People who know me will be aware that I take song lyrics more seriously than most. I mostly enjoyed the Prince of Egypt film, and one of my favourite songs happened as Moses and Miriam led the Israelites out of Egypt towards the Red Sea. They sing ‘When you believe’, a song which has since been made more famous by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, although in the film version it is sung well by Michelle Pfeiffer, Sally Dworsky and a children’s choir. I particularly enjoy the children’s choir singing in Hebrew, with text taken quite closely from Moses and Miriam’s songs in Exodus 15.
But the lines in the chorus that always bothered me go:
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe.
My objection was over who does the miracle – surely, I thought, this is God’s miracle, by his power alone, and so to talk of Moses or others achieving miracles seemed unsound. Why, I wondered, did they not talk about what miracles you can receive, as this also rhymes easily with the key ‘believe’ lyric, but I guess the emphasis on God rather than your own rewarded efforts would make this less of a popular inspirational song? And so I just thought it was a bit skewwhiff, but generally a positive rendition of a key Biblical moment. But more recently I’ve had to reconsider the concept.
Jordan Seng, a pastor from Hawaii, was preaching at Christian festival New Wine last week. My sister and family were there and she shared a link to watch the main teaching and worship times (music and prayer) via YouTube livestream. I’m not sure this broadcasting has been common practice before but it was a way to get access to impressive teaching while still in my own bed during my annual leave, rather than having to pay to attend, and camp! Anyway, Jordan has recently published a book called ‘Miracle Work’ and his series of talks was about ‘The Life of Try’ and encouraging people to step out into supernatural ministry, most particularly healing the sick. His main point was that in the same way as we don’t just pray asking God to bless our preach, but that we study and prepare and do the work, so there is work involved in healing people.
The most revolutionary thing to me was that people in the Bible don’t get healed by people praying asking God to heal them. There are many various and at time wacky ways of healing people (spit and mud on people’s eyes?), but the main pattern is that Jesus or one of his followers declares healing rather than asking God for it. This may be as simple as saying ‘In the name of Jesus, be healed’ and laying a hand on the affected body part, but what they don’t say is ‘Please God, heal this person’. Jordan emphasised that it is person to person and that we are involved in the healing, even though it is vitally God’s power that is working the miracle. Remarkably God chooses to use us as his flawed agents of healing, we don’t just delegate the job to him.
This is exciting to me – not just because it seems to work (more later), but also that it shifts the way we respond when someone isn’t healed. Instead of moving down the perilous road of saying it must not be God’s will for someone to be healed, we (the ones trying to heal) can take responsibility for not doing it right, not moving in enough power or not having enough faith. We can offer to pray again, try to address potential blockages or ask someone else to be involved. Jordan had something of an equation which identifies four different variables which might be increasing or impeding our power to move in the supernatural works of God:
Authority + Gifting + Faith + Consecration = Power
If you’re interested I’d really encourage you to look at his book, but I’ll try to do some quick explanations for each of the parts from my notes from his talk:
Authority – Jesus gave the disciples authority to go out and heal people, and also commissioned us. Generally our authority derives from our obedience to Jesus’s directions, so if you are living sinfully, you don’t have much authority to heal.
Gifting – Some people have particular gifts of healing. We can increase in gifting by asking God, but a quicker solution is to take someone with you who has the gift of healing and work together. You can also use other gifts like words of knowledge or leadership to build faith.
Faith – This can be about your faith, and the faith of the person seeking healing and others present. Jesus sometimes cleared out the doubters to increase the faith environment, and encouraged faith in others. Sharing testimonies of healing is a good way to build faith for healing, but it’s definitely not just about the unwell person’s faith as this can’t be expected from someone too ill or young to understand, and certainly not from someone who is dead…
Consecration – This is about making things sacred and sacrificing. Setting ourselves aside for God’s use can increase the way he can use us. This might involve prayer, worship or fasting.
Spending time in prayer or fasting, seeking words of knowledge or sorting out more obedience to God in our lives does start to feel more like work. It does mean that there might be a reason to feel some sense of achievement, akin to what I might feel if I had put of lot of work into a preach and then felt it went well. In both cases I should give the glory to God, since any gifting or power came from him, but it feels a bit more like something we are doing together, rather than me purely being a recipient of a miracle.
It seems like there are lots of stories of God on the move in different parts of the world, using his people for works of healing on the streets and seeing amazing breakthrough and many turning to know him. While the way of praying declaring healing is very familiar to some of my church friends, somehow I had missed this, and it feels like a whole new way of seeking healing is now available. Even just watching one of the New Wine speakers this week (I think it was Alan Scott from Coleraine in Northern Ireland where they are seeing significant awakening/revival) he prayed for healing for the congregation, and my clunky shoulder just seems to be healed. I didn’t think about it or pray about it, but I just noticed over the next couple of days that it was better. I wasn’t pushing it to line it up as I used to in the shower. This is something that has been a problem since I was a teenager. I had some physio and exercises to do and generally put it down to bad posture. I’ve never asked for prayer about it as I’ve always thought it wasn’t a big problem, and that others needs are greater.
But it meant that when I joined some friends on Thursday this week praying for people on the streets in the city centre, that my faith was quite high, and I was able to share that story with a couple of the people we met. I also saw three or four people experience noticeable healing, two of whom I had the privilege of laying on a hand and simply directing pain to be gone, and the person to be healed in Jesus’ name. Generally the response was positive and good-natured, even if people said no thanks, or that the pain they had was their friend or companion. One woman was really touched by our willingness to pray and our compassion as we prayed for her and her mother. Later that day she phoned my friends to say that her leg was feeling a lot better and her heavy bag became mysteriously light and remained so all the way home. I don’t want to take the credit actually – I want God to be glorified and for people to get to know him through being healed and hearing stories of healing, but it certainly feels like things are being achieved and that I get to be part of it. Awesome.