As some of you may know, Aline, Moira and myself recently did an eight week course on Christian Healing and Wholeness at Goudhurst Church.
It was a really helpful and interesting course, lead by two members of the Goudhurst congregation – Faye, a lady GP and her husband Wes, whose work involved computers and data analysis.
They had both written the course after several years of studying Christian healing and of their own practical experience.
A couple of things we were taught really struck me, and this morning I’d like to share these with you as they have relevance for all Christians and indeed for anyone who has a healing need.
The first session covered looking at what the bible says about healing and at how Jesus healed people; and the second session, at our own part – as Christians - in God’s plans to heal people.
Wes said that as a younger Christian he’d prayed for quite a few people to be healed but with limited success. This resonated with me because I’ve also prayed for quite a few people to be healed – but also with limited success.
For instance, I prayed with my former boss at work three times for his ears to be healed from Tinnitus – but with no apparent effect whatsoever.
Oddly enough later on in the course we learned about how being a Freemason can have a very negative spiritual influence over people’s lives – and my boss was a freemason for a number of years – so maybe that was part of the reason my prayer didn’t work. I don’t know.
Anyway, given his limited success, Wes decided that he’d look again at how Jesus prayed for people to be healed and he realised that when Jesus prayed for people, he didn’t pray prayers of supplication asking his Father to heal them.
He didn’t pray Father God have mercy on this person and touch them with your healing power - as we are inclined to do.
Instead, he always spoke words of authority or gave people instructions. For instance, he said to the Leper – “Be clean.”
He said to the paralytic man – “Get up take your mat and go home.”
He said to the man with the withered hand – “Stretch out your hand.”
He said to Jairus’s daughter “Little girl I say to you get up.”
He rebuked demons and the fever which was afflicting Peter’s mother in law.
Wes and Faye pointed out that Jesus healed people by speaking words of authority over people’s sicknesses and diseases, over demons and even death.
Now you might think – well it was alright for him - he was God’s son. But the thing I learned on the course which really struck me is that as Christians we share in the authority of Jesus.
Let me try and explain. You see, as Christians, Jesus lives in us and we live in him. The Holy Spirit who lives in us – is exactly the same Holy Spirit who lived in Jesus and who empowered him to perform the miracles he did.
And as Christians we are Jesus’ physical body in the world. We are his hands and feet and eyes – and as we submit to him and seek to reach out to others in his name, he gives his authority to us. He gives us authority to speak and to act in his name.
And this is why I chose this morning’s gospel reading from Matthew – because in it we read about Jesus giving his disciples authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
Notice that, authority to heal every disease and sickness. There is no disease or sickness which is too hard for Jesus to heal.
Faye explained that as a GP – a Doctor – she has been given authority by the General Medical Council to write prescriptions. That authority is hers.
And in the same way, as Christians, Jesus gives us authority over demons and disease and sickness.
So, when we pray for people to be healed or to be set free from infirmity – we need to recognise this authority and seek to exercise it in Jesus’ name.
So, when we pray for healing for someone, we’re not so much praying a prayer of supplication - imploring God to heal them; we’re recognising and exercising the authority which Jesus has given to us.
We’re seeking to speak and to act in Jesus’ name – as he would.
Wes said when he recognised this, the words he used when praying for people changed and his prayers for healing started to become more effective.
We can pray a prayer of supplication before we address a healing need. For instance, Lord Jesus we invite you to come now with your healing power and to touch so and so’s life.
But then ideally, we should address the sickness or condition we are praying for. For instance, I say to you damaged knee – in the name of Jesus be healed and made whole. Be knit together and restored.
Or I say to you Arthritis in Jesus name, leave this wrist; depart and be gone; full movement without pain be restored in Jesus’ name.
Faye encouraged us to picture in our mind’s eye what complete healing might look like in the situation we are facing and to seek to pray it into being.
It can seem a bit strange and almost presumptuous praying like this, but we are seeking to speak and to act as Jesus would – in his name.
Wes and Faye stressed that when someone comes with a healing need, we should always try and listen to what God may be saying, as sometimes there may be other needs in a person’s life which first need to be addressed.
This is particularly true where a person’s relationships are in disrepair and there is perhaps a need for forgiveness or reconciliation.
