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Lesson 1 - Introduction to Prayer Counselling

Why Prayer Ministry?

During this course we will look at many areas of life, both functional and dysfunctional. We live in a broken world, and people are desperate to become whole. We see this in their search for reality and truth; a search which unfortunately often takes them to the wrong places. People crave meaning and purpose, and to be accepted and well thought of. But we see around us broken dreams, failed relationships, and destructive bondages.

Listening to God is the key to healing. God knows what is needed, and also what he wants us to do about it. If we can determine this and pray for it, then it will be done. God is always speaking. Are we listening? No matter what the problem, God - the Creator - has the answer. We need to learn how to listen accurately, how to check what we believe we have heard, and what to do with it. Prayer ministry is applied listening to God.

What is the purpose of prayer ministry? It is not primarily, as many people think, to remove people's pain and sickness. John and Paula Sandford aptly describe prayer ministry or prayer counselling as "evangelism of the unbelieving heart of believers" (The transformation of the inner man, pp. 25-26).

In this course we will show you one style of ministry - not a method - which we have found to be effective and manageable. Don’t expect to instantly be able to handle any situation after you have completed this course. We have been involved in prayer ministry for many years now, and we are still being constantly challenged and stretched by the Lord as he shows us new things.

During the course you will participate in ministry to others and receive ministry for yourself. This is necessary for several reasons. First, you are wounded, as are all people. The Lord has brought you here to make you into a healer, but also to heal you. You need healing before you can even begin to safely share in healing the wounds of others - especially if you have been hurt in the same areas that they have. Remember, God uses wounded healers. I don’t know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, but it could have been the sadness which accompanied the memory of his participation in the murder of Stephen. The knowledge that, but for God’s grace, he could still be killing God’s friends, might have helped keep him focussed on his task. In any case, God allowed the thorn to remain for a reason - Paul needed it.

Second, you need to know what it is like to be on the receiving end of someone else’s well meant ministrations. This will help you to appreciate the need for care when you are dishing it out to others.

Third, experiencing and practicing ministry will teach you far more than you could learn through listening to teachers talk about it.

One thing which we must stress to you: confidentiality is absolutely crucial in ministry. During the course you will learn of the safeguards which we have set in place in our ministry centre, and which are also followed in the other centres with which we are associated. For example, after a prayer ministry session, we ask the Lord to remove from our memories anything which we have learned about the person being prayed for which is no longer any of our business. This is remarkably effective. If you speak to us later about something which happened in a ministry session, don’t be surprised if we look blankly at you. This is a protection for the one being prayed for. Have you had someone tell you something juicy about another person - just so that you can pray about it? Have you done this yourself? The Lord has a word for this - GOSSIP! (Proverbs 18:8; 20:19)

It is also a protection for the pray-ers. One of God’s gifts to the world is a particular type of person called a burden bearer. I expect, like me (Mal), many of you will fall into this category. You need to learn how not to carry away someone else’s problem and make it your own. Later we will learn about ministry to burden bearers, and the effective and safe use of this gift.

It is important that we learn to trust each other in ministry. This will mean taking a risk with other people. If later you are going to expect others to share their innermost selves with you, then you must first be willing to share yourself with others. You must have enough faith in the Lord to protect you so that you can allow yourself to be vulnerable. We do our best to make this course a safe place for you to do this. Without it you will not make progress. For some of you this will not be a problem. In fact, some might even need to learn a little more restraint. However, for others, this will be the beginning of a difficult journey. Your own early steps into healing will involve learning that God is the perfect, trustworthy Father, upon whom all other authority figures should be modelled.

You may think that the practice is all important, and that there is too much talking. Be aware that over the last few decades God has been restoring to the church much knowledge about himself and our relationship to Him, to each other and to the world, that had almost been lost. As we draw closer to the end of the age, so God is preparing His people for the times when there will be much trouble and hardship in the world, but a great ingathering into the church. We need to be equipped and ready for this, so there is much to learn once again. God is giving us keys to Kingdom living.

