Prayer Ministry in the church has been something that the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement has highlighted in recent years. This goes hand in hand with the belief that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to today’s church. This is an area we need to consider carefully as it has an impact on the pastoral care of God’s people. We shall see below that one has to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading as we minister to other people. There are several models of prayer ministry, some churches take those who are being prayed for to another room whereas most churches pray for people during the worship time at the close of the service, with people coming forward or going to some appropriate part of the main sanctuary. But my concern here is not with the mechanics of what we do but rather with the principles. at the end of this post I will also mention the Teaching of James about the role of the elders in praying for the sick.
I believe that is right and proper to pray with people at the close of a service for a fresh filling with the Holy Spirit, for guidance and for physical and emotional healing. When God’s people are gathered together the gifts of the Holy spirit’s gifts are to be used according to the teaching of 1 Corinthians:12-14, this means that there must be opportunities during the service to use the gifts as God wants them to be used.
During prayer ministry the gift of prophecy is often used, shedding light on the situation into which one is praying. Any prophetic word should be tested by Scripture both by those giving and those receiving the word. to encourage people to test the word. We should not use the expression “thus says the Lord”, this gives the distinct impression of infallibility which we do not possess. It is helpful to say everything in a gentle manner, so that the person is encouraged to seek the Lord for themselves and so that they don’t feel that a word was thrust down their throat.
We should pray with people in an expectancy that God will respond to our prayers,but we can never dictate to god how he should act, his ways are higher than our ways. For instance when we pray for somebody to be filled with the Holy Spirit sometimes we can instantly see the difference in a person on other occasions God works very gently, whatever the Holy Spirit does he will always do for the good of the person we have prayed for. sometimes when we pray for healing we see immediate results,on other occasions God heals gradually. We must honour the Sovereignty of God in these situations. The key question in our mind is “what does God want to do for this person?” so often we bring our own agenda to times of prayer.
Sometimes there are physical manifestations in the people we are praying for and on other occasions there are not. If people fall or tremble or manifest the power of God on them in some other tangible way that is great but there is the danger that we will see this as a mark of spirituality. We should avoid in this context any manipulative practices that will cause people to act in a way that responds to what we want. The constant asking of questions like “can you feel anything?” followed by “can you feel anything yet?” is most unhelpful. this type of questioning focuses the attention of the person being prayed for on their own feelings instead of upon the Lord.
We should not be quick to judge people and what happens to them, we should be very careful not to imply that a person’s lack of faith is the cause of their not being healed. the Gospel accounts of Jesus and the way he healed show very clearly that he very often healed people with little faith.
It is good to pray in teams of two people this allows for one to be praying and the other to be listening. It is helpful in a mixed congregation for each of the teams to be made up of a man and a woman, thereby helping to avoid embarrassing situations. Sometimes it will be right for a man or men to pray with a man and a woman with a woman.
However we pray we should be seeking the blessing of God upon the person’s life and they should feel loved and accepted at all times. This is most important when we have to challenge sinful behaviour, the person must feel that everything done in the prayer time came from a heart of love.
We should see the opportunity to pray with others as a joy and privilege not as task that must be done.
Elders and praying for the sick; the Apostle James said,
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
The elders are to be called for by those needing prayer for healing and the Lord promises to work through the elders to bring healing. I cannot stress too strongly the need on the part of the believer to call the elders. sometimes thee is an expectancy that the elders will ask if they can come to pray, this is not the scriptural order however. Being the elder of a local church I know the joy that we feel when we are called to pray for the sick. We should never hide behind the excuse that the elders are busy people and we don’t want to bother them. The elders of any church will want the members of the church to call them because it is a great privilege to pray for healing.
Our God is a God who delights to heal, we find accounts of God healing scattered throughout the Bible, he has not changed therefore it is a great privilege to be used by him to bring his healing grace to others.