Still thinking about prayer, and about prayer lives past. I used to do a lot of “ministry prayer” or prayer-line stuff, laying on of hands and so forth. I should be doing more of this than I am at present, but there you are — this is about past prayer life regression. I come most recently from a charismatic tradition, so we were big on prayer for physical healing and such. Biggest question you’ll ever face on this is, “Does it work?” — “Does prayer change things?” Over my time as a charismatic I faced that question a couple of times… and it’s inevitable at times that you’ll find yourself clinging to a “yes” answer with all evidence to the contrary staring you in the face.

I went through the standard “ministry training” courses many years ago, got well-versed in the Vineyard Five-Step prayer model and all that, read Francis MacNutt and John Wimber among many others, and got started into praying for people. This, of course, is when the question first comes up. I remember conversing with God about this one at the time… and his response came in the form of a challenge. Before I came back and complained to God that prayer didn’t work, I needed to pray for 1,000 people. I mean, lay hands on and pray for 1,000 individuals. That sounded like a lot of people, but if that’s what God wanted… so I accepted this challenge, and completed it. No, I didn’t actually count, I just figured out what my weekly average was and calculated how long I’d have to keep at it. This I did, and more. Before I reached the target however, I figured it out… and long past the target, I’m more convinced than ever.

Prayer does change things… it’s just that you don’t necessarily get the thing you’re specifically asking for. After all this time of listening to people’s troubles, aches, and pains, and praying for them — with or without laying on of hands, anointing with oil, and so forth — here are a few things I know.

  • People don’t always get healed. As a friend of mine used to say, “So turn around three times and pray again.” Jesus tells us to pray, so it’s good to keep on with it. Sometimes people do get healed… and just because they aren’t healed the first time, doesn’t mean they won’t be healed the second time. Or the 463rd time.
  • People don’t always tell you what’s really going on… but if you listen to the Holy Spirit while you pray, you can end up praying for the thing they really need regardless of what they asked for. I find people’s hearts are touched deeply in this manner.
  • When you pray for people, God always touches them in some way or another. Maybe not in the way they expect or the way you expect… and it may not even have anything to do with the reason they requested prayer at all. But when you start to recognize such a vast majority of people who go away having had a touch from God, it does tend to want to make you keep going.

So that’s it. The faith I have is that God will always do something. The final lesson is not to complain about what God isn’t doing when there’s so much to notice about what he is doing. Oh, and keep praying.

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