Through Hosea the prophet the Lord said, "Let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another, for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest. You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother - my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children." (Hosea 4:4-6)

Jesus reiterated this judgement when he said to the religious leaders, "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering." (Luke 11:52)

Some people enter a course with lots of enthusiasm to get down to the nitty-gritty, but remember the Proverb: "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, not to be hasty and miss the way." (Proverbs 19:2)

John and Paula Sandford, prayer ministry pioneers who started Elijah House, have a precaution against placing knowledge gained above hearing freshly from the Lord in each ministry session. They give back to the Lord all they have learned at the end of each session, and ask Him to restore to them just what they need when they need it.

So, let me encourage you to persevere, and to engage in every way you can with what we will do over the time of this course.

Healing in the Bible


In the creation story in Genesis we see that God created a world that was perfect in every respect (Genesis 1:10,12,18,20,25,31). The Amplified Bible expands the word "good" as admirable, fitting, suitable and says that God approved completely of what He had made.

This first diagram shows us how God created us to function:

The nature of Man as Created

We know that through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world and mankind fell. (Romans 3:23) In doing so they became slaves in Satan’s kingdom. (Romans 5:12; Hebrews 2:15).

The Nature of man Fallen

The Source of Sickness

Sickness stems directly or indirectly from Satan. God did not create sickness but can and does at times use it to discipline a person or people.

The human race is corrupted by sin and the results of parents’ sins may come on their children to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 20:5; 34: 6-7). Naaman’s leprosy was healed, but Gehazi sinned and leprosy came upon him and his family (2 Kings 5:27).

The children of Israel were exempt from some of the plagues that afflicted Egypt (Exodus 9:7,26; 10:23). When they made the golden calf the Lord struck the people with a plague (Exodus 32:35). Rebellion against Moses and Aaron brought another plague killing 14,700 people (Numbers 16:46 - 50).

Job was afflicted by Satan (Job 2:7) with painful sores. God gave Satan permission to do this but he was not allowed to take his life.

King Saul was disobedient and lost his position as king of Israel. He became jealous of David who was so successful in battle. The very next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul while he was prophesying in his house (1 Samuel 18:10).

The son born to Bathsheba and David died because of David’s sin which showed contempt for the Lord (2 Samuel 12:13-18).

God’s Plan for Healing

In spite of the fall which has affected it in so many ways, the physical world abounds with examples of healing - the regeneration of forests after fire or logging; the River Thames with salmon again after over a 100 years of pollution; the way the human body is able to repair itself.

The coming of Jesus as the Second Adam had as its purpose the restoration of all things (I Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:17; 8:22-23, Revelation 21:3-4).

Genesis 3:15 points forward to the triumph of Jesus, but in the Old Testament we begin to see the outworking of God’s plan to restore that which was lost through sin - bringing wholeness again.

Old Testament

Words which embody the Hebrew concept of "Wholeness".

  1. Salvation (Yesha). Together with the related terms Yeshuah and Teshua it is used primarily to indicate:

    • God coming to save His people (Psalm 37:39-40; 2 Samuel 22:3)

    • God delivering them from their enemies (2 Samuel 3:18; Psalm 18:3)

    • God delivering them from disease (Psalm 41:3; Isaiah 38:21)

    • God delivering them from trouble (Psalm 32:7; Jeremiah 30:7)

    • God rescuing them from oppression (Psalm 66:12; Psalm 72:14)

  2. Peace which is more than an absence of noise. It contains the idea of wholeness, completeness, maturity and prosperity. The Jewish greeting "Shalom" includes the concepts of health, prosperity and safety - a total "wellness".

    • "Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks" (Genesis 37:14)

    • "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jeremiah 29:7)

    • David asked Uriah how the war was going. The "shalom" of the war! (2 Samuel 11:7)

    • Healing  Rapha is the Hebrew word translated healed. Jehovah Rapha is the name God gives himself in Exodus 15:25-26. The Lord showed him a piece of wood. "For I am the Lord who heals you."

Some Examples of Healing

  • Miriam became leprous because she and Aaron had spoken against Moses. Aaron asked Moses for forgiveness and Moses cried out to the Lord, "O God, please heal her!" After 7 days exclusion she was restored. Numbers 12:1-13.

  • A dead child is restored by Elisha’s actions. (2 Kings 4:18-37).

  • A stew with a poisonous plant in it is made edible by Elisha. (2 Kings 4:38-41).

  • A dead man came to life when he touched Elisha’s bones. (2 Kings 13:20-21).

More examples and Old Testament verses may be found in Resource Sheet 1 - Healing in the Old Testament

Types Pointing Forward to Christ’s Healing Work.