Of course, we won’t always be successful when we pray. Sometimes people will experience healing and perhaps a feeling of warmth on the afflicted area; sometimes they may experience partial healing; and sometimes there may be no apparent effect. But we can at least give it a go.
By doing so we are being obedient to verse 8 of today’s gospel reading where Jesus tells us to go out into the world and; “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Wes and Faye emphasised that we are all on a journey and learning all the time. We’re all wearing L plates.
They also stressed that perseverance is important. Jesus prayed twice before a man’s sight was fully restored in Mark Chapter 8 and we may need to pray for people several times before they are fully healed.
There’s a great little series of videos on You Tube about Healing called the Normal Christian Life – and in one of them called ‘Watch her leg grow out’ - a young man prays four or five times for a stall holder’s wrist to be healed from Arthritis before it’s fully healed.
Each time he prays there is a small improvement. Its actually quite funny because the stall holder says “Listen mate, I appreciate your concern but we could be here all day doing this.” In the end though his wrist is completely healed because the young man perseveres.
The other thing we learned about in the course which made a particular impression on me, was Words of Knowledge. Words of Knowledge are a spiritual gift mentioned in today’s reading from 1 Corinthians.
They are a bite sized piece of information which God imparts to us through his Spirit, and they can be particularly helpful in a healing context, as God can highlight specific healing needs that he wants to address.
And this is why we are now waiting on God before some services and praying for Words of Knowledge.
Words of Knowledge can be little pictures in our mind’s eye. For instance, at Café Church last month when we were waiting on God, I saw a little picture in my mind’s eye of a patch of skin which wasn’t quite right and I sensed there was a person who was concerned about this.
It really was a brief little glimpse – but Wes and Faye encouraged us to share anything like this as it might be important to someone – as indeed it proved to be.
Words of Knowledge can also be specific names or places or professions or diseases which come into our minds as a thought.
Sometimes we may even see words highlighted in our mind’s eye when we see someone. John Wimber who was a well-known American evangelist recounts in a book how he saw the word ‘Adultery’ written across the forehead of a guy he was sitting next to on an aeroplane.
They ended up having quite an interesting chat about relationships.
Words of Knowledge can also be felt as a sympathy pain – where you feel a specific pain in an area of your body – which someone else is experiencing.
For instance, in the session where we covered them, we were all encouraged to be still and wait on God and then share anything we felt God might be saying.
I was sitting there relaxing and trying to be conscious of my body when I felt a pain at the base of my wrist. It only lasted a second or two then went. But then it happened again – so I thought I’d better share it.
It turned out the lady next to me had a pain in this exact spot – as in fact did a guy behind me.
We prayed for both of them – and the lady’s wrist pain disappeared. I’m not sure about the guy as I didn’t ask.
We’ve waited on God a couple of times now – at Café Church last month and at the joint service at Lamberhurst on 29th December. A few people have responded to specific words and have experienced various degrees of healing.
As I said earlier Aline, Moira, and I, are all really new to this and we are by no means experts. We are all learning but we are seeking to be obedient to God.
In time we’d love to see not just Brenchley Church but also perhaps Matfield, Horsmonden and Lamberhurst Churches become places where through Words of Knowledge, people start to realise that Jesus is alive and real and that he cares about their situations and wants to heal or help them in some way.
So, to tie up what I want to say this morning – firstly, if you are a Christian – realise the authority that Jesus gives you to speak and to act in his name.
Although healing may not be your main area of interest or service – do bear it in mind as a possibility if you encounter situations where people are open to being prayed for.
And secondly, when we were waiting on God at the joint service at Lamberhurst we felt that God was saying that he wanted anyone with any sort of need to come to him – not just those to whom a Word of Knowledge applied.
We can’t promise that God will always answer our prayers in the way we might hope but we believe that he loves you and cares for you and that he wants to touch your life for good in some way.
So, if a Word of Knowledge applies to you – or if you have any sort of prayer need do come and see us after the service and we’ll be very pleased to pray for you.
As usual there will be the opportunity to ask me questions after the next song – but I’ll close now with a time of quiet prayer and reflection – where you can share anything that my talk may have raised or anything that is on your heart, with God. So, let’s all pray quietly for a few moments.