERIMENT! even if you fell on your face, you were willing to give it a shot. i've never been one to just run up to anyone in a wheelchair and say "in jesus' name-hocus pocus" and POOF! in fact i have, up to this point, completely ignored that voice when it has suggested i try to heal strangers. for the very reasons you listed. "damaging their faith" and whatnot. but more, i think, is my own fear of embarassment.

i must ask, if you recall, was your offer to pray a small step on your own, or were you nudged by that voice?

Erin said...

I don't know, I'm still going in circles on this one. Because I come from a tradition where this was the norm, to walk up to someone and tell them to be healed.

Usually it didn't work.

And so then we get into the arguments about not having enough faith, about having unforgiveness in your life, about having unconfessed sin, and so on and so forth, because we always had to explain why it didn't work. Because of what is taught in the bible, Jesus and his disciples never walked up to anyone and said, "Be Healed...oops, well I guess it didn't work this time, one of us must be harboring anger. Let's both go confess and try again."

So then we have to wonder, either God simply doesn't want to heal every one every time, or something else is wrong. And we're not OK with God not healing people when they are prayed for, because that would mean he's not a good God, so we have to come up with a reason that's OUR fault. Then we feel guilty or that we are doing it wrong....

See what I'm saying? For me it's definitely NOT for lack of trying...so then what is it? Am I too sinful? Am I doing it wrong?

So I don't mean to seem argumentative, because I love this subject matter, I just can't figure it out...anyone have any clues?

Happy said...

jon - i've had that long-distance experience too. it's pretty cool. :)

being willing to experiment... hm. ALMOST. see, here's the thing... it *was* that voice
that told me to pray. the second he said he wasn't feeling so hot, i just knew that i knew that i knew that i needed to pray. and was - to take the risk and be perfectly honest - pretty darn sure that going out on a limb and telling him to be healed was something i should do. and i chickened out.

i've thought about talking to him about it. asking him what he would've thought if i'd done it and it hadn't worked. we actually have talked about this all "in theory" in the past. and agreed that the solid, practical reasoning behind praying as opposed to practically stepping out and telling people to be healed in the Name of Jesus is concern for their faith - a way of side-stepping the "why didn't that work" question...

but i wonder - just looking honestly at my own heart - if it's a lack of trust on MY part that God would come through - on something He TOLD me to do. It's not like this was a total stranger. It was one of my best friends. Someone who has done very odd things for God, and with whom it would have been possible to discuss this later...

It's also a lack of trust in myself, tho, I think. Kind of like Peter walking on water. He believed Jesus. He was already walking on water. And then (as Rob Bell teaches it) he began to doubt himself, so he sank... I sank.

And I'm wondering what I will do if and when I get a second shot at this. which - being as how i can't seem to stop thinking about it - may turn up to be likely...


Erin - obviously I don't have any answers, but if it helps *at all* - i ask a lot of the same questions...

I wonder if maybe our "need to know" gets in our way sometimes... and I think asking the questions about our respective faith levels, the presence of sin in our lives, etc. is probably a rather practical approach to the "what happened" (or "why didn't something happen") questions - maybe even wise... I don't know. I don't see a single place in Scripture where someone who came to Jesus and asked for healing was ever told, "um, sorry, no." sure there were lots of people not mentioned who didn't get healed - Bethesda, for example - Jesus healed one person - but it seems evident that that man was looking to Him. They made eye contact. Who knows what everyone else around the pool was doing? Or if maybe later things happened that just weren't written down because there was something specific we were to learn from that one man's story that the others' couldn't teach us?

But there are so many places where it says that people brought Him their sick and He healed ALL of them... and it seems evident to me throughout Scripture that healing is something God really WANTS to do...

I have a friend who's been sick for awhile, and believes that God will heal him - AFTER he's learned what God has to teach him through this experience. So we pray. For healing. And for wisdom. For the humility to learn. For the ability to persevere and walk through this trial well... I can't wait for the day God finally does it - but you wouldn't believe how He's used this time... it will be one incredible story someday.

I wonder sometimes if it's things like that which cause what we perceive to be a delay in God's answer. That the timing is just not quite right yet... that there is - as with Lazarus - greater glory to be displayed if He tarries in saying yes to a request He so wants to say yes to...

dunno. just thoughts.

there was this one time Jesus' disciples had an "oops, sorry" moment... that'll be part 2 of this post, i think. :)

Sara said...

lots of thoughts on this one. on the one hand, on the other hand. I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that 1. a God who really heals is not a safe God, and really, people prefer a safe God adn 2. God desires us to desire HIM--not his gifts. I think an awful lot of people want healing (and other things) because they want healthy bodies for themselves, not more of God's dangerous and box-shattering presence in their lives. But maybe I'm just cynical.

That said, this verse occurred to me tonight while this post was rattling around in my head and I was cleaning up dinner.

17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20, ESV)

Translation: "Hey Jesus! It worked! It really worked!"
Jesus: "Keep it in perspective. It's not about doing really cool stuff--though it is cool, isn't it? But about knowing God."

when it worked for them the first time, it surprised them too . . .

Peter and John healed the guy at the temple gate after they'd had three intense years in Jesus's company. They'd seen the people he'd healed and hadn't healed. They'd had their successes, and their failures ("Why couldn't we cast out that demon?") They'd experienced Pentecost v. 1.0

there's something to what jON says about being willing to practice. I think that there's also something there in the fact that God doesn't wire us to expect the unexpected . . .
dunno. guess my train of thought just ran out. :)

Happy said...

DOES God wants us to desire Him and not His gifts?

Matthew 7:11 - "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?"

It seems to me that Jesus is encouraging us to ask...

I *do* think that it's true He wants us to desire the Giver MORE than the gifts - but I don't think He minds that we want the gifts. Ps. 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."

The order is: 1) Delight yourself in the Lord. 2) He will give you the desires of your heart.

I've heard that second point understood 2 ways, both of which I think make sense: 1) that we are to recognize God as the giver of all good things - that when we receive something we've desired, we're to recognize that it is from God; and 2) that God not only gives us what we desire but plants those very desires within us.

I think if healing is something He desires to do, and He's put it in us to want it, and we ask... I don't know. An unequivocal and unfeeling "NO" without explanation doesn't *seem* like the response we should be expecting... and I wonder, if, when it SEEMS like that's the response we're getting, if it's really more that we're not seeing/understanding clearly...

"God doesn't wire us to expect the unexpected..." Hm. I'm not sure I agree with that either... but that could be a whole different discussion... about imagination, and child-(ish)/(like) expectations, dreams, hope...

All I know is that in that moment before we prayed for my friend, a very small, possibly crazy, but utterly convinced part of my soul was pretty sure that anything was possible... and I so wanted to leap and find out.

But I didn't.

I'll own it - I chickened out. But maybe - just maybe - it wasn't time yet anyway? Or maybe it was and I missed it. I don't know. I'm generally a proponent of "there's no plan B" as a way of understanding time... God knew what would and wouldn't happen - and yet still, I felt/feel my faith stirred to believe for greater things than even everything I've seen already...