  • The Passover A lamb was killed. Its spilt blood applied to a doorway offered protection from the angel of death who did not enter the house to destroy the first born (Exodus 12:23). This points forward to Jesus as the Lamb of God (I Corinthians 5:7b), whose blood redeems those who seek forgiveness (I Peter 1:18-19; Romans 6:23). They ate the flesh of the lamb before leaving Egypt. This gave them physical strength for their journey. Psalm 105:37b (NKJV) "And there was none feeble among His tribes." Perhaps an instant healing of any who were sick, so they could travel. Communion is often a powerful place of healing. Exodus 14 gives the picture of the rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt which became the focus for all their history and a picture in the New Testament of salvation through Christ.

  • The wood applied to bitter water When the water was bitter at Marah, the Lord showed Moses a piece of wood which he threw into the water which became sweet (Exodus 15:23-25). What was accomplished on the cross is able to turn any bitter circumstance sweet when the work of Jesus is applied to the situation.

  • The brass serpent The children of Israel spoke against God and Moses and God sent venomous snakes which bit the people and many died. They came to Moses, repenting of their sin, and asked Moses to pray for them. The Lord told Moses to make a bronze serpent on a pole. Anyone bitten could look at it and live (Numbers 21:4-9). Jesus said that his being lifted up on the cross would bring eternal life to everyone who believes in him (John 3:14-15). Eternal life means freedom from death and its consequences and includes all that Christ has done for us, both salvation and healing.

The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 53 is the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ who died for anything that isn’t healthy. The NIV, Amplified and RSV gives the following details of the completeness of Christ’s death to bring healing and wholeness to every area of life.

verse 3
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, (and pains) and familiar with suffering (grief and sickness). He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or have any esteem for Him.

The word used for sorrows, makov, can also mean anguish and is used for both physical and emotional pain. Jeremiah 30:15. We would use "hurts" today.

verse 4
He took our infirmities (griefs, sickness, weakness and distress) and carried our sorrows (and pain), yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted (as if with leprosy).

The word used for infirmities, choli, means sickness. Deuteronomy 28:61 "every kind of sickness".

Jesus took and carried and bore the consequences of our sin, sickness and pain.

verse 5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed (bruised) for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, (the chastisement needful to obtain peace and well-being for us)(that made us whole), and by his wounds we are healed (with the stripes that wounded him we are healed and made whole).

The word used for wounds, chaburah, means bruises. Isaiah 1:6 "wounds and bruises and open sores."

I Peter 2:24. Jesus takes our sins into his own body on the cross. We receive forgiveness of our sins and  rebellion and the healing of our spirit through being again united with our Father. We have peace with God, others and ourselves because Jesus has taken the punishment.

New Testament

Pictures and promises of healing in the Old Testament find their completion and fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ Ministry

When Jesus came he first quoted from Isaiah 61:1-3. In Luke 4:18-19 his ministry was:

  • Preach the gospel - the good news of salvation from sin and the embracing love of God.

  • Proclaim freedom for the prisoners - release from bondages: slavery to sin; destructive behaviour patterns; fears; reactive habits; and release from social injustice.

  • Recovery of sight for the blind - physical healing; spiritual awareness.

  • Release the oppressed - deliverance from oppression, including direct and indirect demonic oppression.

  • Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour - a time when slaves are released, debts cancelled, property redeemed and families united.

The reference in Isaiah also included other ministries of healing which the Messiah fulfilled:

  • Bind up the brokenhearted - healing of inner hurts: rejection, abuse, grief, emotional pain.

  • Comfort all who mourn - hope in the face of death; coming alongside with peace and strength; healing emotional pain.

Jesus included salvation in its entirety as his mission. We are offered deliverance both from our own sin and the effects of the sins of others in our lives and invited to be inheritors with Christ of all the riches of the free children of God. (Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:12-13)

Jesus ministered healing and fulfilled the prophecy from Isaiah 61. His charge to the twelve in Matthew 10:1,7-8 and the seventy-two in Luke 10:1,9,17,19 makes it clear that they were to act as he did. In John 14:12-14 he is referring to miracles when he promises they will do greater things. Ministry to the whole person was included in the "everything" of Matthew 28:18-20. God gave authority to men, Matthew 9:8, and His disciples are to act in His name to do His will. With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they also received the power to enable them to do the miracles Jesus did. (Acts 1:8).

