Blessings abound where e’er he reigns;
The prisoners leap to lose their chains
I’ve been praying for people in meetings for over twenty years, but recently it’s been different. Many now slump to the floor, or shake, or laugh, or sob, or feel heat in their hands or on their head, or have other surprises.
We were worshipping at the Renewal Fellowship recently when I prayed (with my eyes shut) for the Holy Spirit to come upon us. A person in the front row fell over and crashed into me. I quickly opened my eyes, guiding that person to the floor.
Those manifestations are not new. They have been there over the years at various times. Now, however, they happen more often and with greater intensity. I believe this is a time of refreshing and blessing in the mid-nineties.
I remember the early seventies when a wave of renewal swept the earth. Thousands were baptised in the Spirit, spoke in tongues, discovered spiritual gifts, and began to see more answers to prayer for healing or deliverance. That wave gave birth in Brisbane to movements such as Christian Life Centre, Christian Outreach Centre, Bardon Catholic Charismatic meetings, Emmanuel Covenant Community, and some denominational charismatic congregations.
These strong manifestations now in the nineties are more varied and sometimes more surprising than I ve known before. I believe it is part of a worldwide move of God s Spirit, and as always, it is mixed with our human reactions.
A fresh wave
This fresh wave started for us at the Renewal Fellowship during 1994. It seems to be part of our on-going journey.
We have been learning to respond to the Spirit, as best we know. Our ‘order of service had long given way to the immediate leadings of the Spirit. We still followed our usual pattern, however, of worship for over and hour (with great variety such as in prophetic music, free singing, Scriptures read and prophetic words or visions shared), Bible teaching, and ministry with prayer for one another in clusters, with further prayer for those who could remain later.
Sometimes in praying for people some were overwhelmed and rested on the floor, or slumped in their seats. No problem! We had seen that before from time to time. It just seemed to be more frequent from 1994.
The Christian Outreach Centres had experienced a strong move of the Spirit in 1993, beginning in Brisbane and spreading through their churches. We were blessed in Brisbane through a range of ministries including visits from John Wimber, Rodney Howard-Browne, leaders involved in the ‘Toronto Blessing’ now touching thousands of people and churches all over Canada, America, England, and across the world. We read reports of similar happenings in Australia among some churches touched by this blessing.
As in the seventies, the expressions of this blessing varied from group to group, from ministry to ministry. The essence, however, seemed to be similar everywhere – strong impacts from the Spirit, people being overwhelmed, new and deep love for Jesus, personal refreshing and blessing, catching the fire of a fresh zeal for the Lord, ministering more effectively to others.
As we kept praying for people the manifestations increased, especially with people being overwhelmed and resting in the Spirit.
To pray or not to pray
Problem! Do we actively encourage this? Do we avoid it – such as not praying so much? Do we stop praying for individuals? Do we wait till the end of the meeting, even though some people were being touched strongly as we worshipped? Do we copy methods from the Vineyard conferences, such as praying for people all over the place at the end of the meeting? Do we follow the Toronto example and make plenty of carpet space available? Do we ask people to stand and then ask the Holy Spirit to come, or do we just expect he will move upon us anyway?
In our prayer times before every meeting we declared the Lordship of Jesus, asked him to take over, and claimed his authority. The more we prayed, the more it kept happening!
We don t have all the answers yet – and maybe never will! Who can direct the wind? The whirlwind is even more unpredictable.
Where do we draw the line? Whose line? God’s? Ours? Our traditions?
We all draw a line somewhere. Responsible leadership and pastoral care require some guidelines., even though these maybe quite flexible.
What is regarded as ‘decent’ and ‘in order’ varies widely from church to church, group to group, culture to culture, revival to revival. We need to be spiritually sensitive, theologically insightful and culturally appropriate (as Jesus and Paul were) without quenching the Spirit.
The root and the fruit
Where the root of various experiences is Jesus himself in the power of his Spirit, and the fruit is clearly the fruit of his Spirit, we’re glad.
Remember that Jesus’ presence and ministry produced amazing effects in Scripture. Demons were expelled. People were set free and made whole. Lives were changed.
What are the results of these current blessings for us in the Renewal Fellowship?
Worship is richer, fuller and longer than ever. People comment on the blessing of a stronger, closer relationship with God, both in the meetings and beyond them in daily life. Many people tell about blessings in their service to others, in prayer for the sick and in home groups.
People report a deeper awareness of the reality of the Lord, closer fellowship with Jesus, stronger leadings by the Holy Spirit, increased anointing in their various giftings, and greater love for God. For many people it is already flowing over into sacrificial ministry to others with greater assurance, compassion, and willingness to be involved as they obey the promptings of the Spirit.
One person lay on the floor, overwhelmed, and began praying in tongues with a new love for the Lord and release of his gifts. Some report physical healings received while overwhelmed. Someone with Multiple Personality Disorder caused by childhood trauma had a vision of Jesus while resting on the floor; Jesus brought deep healing and integration, resulting in profound improvement. Many people have found a new zeal in serving the Lord and praying with and for others.
We need pastoral wisdom to avoid the extremes of foolish excesses on one hand or resisting and quenching the Spirit on the other. We need discernment between the true and the false, and that s not easy. We need grace to welcome the refreshing of the Lord even though it comes in different ways to different people. As with conversion, or being filled with the Spirit, or discovering spiritual gifts, some people have dramatic encounters with God while others experience deep and quiet peace.
