So, how’s the healing prayer going?
From the many, many comments I saw on last month’s article (41 in a single month – I think that sets some kind of record), it looks like a whole lot of you are taking this healing prayer seriously. I can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me. I’ve seen amazing things happen as a result of that prayer.
Well, I should clarify that. The results don’t happen just from that specific little prayer. The prayer is a very powerful catalyst, of course. But there’s a lot more to prayer – and specifically prayer for healing – than you’ll find in one little prayer. Since we’re in Lent, the season of sacrifice, healing and spiritual growth, I thought it would be a good time to go a little deeper.
When we’re little, we’re taught to “say our prayers,” to speak to God in words written by others. That’s not a bad thing – in some cases (the Our Father) those words were actually written by God himself. And even the prayers not actually written by God help us to say things to Him that we probably wouldn’t think to say ourselves.
But as we grow and mature in faith, it’s important to recognize that prayer is essentially about a relationship – our own individual relationship with God. Prayer is the communication at the heart of that relationship. And so we want to do more than just rely on the words of others. We want to communicate from the heart, too. Recited prayer (like the healing prayer I gave you last month) is often a good springboard to start those “conversations.”
So how exactly are we supposed to pray?
It’s hard question to answer. Kind of like asking “How am I supposed to talk to my spouse?” Each marriage is different, so the communication within each marriage will look different as well. The same goes from your relationship with God. It is unique. But just as married couples can seek help to improve their communication, we can learn to communicate with God better, to help develop and deepen our prayer life.
So I’ll tell you what works for me.
First of all, prayer needs some time and space to unfold. Set aside some quiet time in a quiet place. Start by asking, in Jesus’ name, for His peace and protection to surround you, to protect you from distractions — internal and external. Ask Him to guide this prayer time, to take it where He wants it to go, to reveal what He wants to reveal. Give Him permission to work within you. Ask His Spirit to pray where your prayer falls short.
If you’re praying for healing, start by reciting that healing prayer. And then start talking to God. Tell him about your situation, what you’re feeling, what you’re seeking. You might want to ask Him – again in Jesus’ name — to guide your memory as you look back through your life to review what hurts may need healing. Or perhaps you need to recall pain you’ve wrongly caused others and need to repent. Ask Him to show you.
At some point, the time will come to shut up and listen to Him. We all know how annoying a friend can be when he or she does all of the talking and never stops to listen. I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want to be that kind of friend to God. Particularly when He knows everything and I know very, very close to nothing whatsoever.
When I first started to practice this kind of prayer, I would talk and talk to God, dumping all kinds of questions and problems onto Him, and then say “Okay, what do you have to say about that?” And then I was surprised when I didn’t hear anything back. My spiritual director finally pointed out the obvious: “What is God supposed to do with all of that?” So now I try to ask Him a question. Frequently it’s just “Lord, I feel this way. What do You have to say about that?”
Ask, and then just be quiet. Just listen. Sometimes God speaks through words, sometimes through images, and sometimes through feelings. He may give you a sense of peace. A phrase or an image may pop into your mind. Or maybe not. You may hear nothing — crickets chirping, clock ticking. He may wait to speak to you gradually in the following days and weeks. Or He may not. You might not be asking a question He wants to answer. You may need to go back to Him and ask Him what question you should ask.
Whatever you hear, or think you hear, don’t immediately ascribe it to the all-knowing will of God. Take it back to prayer. Ask if it’s from Him. Write it down. Hold it up to the test of Scripture and Church teaching. If it contradicts, it’s not from God. If it doesn’t contradict, keep bringing it back to Him. Take it deeper. Pray about it again the next time. Keep the conversation going.
I’ve also found tremendous power in giving my struggles to God. Whether I’m scared, or sad, or grieving, I go to Him in prayer and hand it over. I tell Him that I trust Him and I give Him permission to work within it, to bring good out of it. And then I stop and I listen. It doesn’t all turn around in that moment, of course, but it makes a huge difference in the long run.
“So, will prayer heal every area of my life that needs healing?” Not necessarily. Spiritual direction has taught me that the physical, the psychological and the spiritual are separate realms. They overlap, of course. Prayer heals the spiritual. That healing can overflow into the physical and the psychological. Sometimes God intervenes directly and completely heals one of those other areas. But if you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t just hobble into your prayer room and say “Lord, please heal my broken leg.” You’d also go to a doctor and have it set.
And so it may be in whatever healing you need. There may be areas that require competent medical or psychological assistance on this side of Heaven. That can be a very, very good thing – provided, of course, that said assistance (particularly in the psychological realm) comes from someone who understands and respects the truths of the spiritual realm.
So you keep praying and asking God to reveal to you the areas that need healing, and how that healing should take place. And I’ll start talking more specifically about what some of those areas might be. Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about listening to God in prayer, I highly recommend Jim Beckman’s book God, Help Me: How To Grow in Prayer.
See y’all next month!