Prayer is one of those topics where there is no limit to the number of ways people can be made to feel guilty about not measuring up to “what they ought to be doing.” As I enter the final quarter of the race of my mortality (starting to push fifty years a follower of Jesus) my life-long puzzlement over the matter of prayer just gets deeper. These days my prayers are less frequent, shorter in duration (A couple of orders of magnitude less from the days of my youth!) and I don’t say much (I use to think it was my job to inform God about all the things He should be doing). Yet my prayer life is richer and deeper than ever. I think I may be on to something.
Prayer and intercession ministry can have some common pitfalls to avoid. I understand that not everyone involved in prayer and intercession has issues in the areas I am about to mention. However, many do. After having had exposure for over forty years to prayer and intercession movements across the world, I believe (and have seen) that those given to intercession can be uniquely vulnerable to the following harmful beliefs and practices:
What are some New Covenant “updates” that need to be considered when we approach the topic of prayer and intercession? I suggest at least four. If the significance of what Christ has wrought at the cross and in His resurrection and ascension do not form the foundation of all that we do in prayer, we will end up in with some very unsound beliefs about, and bizarre practices of — prayer and intercession.
Prayer and intercession (along with praise and worship) have become a cottage industry within large segments of Evangelical and Charismatic brands of Christianity. Prayer and intercession can so easily be leveraged to create guilt in believers. On the other hand prayer and intercession can also be a platform to create an elitist class of alleged intercessory specialists. People take their sense of identity and personhood from a reputation as an alleged prophetic prayer warrior, just like many take their sense of identity from being a pastor (or any other traditional ministry expression for that matter). In this three-installment blog series, I take a look at intercession from a new creation, New Covenant perspective. What does the resurrection and ascension of Jesus do to our understanding and expression of intercessory prayer? It changes everything.
Proverbs says a broken spirit dries the bones. For those of us from even a nominally Christian background, this is hardly earth shaking news. However it is more than a quaint archaic metaphor. The implication in this verse, and others like it, is that the inner man affects the outer. Sometimes, even our physical health can be affected by the state of our soul. Those of us who have trusted Christ for our salvation don’t realize how deeply imprinted we’ve been with a scientific materialist worldview regarding everything except our salvation. This unconscious frequency in our thinking affects the issue of faith for healing and our approach to sickness, disease, health, and medicine. It is one reason among many why we do not see legitimate physical healings as we might.
One of the most significant reasons we do not see healings in our midst as we might, is because of the worldview assumptions and the cultural values of western individualism and personal privacy. The scriptures were not written to, or by, people with a western worldview. They understood sickness, disease, and healing differently than we do. We cannot come to the scriptures with our western presuppositions, and expect kingdom results. This profoundly affects our theology and practice of praying for the sick.
Biblical faith has three important objective elements: His Word, His Person, and His Cross. These three are in fact, one. The Word is the revelation of His Person. The Cross is the instrument of revelation. The Person of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of the Lord) actively administers both the Word and the Cross to us. We get into trouble when we try to separate these three from one another.
The Jews didn’t engage life in a compartmentalized fashion. For them, Yahweh’s nature couldn’t be parsed into this or that sub-attribute and broken out for independent analysis. For us, it’s the methodology we use for deepening our understanding of something. It’s the foundation of our science. Acknowledged or not, it’s the way Western Christians have been taught to engage life, the Scriptures, and God Himself. Our worldview affects how we approach the topic of healing. Healing is an outflow of a maintained relationship, not the result of adherence to principles.
Understanding Psalm 2 and Psalm 110 is critical to understanding all of the new testament and the genuine spiritual authority of a new covenant priesthood. These two Psalms are the scriptural base the apostles used to “justify” the existence of a new order of priesthood based on resurrection life! It is not an exaggeration to say, that the apostle’s interpretation and application of these two Psalms is the doctrinal foundation of the entire new testament, as they tried to explain the “Christ-event” to their generation.
Abusive spiritual authority is epidemic. Reactionary responses to abusive authority are also epidemic. My friends Don Atkin, Greg Austin, and myself address what genuine kingdom authority looks like: a serving nation of priests, patterned after the Head, the High Priest of our faith, the resurrected God-man, Jesus, the Messiah. That requires, as Desi used to say to Lucy, “some ‘splainin’.”