The spiritual gifts and the gift of prophecy demonstrate how everyone can “only do what the Father does” – that means you!
Last time, we talked about our ability to do as Jesus did: to only do what the Father does.
Today, I want to follow on from that, by giving you a really practical example of how this can work out in everyday life.
As we discussed last time, Jesus used multiple spiritual gifts (also known as gifts of the Holy Spirit) when he met the woman at the well. This led her into a deep encounter with God, which in turn, resulted in a miracle.
Jesus was demonstrating how to live life according to the Spirit, in the moment. My heart’s desire is that this would be our way of life too, in every area.
With the bible story of the Samaritan woman, we can see how Jesus did it. But sometimes it’s difficult to give concrete examples from our own experience, to illustrate the point.
This is because everyone is unique and God speaks through different people in different ways.
However, there’s one area where I think it’s relatively easy to provide examples: in prayer ministry.
One of the things I love most in life, is praying for other people.
I count it as an enormous privilege to touch people’s lives in prayer ministry, because I know that it makes such a difference.
This is one aspect of the Christian life that never ceases to amaze me: when we pray, God is moved to answer.
It’s not that prayer, in and of itself, necessarily makes a difference, but prayer is what connects people to God. And he is the one with real power to change everything.
As Pete Greig once tweeted, “I don’t believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of God. So I pray. A lot.”
“I don’t believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of God. So I pray. A lot.” – Pete Greig
Praying for people sets up a spiritual connection: prophecy even more so.
Why? Because when we prophesy on someone’s behalf, we receive something of God’s heart for that person.
On top of the message itself, we impart something of God’s spirit to them, as well.
In other words, when we use the spiritual gifts, we become a conduit of God’s love for that person. Even as we bring a message of love, we experience something of that love ourselves. So everyone is blessed!
Both those prayed for, and those who pray, become partakers in the divine nature.
To my mind, if people go away feeling loved, then we’ve done our job. That’s true even if a prophecy doesn’t resonate with them, or they didn’t get healed (or whatever it was they were seeking).
So when I had the opportunity to join our church prayer ministry team, I jumped at it.
Over several years of being part of this team, the Lord has taught me so much. Partly about spiritual gifts and the gift of prophecy, but mostly about how to watch what he is doing.
Specifically, he has taught me 4 lessons, which I’ll share with you here.
If we want to minister to people in prayer, we need to use the right tools.
Those tools are represented in the spiritual gifts, as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (and elsewhere):
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, then the chances are you’ve taken one of those tests to find out “what’s my spiritual gift?”. But whatever gift we have is for the service of the Kingdom of God: for others, not just ourselves.
Spiritual gifts are there to empower us to serve. We can seek to apply these gifts in prayer, when ministering to others.
In the absence of the spiritual gifts, prayer would not be as effective as it is. More than that, I believe that without the spiritual gifts, prayer ministry would be completely worthless…
To defend the above statement, I would ask the following question:
Who can doubt the requirement for faith in prayer ministry?
James 5:16 tells us this:
“The prayer of a righteous person [one who knows God and is forgiven, through faith] is powerful and effective” (italics, my paraphrase).
Remember, the prayer spoken in faith is what heals (James 5) and “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
More than anything else, it is our faith that speaks to God and stirs him to answer our prayers. So, at a minimum, we need the gift of faith to be able to minister to others.
But it goes much further than that.
The second lesson the Lord has taught me is that one or two gifts of the spirit are not always enough, to do all that he wants to achieve, through us.
In other words, we don’t just need tools, we need a toolbox!
I have a toolbox at home. It’s bursting at the seams with all the tools I have accumulated over the years, for different jobs around the house.
I have tackled everything from rewiring a plug (when we still needed to do that), to fitting a door (not my favourite!). And for each new task, I needed a specialist tool to help me get it done.
It’s the same with prayer ministry:
I often envisage myself carrying round just such a toolbox, with all the tools (spiritual gifts) I could possibly need for any situation.
When it comes time to pray for someone, or simply obey Holy Spirit’s prompting, I select the right tool for the job.
And what I have found is that I often require more than one tool or spiritual gift.
For example, someone might come and ask for healing, but I may find that something else is going on instead.
I’ve been in situations where it started off with me praying for requested healing, but then things like this happened:
If I assumed that God only wanted to answer their initial question, then they would have missed out on the fullness of the blessing that they eventually received. And my faith would not have been boosted in quite the same way, either.
I don’t know about you, but I want all the gifts!
Not so that I can boast, but because I want to be prepared for any and every situation the Lord wants to send me into.