Early Church

Through the Acts there are demonstrations of the same compassion for the sick and evidences of the power of God which became opportunities to preach the good news. Among these are examples of healing cripples, the blind, demonised, and even raising the dead. In fact, the disciples did the same things as Jesus, just as he said they would (John 14:12). Some of these healings are listed in Resource Sheet 2 - Healings in the Early Church.


The total picture in the Bible is of healing and wholeness being God’s desired purpose for His people. By his death, Jesus fulfilled the promise of Genesis 3:15. When Jesus rose again he broke the power of Satan, (Hebrews 2:14-15) and the declaration of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation.

At the moment of our conversion we are made holy in God’s sight - just-if-ied never sinned. This is a legal term. It says that whether or not you committed the crime, the court has declared you not guilty. However, we know that the process of changing takes a life time. We call it sanctification and it involves our cooperation with the Spirit of God, renewing our mind, reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, dying to self and living by the spirit and not the flesh. Sanctification is a process. Similarly, our journey to wholeness is just that - a journey taking time as we allow the Spirit of God to apply the good news of the gospel to every area of our life. For many of us, "We have not because we do not ask." (John 16:24). And we haven’t asked because we didn’t know we could. "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6. "My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge." (Isaiah 5:13 NKJV).

So, salvation, which includes justification and sanctification, is both immediate and continuing. It has an element of process - we are, and continue to be, saved! This is analogous to the 'now-and-not-yet' Kingdom of God spoken of by George Eldon Ladd in The presence of the future.

Full salvation is found in Christ and his work on the cross. The blood washes away guilt. His forgiveness frees us from condemnation. The cross crucifies sin structures. He became a curse for us, and breaks the power of curses. His resurrection life restores our life. His acceptance and welcome restores our soul. His gentle touch, ministered by the oil of the Holy Spirit, brings healing to wounds and bruises that remain under the surface of our lives. We discover what it means to have eternal life and be truly human.

"He Who is seated on the throne said, See! I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)

How Jesus Healed

We can draw principles from how Jesus of Nazareth healed for our own exercise of healing. In forty-eight different passages the Gospels record twenty-five distinct healings carried out by Jesus: healing leprosy, paralysis, blindness, deafness, demonisation, even death. These are the obvious healings. These are listed in the Resource Sheet 3 - The healings of Jesus. There are many more incidents where Jesus performed significant emotional and spiritual healings, such has his restoration of Peter following Peter's betrayal of him at his trial.

In these stories there is a wealth of examples and principles that we can learn, directly from the Master himself. I would encourage you to read through them all with your journal at hand, and allow the Spirit to instruct you. See beyond the surface to what Jesus himself saw as he encountered each of these people and gave them life. To whet your appetite we will look at just a few of these stories. But first, realise that our healing ministry will not be identical to that of Jesus. This is not because Jesus is God, but quite the opposite - Jesus was ministering before his death and resurrection, through which the power of darkness was crippled, and before Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on us. In many ways we should find it easier to heal, not harder than what Jesus experienced. Jesus was healing at a time when the power of Satan was at its peak. We have no such excuse.

Some Examples from Christ’s Ministry

The man brought by four friends (Matthew 9:1-8); and Matthew’s call (Matthew 9:9-13)

Jesus said, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven", and instructed him to rise up and walk. He stood up. He was able to walk. He was healed. Jesus ministered to the spiritual and physical needs of this man. Why was he paralysed? Was it a physical or psychological response to sin and guilt? Or a physical state resulting directly from sin? Or was it a physical state due to injury or accident? We like to know these things, but is it really important?

Sometimes we try to make such a clear distinction between physical, emotional, mental and spiritual sickness that we are no longer able to act effectively when we need to minister to them. If I asked you now what spiritual sickness is, I am sure I would receive a number of different answers. Therefore, you would probably advise several different ways to handle them.

