And the prayer offered in faith will make the person well: the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:15a)
The following is the second of a three-post installment about how to go about praying for someone who is sick:
As I wrote in my previous post, it is important to ask the person for whom you have gathered to pray to state specifically what it is they would like prayer for. This is an important step for several reasons. First, it clarifies the reason for prayer and will bring to light any misunderstandings those who have gathered to pray may have. Second, it often reveals something important in the way the person talks about their illness and any specific concerns they have. Their facial expressions or body language can tell you things that their words cannot. So make note not only of what they say, but how they say it.
Also, if you have been requested to pray for a physical condition which is accompanied by pain, ask the person to identify, before you begin praying about it, the level of pain they are currently experiencing, on a scale of one to ten. Later, when you pause in prayer so that you can ask the person whether they’ve experienced any improvement, they can quantify it for you.
Whether you know the person for whom you are praying well or not, it is also helpful to inquire about their family background. Take nothing for granted. Ask about whether there is a history ofalcoholism, drug abuse, depression or any notable event in the life of their family of origin which may have had an injurious or negative effect on them. What you are seeking to learn is whether there are patterns or incidents which could have contributed to their present illness. Growing up under difficult circumstances or having experienced something traumatic can have an adverse effect on a person’s physical health, even if the connection does not seem readily obvious.
In addition, you may want to inquire as to whether they, or anyone else in their family, has ever participated in any occult activities. You don’t need to ask this of every person you pray for, but be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit – and if the Spirit leads you in this direction, make an inquiry. Occult activity could be anything from having a fortune read by a fortune teller, participating in a séance, playing board or video games in which spells are cast, the dead called upon, or “magic” incantations are used – to participating in satanic rituals. There is nothing about calling on “spirits” that is harmless, even if done in jest. To participate in any way in any of these activities means you’ve opened a door to the presence of evil. Even a history of family participation in secret societies, such as the Masons, can be a problem because any organization or person to which we or loved ones have pledged allegiance, ahead of Jesus Christ, is idolatrous and may have opened the door for spiritual oppression to set in. (See Ephesians 6).
However, an affirmative answer to these questions should not be a cause for alarm. Instead it is an opportunity, provided by the Holy Spirit, for the person for whom you are praying to be set free of anything that does not allow the Lord free and unhindered access to the whole of their life. Furthermore, the solution to this problem is quite simple: ask the person to renounce, in the name of Jesus Christ, whatever they have done. This is similar to what we all do when we are baptized. Once they renounce any activity of this sort, they are released from any hold participating in such an activity allowed over their life. We can all take comfort in the fact that there is great power in the name of Jesus Christ.
Unforgiveness is also something that hinders God’s access to our lives. So once again, if the Holy Spirit should prompt you, ask the person whether there is someone in their life whom they have not forgiven, and if so, invite them to declare their forgiveness in Jesus’ name. If they have difficulty doing so, gently remind him or her that forgiving is a choice made in obedience to God’s command – and a key component in the Lord’s Prayer – and they don’t need to wait until they feel like forgiving. It is an act of the will, not a feeling. Unforgiveness can lead to physical, as well as emotional illness, so it is something that may need to be explored when praying for healing.
Once you are ready to begin praying specifically about the person’s illness, take a moment to listen and see if the Holy Spirit has a word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8) for you. A word of knowledge is a piece of information given to us by the Holy Spirit, something we would have no way of uncovering on our own. It is given in the form of a mental image, word or some kind of symbol which relates directly to the person and their physical condition for which you have gathered to pray. If you think the Holy Spirit has given you a word of knowledge, test it out by asking the person about it. If you think it might cause the person embarrassment, you can simply say, “I know this sounds really odd, but by any chance does ________ mean anything to you?” If it doesn’t, then just go on. If it does, ask the person to tell you about it. It may be the very thing you need to know, which will get to the root of their problem.
It is also helpful to pray about character or behavioral traits passed on to the person by their family of origin. Attitudes, habits, appetites and thought-patterns, in addition to genes, can be passed on from generation to generation, some of which may need to be transformed, spiritually. So we can pray, asking Jesus to place his cross between the person and anything they’ve “inherited” but which does not line up with Jesus’ character and behavior. At the same time we can also pray for actual genes, asking that any harmful mutations be made whole. By prayerfully placing the cross of Jesus between a person and their parents and ancestors we are asking Jesus to purify or transform anything they’ve inherited which is either unwholesome or unhealthy, and to bless all that is good.
Next week: the third (and concluding) part of how to pray for healing.