I want to grow in my understanding of the gifts I have, and learn how to use the others I haven’t experienced yet.
I want to be the best I can possibly be, for you and for others: and I want you to be the best you can be, for me and for others.
So the lesson from this is:
Seek all the spiritual gifts.
Don’t ask the Lord, “what’s my gift?”, instead ask him: “What are my gifts?” (plural).
Ask him, “What gifts do you want me to have or use, right now?”
People are free only to the extent that they give their lives over to God.
King David sought the Lord in great detail about almost every area of his life. I say almost. He fell in the one area that he didn’t hand over: sex.
This is a potential weakness for all of us. The spiritual life is about continually increasing dependence on God, which involves surrendering more and more of ourselves to him. This is what sanctification means.
People are free only to the extent that they give their lives over to God.
However, we all have areas of our lives which, like David, we try to hold back and keep hidden from the Lord.
Which specific areas are affected will vary from person to person. Money, sex and power (to name but a few of them) affect all of us in different ways.
That’s why Christians can be oppressed by the enemy. But it’s not something for us to fear, it’s something for us to grapple with.
We have been given authority over all the works of the devil, so our prayers really can set each other free.
So in one sense, our prayers for others can only be as effective as people allow it. But when we pray and use the spiritual gifts as Holy Spirit directs, he is able to break through into people’s lives, in ways we can’t always foresee.
You see, there’s a difference between sympathy and empathy. And the way we involve ourselves with others affects the way we pray for them.
Sympathy without compassion is useless: it’s just saying “there, there”, bringing no real change.
If you share your difficulties with me and I say “I’m sorry to hear that”, but leave it there, then I’m not helping you at all!
When we combine human sympathy with God’s compassion, we get something much better. We get empathy (in my interpretation of the word).
Sympathy + Compassion = Empathy
To use an analogy, if I see you stuck in a hole, I can do one of two things:
Don’t get me wrong, sympathy is vital: the people we pray for need to know we are listening to them.
However, we need God’s love and compassion for them, because he wants the very best for them, not just something “good”.
So this is why we need to watch what Holy Spirit does, and keep on watching, while we pray.
We watch and listen to Holy Spirit so we won’t miss which gifts he wants us to use. People can then be set free, effectively.
However, becoming more sensitive to Holy Spirit can start even before we get into prayer itself.
For example, when I’m part of the prayer team on a Sunday morning, we often stand at either the front or back of the church.
As I look out over the congregation, Holy Spirit has been teaching me how to watch him.
Sometimes, I see Holy Spirit “hovering” over people. I can’t really describe precisely what I mean by this, because I’m seeing with my spiritual eyes.
He may simply direct my gaze to a particular person. Other times, it’s like I see the presence of Holy Spirit in their lives. Either way, I see something which indicates his activity over, or in them, in some way or another.
When this happens, I know from experience that he either wants me to go over to pray for them, or he is going to bring them to me.
Therefore, I wait a minute and pray quietly for that person, seeking what he wants to do: sometimes he asks me to go over to them. More often, they get out of their seat and make a beeline for me.
I’m saying all this to try to illustrate the kinds of things Holy Spirit wants to do through us.
It’s also important to say that this didn’t happen overnight, but over a period of time. It happened as I learned to partner with Holy Spirit as I pray for others, through practice.
I view this as a direct working out of the gift of prophecy he has given me.
Your gifting may be quite different to mine, but Holy Spirit wants to work uniquely through you, too. As I mentioned earlier, he speaks to each of us in very different ways.
Ask the Lord how he wants to use you and how you can learn to become more sensitive to what he is doing and saying.
The answer may surprise you!
IMO, the church needs to wake up and use the tools – the spiritual gifts – that we have been given!
Worship is the biggest key.
Sometimes getting someone we are praying for to worship for themselves, is the best gift we can give them.
But the spiritual gifts and strategies we have available to us need to be applied, as the Lord directs.
In our church, we have other tools available, aside from the spiritual gifts themselves.
This includes programs and tools such as:
Of course, each of these programs still involves the use of spiritual gifts.
However, the basis of all of these tools, programs and indeed, the spiritual gifts themselves, is to walk according to the Spirit: to only do what we see the father doing.
I hope that today, I have given you some examples of how you can learn to follow his detailed direction, in a practical way.
In prayer, let’s not “just pray” for each other. Let’s minister deeply to one another, from the Holy Spirit.
Beyond that, let’s take the lessons we learn from using spiritual gifts in prayer ministry and apply them to the whole of life.
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