So, what is this story about? Jesus clearly was identifying himself here as the Son of Man, Messiah, who could forgive sin. But there is more to it than this. It is no accident that Matthew immediately follows this story with the one about his own calling by the Lord, (Matthew 9:9-13). Matthew is sick in his spirit. He was in a despised, some thought treasonous, occupation. People despised him for it, and many bad things would have been said to and about him. He was wounded; to protect himself and to enable himself to continue to function he would either have built a defensive wall around his heart, which also kept out love; or alternatively he would have sunk so low in his own esteem that what people said no longer seemed to matter. His body was fine, but Jesus healed his spirit. How? By accepting him into his close circle and by giving him honour in front of others. When the people complained about what Jesus did he replied in terms of sickness and healing rather than of sin: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick." Matthew was considered by others to be a sinner - spiritually sick, and Jesus healed him with the appropriate doctoring - mercy and love. Previously, with the paralytic, he did not confront what was obviously a physical sickness, but dealt with the man’s need for forgiveness - his spiritual sickness.

Do you think Jesus was confused? The Pharisees certainly did. No - Jesus is demonstrating that there is far more to life than can be fitted into our little boxes. Look beyond the surface, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and see what is really there.

Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-3)

This is such a simple story - just one line: "... Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out." She must have been a very disturbed person; rejected by friends, family and society. Jesus set her free from seven evil spirits, ministering to her damaged emotions and her wounded spirit. So too today, our ministry should be to the needs of the whole person. See the mandate of Jesus in Luke 4:18-19, which we now inherit.

There is more we can learn here, however. What did Jesus see as he looked at Mary? A sick and sorrowful specimen of humanity? It is unlikely that this Mary is the prostitute - the ‘sinful woman’ of Luke 7 who anoints Jesus. We don’t know what was wrong with her, just that seven demons were driven out of her. What Jesus saw was a woman who was suffering and downtrodden, but who had a lot of love to give, and who would be a faithful servant and companion to her Lord. Jesus knew the world needed to see her example of faithfulness, and gave her the opportunity to become one of the most famous and talked about people in all of history.

She appears in the crucifixion and resurrection stories of all four gospels - this is rare and important. (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40, 47; 16:9; Luke 23:49,55; 24:1-10; John 19:25; 20:1,16-17) Mary was one of the band of women who faithfully traveled with Jesus and the disciples from Galilee (Magdala is in Galilee) and supported them out of their own possessions. Without them, the ministry would have been far more difficult and less effective. She  is one who stayed to the end of the gruesome crucifixion, supporting Jesus’ mother; she is first to discover the empty tomb; she is the one to whom the angels appeared to say that Jesus was no longer dead; and she is the first person on earth to see the risen Lord.

Surface and Deep Healing

There are many other stories which show the difference between what Charles Kraft calls ‘surface-level healings’ and ‘deep-level healings’. For example, With the man born blind (John 9), Jesus assures his disciples that his problem was not the result of sin. With the woman who had been stooped over for eighteen years (Luke 13:16), Jesus points out that she had been in captivity to Satan.

When someone comes to us for ministry, if we see them only in terms of what they are asking of us and of what we can do for them, we may be able to help them, but we risk missing out on enormous blessing, both for them and for us. God never brings a damaged person to you by accident. There has been a lot of preparation put into your brief encounter with them, of which both they and you are unaware. Thus is one small but important step in the journey of someone’s life, planned by God, and intended for his glory. You have the opportunity to release in their lives some of the potential for faith, obedience, and even greatness, that God has placed within them. Again, look beyond the surface things, the immediate needs, and see what God is doing. Share this with them. Encourage and strengthen them. Be prepared to give them back some of the perspective they have lost as they struggle with their immediate problems. Remember - it is not just healing we are interested in - it is really living that is our goal.

We should also look at our own stories in the same way as we examine the stories of Jesus. Peter Wagner tells some stories about how people are doing the works of Jesus today, and even greater works. You have such a story too. After each  healing time, say to the Lord, "What can I learn from this?" Try to go beyond the surface appearance to the deeper issues. What was God really doing? What is the bigger picture? Don’t do this in order to develop a method which you will use when praying for others, or a kit of tools to use later. Do it in order to become familiar with God’s ways and to recognise how he speaks and acts in your life. Why did he involve you in this particular healing? What is he teaching you? Did he surprise you with something this time? Did you get in touch with something in you which might need attention? Did you especially feel his power and love flow either to you or to the other person as you ministered? Has your love for God and for people deepened? Did you know God’s joy as you obeyed? Was God clearly able to work through you even though you felt nothing and would rather have been somewhere else?

