(this article is adapted from a training session on healing)
Healing doesn’t happen by us, it happens through us. We participate in the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God when we dare join in the work that God is doing in and around us. Let’s remember that God does the healing, but we have to do the asking.
Many of us have never experienced healing prayer and most of us have never prayed for healing. We haven’t experienced healing prayer, because we don’t believe that God heals today (or ever did for that matter). Many of us never pray because we fear the outcome (failure, no answer, stringing people along, missed expectations).
Let’s jump into Luke 11:1-4 as we begin to unpack what healing prayer really entails:
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us
And lead us not into temptation.’ “
This is an interesting interaction; let’s survey the scene. We have Jesus and his disciples (let’s assume the 12). Apparently, they have been following him around for weeks, probably months, and he hasn’t taught them to pray.
What? That can’t be true! But it seems like it is… because prayer is appetite-driven. When we are ready to go to God, he is ready to meet us. He doesn’t force himself onto us. He’s more interested in partnering with us. He patiently waits for us to acknowledge him and his presence. When we do, he is ready to answer; he is ready to respond.
God is more interested in partnering with us
Why hadn’t Jesus taught his disciples to pray? That’s a great question. As a matter of fact there isn’t a lot of direct teaching from Jesus on how to pray. We know from our study of Jesus that he prayed, but there isn’t much instruction on exactly how to pray. But that’s exactly what we get here, Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. Let’s pay attention.
Jesus gives us permission to relate to God personally and that’s really significant. For most of my Christian experience I thought of God as the God of the “Out There”—meaning he’s out there somewhere. But Jesus is challenging that assumption and saying that God is nearer to us than we might imagine.
Let’s do a quick exercise, take a breath and hold it. God is as close to us as our next breath. So, Jesus invites us to call God “Abba” (or father). This is important, Jesus is removing our barriers, taking away our reservations. He’s saying that God is near, God is personal, and God listens. This sets us up nicely what’s coming next.
Let your Kingdom come
In this seemly simple prayer, Jesus sets the stage for what is needed. After we realize that we can go to God with our needs and requests, we are then able to ask for his Kingdom to come. And when we ask for the Kingdom, we are asking for God’s rule, reign, and his authority to come to us. We are asking for everything that is good about the coming Kingdom to break into our reality now and to make what is broken in us right again. We’re asking him to heal our wounds and free us from what binds us.
When we ask for the Kingdom to come, we are asking for God’s freedom to come; we are asking for God’s peace to come; we are asking for God’s joy to come. When we ask for the Kingdom to come, we are placing our hope on the future, we are trusting that God hears us, and that he is near to us and willing to come to us. We are asking for the fullness of the Kingdom to come, to overwhelm the darkness that surrounds us, and to bring a clarity that gives light to our path.
God is nearer and more ready to act than we think
This picture of God being near to us helps us do what we need: pray for the healing of ourselves and of others. Jesus goes on to say:
“Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’
“Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’(Luke 11:5-7)
I like the stories that Jesus tells—they don’t end the way you expect them to end. Here we have a friend (some friend he is) who is at our door at midnight asking for bread. I also love the response, “The door is already locked and my children are in bed, so leave me alone.”
I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness—he will get up and give him as much as he needs. (Luke 11:8)
Jesus finishes this part of the story by saying, it isn’t the friendship that moves the friend—it’s the boldness. Are you willing to be bold Are you willing to disturb your friend’s rest with your needs? Are you willing to bring your needs to God? Are you willing to be bold before a personal, loving and responding God? Are you willing to thrust your trust on the Creator or will you come up with a solution on your own? Will you shrink back into the night with your needs unmet, unsatisfied and frustrated. Or are you willing to do what is unthinkable and ask the Creator to heal, to hear, and to move?
Did you catch how the story ends? It doesn’t end the way I expected it to end. It doesn’t end with the friend leaving empty-handed. It ends with the friend getting what he asks for. That’s the point of this story, if you are willing to ask, you just might get want you ask for. In the story, Jesus says that the neighbor will get up and “give him as much as he needs.”
Let us just let that wash over us. What does that mean for us when ask God? Are we being invited to put our requests before God? Are we being invited to see what God would do?
Ask and it will be given to you
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Luke 11:9)
Bible scholars looking at this text are surprised by the boldness with which this text promises a response. They assert that it was quite rare in ancient literature to see such a promise. And that’s the unique thing about Jesus—he is always inviting us to see him in the light of his authority and power.
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 14:13-14)
The cross was more than just a remedy for our sin and disobedience. It was also a victory over the powers. It was a victory over death. We no longer have to fear the sting of death or cower in the presence of the powers. Jesus took that authority and he is willing to give it to us, if we are willing to ask.
He is inviting us to take a risk. “Ask,” he says, “And see what will happen.” What does it require from us to participate in God’s healing power and presence? It requires a willingness. Are you willing?
But we are often reluctant, either by our own experience or the experiences of others, which creates a barrier for us to do what appears to be a very simple thing: Ask!
For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:10)
The verb tense that’s used here is the present progressive. You could restate it as:
For everyone who keeps on asking receives, he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, the door will be open.
Jesus is again inviting us to take a forward leaning posture. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Don’t give up so easily. Ask and see what God will do. Many of us approach healing prayer by asking once and then moving on. We say to ourselves, “Well I tried that and it didn’t work. I guess God doesn’t heal anymore.”
During my time in our movement, I’ve learned a thing about praying for people, and sometimes it takes a little bit of time. [One of my pastors] mentioned soaking prayer last week. It’s a type of prayer where we just linger in the presence of God waiting. And then there are times when we are praying for someone and it takes multiple attempts, multiple requests.
During our trip to Costa Rica this past summer, after preaching, we had a ministry time. I prayed for a woman who was having persistent acute pain in her leg, it was difficult to stand or walk. There was a large group of people waiting to be prayed for and so I needed to move quickly, so I prayed and asked for healing. Nothing! I did it again. Nothing! I did again, and then she mentioned through the interpreter that the pain had eased a bit, so I prayed one last time and moved on.
Nothing was happening to me or through me, and I wasn’t really sure if she would get healed.
After praying for her, I continued to pray for over 90 minutes. I was exhausted after that, and I headed to get lunch. There was the women, and I was thinking “Oh, no! She’s mad that she didn’t healed, and so we are going to have to linger and pray some more.” Okay, I wasn’t in a good place. I was tired,remember? But as soon as I sat down, I learned that she had been out in the lobby of the church chatting with our students for the past 30 minutes in Spanish about how she was completely healed!
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”(Luke 11:11-12)
In the Vineyard, we pray a simple prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit!” We ask you to come because with your presence is the power and life that is found in the kingdom of God. It’s where we find our healing, our hope, and our future. So, Spirit of God, would you come with power and authority? Would you come with your gifts, and your mercy? Would you come, Holy Spirit, with your grace? Would you meet us in this space and bring the full force of the Kingdom into our midst?