Intensive Prayer Sessions

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-24

At our church we have an intensive prayer ministry where one can schedule a 2-3 hour prayer session with our prayer team members. These sessions are all about a person taking the next step in being sanctified “through and through” in their “spirit, soul and body.” We use an integrated approach because we try to address the whole person. It’s also an integrated approach because we as prayer ministers try to use every spiritual gift and tool available to us in order to help the person we are praying for. Our goal is: 1) that they feel loved (by us and by the Father) and, 2) that they walk away more free than they walked in. If we do those two things, we’ve been successful.

In order for a person to feel loved by us, we have to operate with care and compassion. We employ the supernatural gifts of the Spirit (listed in 1 Corinthians 12) and we do so in ways that are careful and kind.

In order for a person to feel loved by the Father, we must facilitate an encounter with the tangible Presence of God. Just knowing, in one’s head, that God loves you is a good first step but is often insufficient in bringing life-change and freedom. As prayer ministers we are responsible for ushering the person into God’s tangible Presence. This means that we move beyond a mere head-knowledge of God’s love into a place where the person actually experiences God’s love. This can show up emotionally as the Spirit touches a person’s heart. It can also show up physically, as they tangibly experience God’s Presence in their body.

In order to facilitate a divine encounter, we must utilize every heavenly resource and every spiritual gift available to us. Practically speaking, this means moving through five major avenues of encounter. These are the five main ways that God puts His love on display and makes His love real for the person receiving prayer.

  1. Prophetic Words: In the morning before we pray for an individual, we ask the Lord, “How do you see this person?” Then we wait and listen to what the Spirit has to say. We write down thoughts and images that come to mind that we sense are not our own. These are words from the Lord or sometimes called “prophetic words.” Listening to the Spirit like this takes practice. But the more you do it, the more accurate you become (as is the case with nearly every other spiritual gift). After a brief orientation, we deliver these words to the person and tell them to “eat the meat; spit out the bones.” In other words, we’ve done our part in listening and telling, now you do your part and discern what is truly from the Lord.
  2. Inner Healing: After we give the prophetic words, we usually move into a time of praying for inner healing. This is when we address things like heart wounds, unforgiveness, harsh words spoken over a person’s life (especially by those in authority), generational sin and curses, fears, sexual brokenness, addictions, etc. These are areas where the enemy likes to attack people. If these are not addressed, they function like open doors and windows in a person’s life allowing the enemy easy access to wreak havoc. Most of our prayer time is spent on these. People experience tremendous release and healing as we pray through these issues.
  3. Deliverance: While inner healing must come first, sometimes we recognize (either through demonic physical manifestations in a person’s body or just through the gift of discerning the spirits) that the enemy has not only attacked a particular part of a person’s life but has actually infiltrated it. Deliverance ministry is when, in the authority of Jesus, we function as police officers commanding demonic spirits “off of” or “out of” a person’s life. If a spirit is simply “attached” to a person (picture a vulture with its talons dug in someone’s back), we command it to get “off” in Jesus’s name. If a spirit has gotten “into” a person (picture a thief hiding out in one room of a person’s house), then we command it to get “out” in Jesus’s name. If a person is heavily demonized, we often see strong physical manifestations occur at this point as the demon never wants to leave. So in its attempts to stay, it causes bodily sensations, bodily pain, or bodily movements. In extreme cases, it will try to take over a person’s face and voice. But, in many cases, demonization is only at the level of “attachment,” and these things simply lift off a person at the name of Jesus.
  4. Physical Healing: We also like to address people’s physical needs during these prayer sessions. There are two kinds of physical ailments that we address. The first is simply a physical illness or injury caused by something natural. In these cases, we pray for Jesus to come and physically heal what is broken. We’ve seen the incredible healing of the Lord get poured out as we prayed and people could feel the sensation of heat while Jesus was healing them.
    The second kind of physical ailment is when the physical illness or injury is caused (or prolonged) by a “spirit of affliction.” These little demonic spirits are assigned to cause people bodily pain or sickness. Once they are cast out, the pain or sickness ends. It’s fairly easy to determine if it is a spirit of affliction causing the problem because, as soon as you start praying for healing, the issue worsens or suddenly moves. I’ve seen neck pain “move” to the shoulder as we prayed and then to the arm. This indicated that it was not a physical cause but a spirit causing the issue. As we commanded it to leave, it went down the arm and out the finger tips.
  5. Impartation: We sometimes (not always) conclude our prayer sessions with impartation. Impartation prayer is when we recognize that the Lord either wants to give this person a brand new gift of the Holy Spirit or He wants to fan into flame what is already there. So as we pray we ask the Lord to freely do in them and give to them what He has freely done in us and given to us. We essentially ask the Holy Spirit to fill this person to overflow, ignite the gifts that exist in them already, and pour out new gifts to them. If this concept is new to you, here are some scripture verses to check out (Matthew 10:8; Numbers 11:16-7, 24-25; Deut 34:9; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).