Salvation and Healing

The Nature of Man Redeemed

But it doesn’t all happen instantly when we are born again. Many things are dealt with, without us even being aware of them, but we still have a part to play in recovering the mandate and rulership that Adam lost. The Sandfords say that there are parts of us that have yet to hear the good news of salvation. We need o appropriate what has already been accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Process of Conversion - Carnal Christian

The Process of Conversion - Spiritual Christian

The blind man had to go and wash, the lepers had to report to the priests - Jesus required them to act - to take back what they had lost. Our actions in obedience are part of our choosing to live again - and are necessary for our healing. This does not mean we heal ourselves. Rather, it means that we begin to live by faith in Jesus and obey his commands.

The Process of Sanctification

In this we may see some reasons for not seeing the healing for which we ask:

  1. We may not have obeyed what was necessary for us to receive the healing - pride and intellect sometimes get in the way, or despair, or even plain old stubbornness or laziness.

  2. The healing is a process, of which we have not yet reached the end.

  3. The healing will not be complete until we are resurrected in our new body.

  4. Only rarely is it right to attribute it to lack of faith on the part of the sick one. Jesus didn’t. He did once blame the lack of faith of those ministering the healing, though. Sometimes we are still unable to receive enough of Christ’s life ourselves to be able to pass it on to others.

I believe that Jesus made a full atonement for sin and sickness on the cross. However, the assumption that we receive all our healing when we come to the cross the first time for salvation is just that - an assumption. It is not Biblical. But partly on that assumption is based the common argument that the healing ministry ceased, along with the other spiritual gifts, on the completion of the Scriptural canon. If you follow that assumption to its logical conclusion you reach two rather difficult positions.

  1. When we become Christians then if we had a broken leg, or a missing kidney, we should be instantly healed! We should not have to do anything else to receive this healing, that would be 'works'.

  2. Every human being, whether they receive Christ or not, should have been instantly redeemed the moment Jesus died! After all, he died for the sins of the whole world.

Neither is supported by the evidence of our experience or the rest of Scripture. Because (a) does not happen, many are resigned to never being healed because it must be God’s will that they suffer in this way. Unfortunately, too many Christians are prepared to accept (b) as true, because otherwise they have trouble seeing God as a loving Father.

What Jesus really did on the cross is make provision for our healing. Receiving Jesus, by his Spirit, into our lives does not just bring healing into us - it makes us into healers. The Holy Spirit brings gifts of healings into the church - using those who are redeemed as channels of those gifts.

When we become Christlike, we become like Christ! We become saviours, deliverers, healers, teachers, pray-ers, forgivers of sins, and witnesses to the glory of the Father.

Most of these roles you probably can accept, but for some of you the idea of being a saviour, or even a forgiver of sins, might be a bit over the top. What do I mean? Well, what I do not mean is that we become messiahs. There is only one Christ, and we are his representatives or followers. We come after him, to have a part in completing his work.

A saviour, in the sense I am using it, is a bringer of shalom. A saviour is a deliverer. The way we do this is to bring the one needing rescuing to the one who can rescue - Jesus. Jesus is the dry land - the solid rock - and we are the lifeboat crew. We bring the good news of the way of salvation - of finding shalom with God. Jesus says,

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)

What about forgiving sins? The Pharisees charged Jesus with blasphemy because he forgave sins. But they were wrong. We assume they were wrong because Jesus could forgive sins since he was God. However, it was the human Jesus, who had laid aside his godly attributes, that was forgiving sins. Let’s not look to what the Pharisees said for our understanding, but rather to what Jesus himself said:

"Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’" (John 20:21-23)

Healing in Love

Is there an overriding principle that we can derive from anexamination of the way Jesus exercised his healing ministry? The thing whichstands out most is Jesus’ compassion for people. Stanley Grenz outlines for us the nature of this compassion:

The New Testament writers consistently testify that in Jesus we see God. Throughout his earthly life and ministry he showed us what God is like. His teaching informs us about God; his character shows forth the qualities of God; his death reveals the suffering of God; and his resurrection vividly declares the creative power of God.

At the heart of the picture Jesus presents is a God who is a loving heavenly Father (Luke 15:11-32). Indeed, Jesus understood his ministry as the expression of God’s self-giving, compassionate love.

