Category Archives: Prayer

Having unanswered questions is no reason not to believe

In the latter half of the 1970s I worked in The Salvation Army’s Youth Department. It sometimes happened that I got to meet with small groups of pupils in their 8th year in school, while they learned about the different churches. They had their prepared questions and rarely was I surprised. But one day it happened.

They had obviously studied the life of Jesus and now the question was: ‘Are people healed today, too?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘that happens. I have never seen it myself, but I have heard about it.’ We had a little conversation on the subject and then they went back to school.

That logical and simple question disturbed me. Why did I believe in healing but yet had never seen it happen?

Off and on I explored the subject. I heard explanations like, ‘The greatest miracle is that we are saved.’ That is true, but it was also like an excuse for not entering into the issue of healing more specifically. Another type of answer related to the guilt trap –  meaning that, if I pray and healing does not happen, I will bear the guilt of someone else’s disappointment. As humans, we like to avoid guilt at any cost.

However, God led me further. It was the time of the Jesus Revival. I visited a couple of their tent meetings in the summer. Simple stories of God’s miraculous acts encouraged me. In the 1980s I joined in meetings with evangelists who preached and prayed for both spiritual and physical healing in people. The result was evident right in front of my eyes.

All of this was not without controversy. Many looked for reasons to support their unbelief and fears, instead of recognising that good things happened in Jesus’ name. It is right to be prepared for the unwise behaviour of ‘overheated’ people and for conflicts. That is why there also needs to be teams of wise leaders and counsellors involved. We should not expect the devil to let go of his hold without a fight.

To me it was important to experience God’s powerful presence and to see that people received lasting change and healing. It was a bit like making a choice of faith. I choose to believe in the power of Jesus here and now and to learn to handle the difficulties, rather than just being content with the calm life of religious activities.

One basic issue here is ‘faith’. Letting God be God. Jesus points out our part in this in several situations. Examples are the Roman Centurion and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 8:5-13 & 15:21-28). Both were non-Jewish outsiders, but Jesus referred to their faith as an important part of his ability to heal the servant and the child. However, this does not mean that people who are not healed lack faith. We should not simplify things or victimise anyone.

It is logical that our Creator God is capable of overruling the laws of nature and showing his supernatural power. Fortunately, he does not need a revival meeting in order to do his work. We can pray for God’s intervention during any coffee-break or in our homes.

I still have some of the questions that I faced 40 years ago. There is a need for healing of hurt souls as well as for the power of God to work alongside doctors. All this makes me look forward to any opportunity to pray in faith for God’s intervention in people’s lives.

This text has been published in Die Heilsarmee Magazin #10/2017

A passion for what is good

We always find time for things we like and are passionate about. Some people live with open doors. There are always people coming and going, food being eaten and conversations going on. That happens because there is a passion for people in that family. When children come with their friends and empty the fridge it might disturb plans a bit, but parents with a passion for relationships accept it.

I usually find time for a morning walk in a city I am visiting and have no problem attending to my plants on the balcony. These things are an extension of who I am – I am curious and I like flowers and to taste sweet home-grown tomatoes. When I talk about passion in this context, it is a positive force for good. It is not a passion that makes me selfish or that harms others. It is within my power to control it so it will benefit me and people around me.

What we now call the Christian Church, people who walk with Jesus, came into existence because God put a passion in the hearts of the disciples. The Holy Spirit came into them personally and into their fellowship and suddenly there were no problems at all with telling the world about Jesus. Even a prohibition from the top Jewish leadership, which forbade them to speak about who Jesus really is, was ignored. They just couldn’t help sharing about what they had seen and heard and what it meant to others.

This life in us, this passion, should still be our motivation. I know that there are moments and days when I don’t like doing what has to be done. There are situations when I act more from my sense of duty than living out a passion. But if duty and pressure from others is your main motivation, then you seriously need to look at changing that.

We get some good advice from chapter 5 in the book Journey of Renewal. In the Message translation, Jesus is quoted as saying: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

How do we learn “the rhythms of grace”? How do we get passion back into our lives? The answer is not about doing an activity. The answer is simply – spending time with Jesus. Prayer is one of my favourite ways of spending time with Jesus and with the whole family of God – Father, Son and Spirit. The fruit of that personal relationship is that I easily get inspired praying for and with others.

It might not be part of your personality to be passionate about prayer. Don’t let that stop you understanding that there is both a need and a way to develop your prayer fellowship with God. You will get some inspiration from this magazine. If you lack passion, your only and simple prayer for the following weeks can be just this: “Dear God, take me on the road with you where I will receive passion from the Holy Spirit in my prayers.”

This text has been published in Die Heilsarmee magazin #8/2017

Playing games and praying

I like to be part of events when there is time to mingle with people and see what conversations can turn into. The Holy Spirit is a wonderful guide in these situations.

One such situation happened in Klaipeda, Lithuania, during the visit of the world leader of The Salvation Army, General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox. (You can read a report from that weekend here in English and German.)

On Sunday afternoon we all took part in the family fun and fellowship that the corps holds on their premises. This was the second time. The whole meeting hall is made into a play area, with quieter games in a smaller room. Refreshments are served and adults can sit around and talk or take part in the games. Invitations to these days are shared with and through people who come to the second-hand clothes store, which is held in the same place every month.

Raching out for good things.

Reaching out for good things.

All local leaders and visiting officers (including the General and Commissioner Cox) wore yellow T-shirts with a big logo and were very active in the games and conversations.

I roamed around joining in games and tried some small talk with parents and kids in a language in which we could both manage to say a few sentences. I was especially encouraged by two short exchanges with dads which I will share with you. The conversations were different but both situations were clearly led by God.

With one father I had a general conversation. He had been to England to learn English, he liked to go sailing and I shared a little about who I am, etc. That was as far as we got. But after a while I found he had started to read a book that was displayed. It was the book “Words of Life”, which has short, daily thoughts on living with God. I would have guessed he has a good life but obviously he was looking for more than “good” and only God knows all.blogg-2

The other man also spoke some English. He worked as a lorry driver in Germany. When he mentioned the city he lived in, I said that we have a Salvation Army fellowship in that city. But then I caught some sadness, almost worry in his expression when he said he is in Klaipeda now because he can’t work due to problem with his back.

Instantly the thought came to my mind and I asked him without thinking twice: “Will you let me pray to God for your back?” His answer was also instant and without hesitation: “Yes.” So there we stood among the bouncing balls and happy children’s voices and I just simply prayed to God to heal his back so that he could go back to work.

It can be tempting in a situation like this not to dare taking the risk of praying because it might not turn out as we hope. But I have learned from Jesus that it is my duty only to obey the guidance of God and the rest is his responsibility. God always uses prayers that come out of love and in Spirit and truth for something good.

God knows fully the situation of every person. His presence always makes a difference for the good, whether it is exposing hidden sins, increasing our joy or leading us as we bring his presence, his Kingdom, his righteousness into this world.

During the two hours of fun in Klaipeda I was reminded of how a joyful fellowship is one of God’s best methods to let people taste the goodness of being his Child.

To Children it is a game also to clear up. They didn't want to go home.

To children, cleaning up is also a game. They didn’t want to go home.