Let everything be grounded in Scripture, illumined by the Spirit who inspired it. It is more radical than any of us really understand. A few biblical happenings would certainly enliven any church!
Jesus offended many people, such as in worship and teaching meetings. He welcomed outcasts, sinners, the poor and despised. He healed lepers. He banished demons. He sent the disciples off to preach, heal the sick and cast out demons. He told them to teach the rest of us to do the same (Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:17-18; Luke 24:49; John 14:12; 20:21-22; Acts 1:8 and so on).
People in the early church saw the power of God at work. They appeared drunk on the day of Pentecost. They clashed with traditions, as Jesus did. They prayed and witnessed amid the turbulence of light overcoming darkness, truth confronting error, and the kingdom of God invading the kingdoms of this world.
Expect the Spirit to move upon us all even more fully. Welcome his blessings, and pray that revival will yet sweep our nation. Perhaps a spark is being lit for revival in our land.
Praying for People
We found the following guidelines helpful in praying for people. They are adapted from material provided in Toronto. We prefer to pray in pairs if possible so that if someone is overwhelmed they can be gently helped to rest in the Spirit.
1. When praying for individuals, watch closely what the Spirit is doing (John 5:19). Never make a person feel that they are unable to receive or are resisting the Holy Spirit just because they are not openly manifesting something. We are called to encourage and love, not speak words that will bring rejection or discouragement.
2. Do not force ministry! Trust the Lord, knowing that he is doing something personal within an individual, so don’t interrupt that special ‘conversation’.
3. When you are praying for someone a strong anointing may rest on you also. Keep praying for the person without distracting them.
4. You may be able to help some people receive more in the following ways:
(a) Help them deal with a tendency to rationalise; or calm their fears of loss of control.
(b) Let them know what to expect; that even when the Holy Spirit is blessing them they will have a clear mind and can usually stop the process at any point if they want to.
(c) The Holy Spirit often moves in ‘waves’ similar to the blowing wind.
(d) Encourage them to be still and know that God is God (Ps. 46:10), and to stay focused on he Lord. He loves them intensely and longs for them to know him intimately.
5. Generally, it is helpful to have people stand to receive ministry. The Holy Spirit often rests upon people as they wait in his presence. Some people may fear falling, especially if they have back problems or are pregnant or elderly. If they are overwhelmed help them to sit down, kneel, or fall carefully.
6. When people fall or rest in the Spirit, encourage them to soak in the presence of the Lord. It seems that everyone wants to get up far too quickly.
7. It can help to pray and bless the person resting in the Spirit. Many feel very vulnerable while in that position and appreciate the loving care given. They also need to guarded from others bumping into them and/or making comments around them.
8. Never push people over. Watch over-enthusiasm and a tendency to want to ‘help God out’ especially when you are sensing a strong anointing within you.
9. If you get ‘words of knowledge’, pray biblical prayers related to those words. Let prophetic encouragement flow from prayer ministry, and always for edification, exhortation or comfort. Remember, no ‘direction, correction, dates or mates’.
10. You will seldom err if you pray biblical prayers such as:
(a) ‘Come Holy Spirit.’
(b) ‘Your kingdom come, Lord, Your will be done.’
(c) For a deeper revelation of the Father’s love in Christ.
(d) For anointing for service.
(e) For release of gifts and callings.
(f) To bring light and expel darkness.
(g) To open their understanding so they will know the magnitude of their salvation.
(h) For peace, ruling and reigning in their hearts.
(i) ‘More Lord’ – How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
11. Don’t project what God has been doing with you onto the person you are praying with. Bless what God is doing for them.
12. If your hand or body is shaking pray with your hand slightly away from the person so as not to distract them. If a stronger manifestation begins to happen within you then withdraw from ministry for a while and let the Lord bless you.
13. Laying on of hands may be appropriate, not ‘leaning on of hands’. Give a light touch only, generally on forehead, top of head, shoulder, or hands. No inappropriate touching.
14. Some people pray aloud while they are being ministered to. Encourage them to be quiet and just receive. It is difficult to drink in and pour out at the same time.
15. The person you are praying for needs to be assured that he or she is the most important one for that moment. Avoid the tendency to let your mind and eyes wander to other things or other people or other situations in the room. Don’t become distracted with other issues.
16. Your own personal hygiene is important – clean hands, hair and clothes, deodorant, breath mints may help.
17. Don’t step over anyone, or hold discussions near people resting in the Spirit.
18. Be led by common sense and by the Spirit. It helps to have men pray with men, women with women, married couples with married couples.
19. People who pray for others also need to be prayed for themselves, to receive ministry, to be refreshed and anointed anew.
20. Encourage people being prayed for to:
(a) Come humble and hungry. Forget preconceived ideas and what has happened to others.
(b) Experience ministry before trying to analyse it. The Holy Spirit will speak, teach, comfort and reveal Jesus personally. We need to know the Lord experientially as well as theologically.
(c) Face fears such as fear of deception, of being hurt again, of not receiving, of losing control.
(d) Focus on the Lord, not on falling. Give the Holy Spirit permission to do with you what he wants to do.
Above all, we need to seek the Lord. ‘Your kingdom come.’
© Renewal Journal 7: Blessing, 1996, 2nd edition 2011
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