Jesus himself was characterised by loving compassion. He saw the aimlessness of the common people who were as ‘sheep without a shepherd’ (Matt 9:36; Mark 6:34). He was moved by the plight of the sick (Matthew 14:14), the blind (Matthew 20:34), and the hungry (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:2). Jesus was filled with compassion in response to the sorrow people experienced at the loss of loved ones (Luke 7:13; John 11:35).

Jesus expressed compassion by raising the dead (John 11; Luke 7:14), teaching the multitudes (Mark 6:34), and healing the sick (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 14:14; 19:2). His godly compassion even encircled his enemies. Anticipating the final rejection he would experience from the nation he loved, Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37). Then, during his arrest Jesus offered his healing touch to the soldier whose ear had been injured in the scuffle (Luke 22:51). In his hour of death, Jesus prayed that his Father extend forgiving mercy to the Roman soldiers (Luke 23:34). (Created for Community, p 114)

Jesus alone reveals God to us (John 14:9-10). Jesus not only shows us the loving heart of God, his life indicates that the Triune God is love. We can understand this when we remind ourselves of the special relationship Jesus enjoyed with his Father. For Jesus, God was ‘Abba’ - ‘Daddy’ in a way no one had ever experienced before. Jesus the Son loves and is loved by Abba eternally. So in looking at Jesus we can see into the eternal love relationship within the community of the Father and the Son, and this community is the Holy Spirit.

However, this is not just vague theological talk. The whole purpose of Jesus’ life is to introduce us to God the Father (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:22). He desires that this divine character become a vital reality within each of us, and between us in community. Christ, the Revealer of God, must be formed in us, as Paul says (Galatians 4:19). The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring this about - to include us within that community of God.

When this happens, the result in us is a love and compassion which is demonstrated by our continuing in the ministry of Jesus, in the same way Jesus carried it out - in selfless love. Charles Kraft speaks of this.

In our day even many of us who were brought up in Western rationalistic Christianity are discovering that God still heals when we minister in authority in Jesus’ name... But healing is not the main issue, love is. Jesus, with all the power of the universe at his disposal, chose to use that power in the service of love. God heals because he loves, not simply because he wants to show his power. Indeed, when people came to Jesus seeking miracles for their own sake, he declined (Matthew 12:38-39). When hurting people came, however, he felt compassion toward them and healed them (Matthew 9:36;14:14). (Deep wounds, deep healing, pp 20-21)

If you have or desire a healing ministry, or believe the Lord is calling you to this, then first examine your motives. Why do you want to heal? Are you seeking a way to be accepted or needed? Do you think that you should fix peoples problems because they don’t seem to see them as clearly as you do? Are you angry and offended at what Satan has brought into people’s lives and have a passion to destroy his works? If so, you might have a future healing ministry, but you aren't ready for it yet! Let love be your driving force - a love which embraces not only those seeking healing, but also those who cause harm. Then you can be a part of the continuing ministry of Jesus.

Bibliography and Suggested Reading

  • Deere, Jack, Surprised by the power of the Spirit. Eastbourne: Kingsway, 1993
  • Glennon, Jim, Your healing is within you. Lond: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978
  • Grenz, Stanley, Created for community: connecting Christian belief with Christian living. 2nd edition, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.
  • Horrobin, Peter J., Healing through deliverance: vol 1 - the biblical basis. Chichester: Sovereign World, 1991.
  • Kraft, Charles H., Deep wounds, deep healing: discovering the vital link between spiritual warfare and inner healing. Tonbridge, Kent: Sovereign World, 1993.
  • Ladd, George Eldon, The presence of the future: the eschatology of biblical realism. Eerdmans, 1996.
  • Murray, Andrew, Divine healing, Pittsburg, Pn: Whitaker House, 1982
  • Payne, Leanne, The healing Presence. Eastbourne: Kingsway Publications, 1989.
  • Sandford, John and Paula, The transformation of the inner man. Tulsa, OK: Victory House, 1982.
  • Taylor, Harold W., Sent to heal: a handbook on Christian healing, Ringwood, Melb: Order of St. Luke the Physician, 1993.
  • Wagner, C. Peter, How to have a healing ministry without making your church sick. Eastbourne: Monarch, 1988.
  • Wimber, John, Power healing. Lond: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986