By the end of these prayer sessions, I’ve seen people radically transformed by an encounter with God. Usually, at least two of the above avenues of encounter end up being really profound for the person to experience. Occasionally, we have people who get profoundly impacted by all five avenues of encounter. Those prayer sessions are really memorable. The person is never the same after that. When we have a tangible encounter with the Lord, it’s nearly impossible to ever be the same again.

Understanding Physical Healing

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. 

2 Kings 20:1-6

We can learn so many things from this dramatic healing of King Hezekiah. First, prayer changes things. I don’t like it when people say, “Prayer doesn’t change things; it changes us.” Nope. Prayer does both.

Hezekiah got a direct word from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die from the illness he had. Then, Hezekiah cried out to the Lord and the Lord healed him. Prayer matters. Prayer for physical healing matters. The fatalistic idea that “God’s going to do what God’s going to do” is a poor understanding of God’s sovereignty. God has chosen to be in covenant relationship with His people, which means that what we pray and what we ask for in prayer has an effect on things.

Secondly, most people don’t understand the connection between “small” healings and “big” healings. All miraculous healings are “big” in the sense that God chooses to divinely heal. But what I mean is that people don’t seem to care much about physical healing until they or someone they love is in Hezekiah’s position with an illness that is heading toward death.

I’ve encountered this attitude with people in my own church and people I’ve talked to about physical healing. They ask me why I think praying for physical healing is so important. They always use the argument that it is more important that people get saved and experience the loving community of the church than it is that they get physically healed. But this argument borders on gnosticism (an early heresy that thinks “spiritual” things are of ultimate importance while “physical” things don’t matter).

When a person doesn’t understand why I get so excited about “small” healings like a injured knee getting healed or a migraine problem going away, I start asking them about whether they would have that same cavalier attitude about stage 4 cancer getting healed or someone with traumatic brain injury getting healed. In every case, the person who was relatively indifferent about physical healing two seconds ago suddenly agrees that physical healing in those situations is supremely important. And what becomes clear is that they don’t understand the connection between the knee getting healed and the cancer getting healed. Most people don’t.

First of all, Jesus did not make this distinction between small and big healings. He healed blindness and He healed fevers. He raised the dead and He healed crippled hands. Jesus treated sickness as an attack on the body that God created. Whether it was a fever or blindness, Jesus wanted it gone.

Secondly, any spiritual gift must be used faithfully in order for it to grow. We accept this as a truth of the Kingdom when it comes to gifts like teaching or hospitality. We intuitively understand the parable of the talents applies not just to our financial resources but also to how we steward our spiritual gifts. This line of the parable should be ringing in our ears, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things“(Matthew 25:23).

The gift of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9) is no different. As we are faithful to pray for smaller physical needs and see God heal those, our faith grows. As we are faithful with “smaller” miracles, God can begin to trust us with “bigger” ones. When the apostle Paul talks about spiritual gifts in Romans 12, he teaches that we operate in our gifts in accordance with our faith (Romans 12:6). So while different gifts are given simply by God’s grace, we grow in these gifts by faith. We must exercise our faith as we use our gifts in order to mature in them.

So, when it comes to gifts of healing, praying for the “smaller” healings is what prepares you and your faith for the day you pray for life-threatening illnesses. Indifference toward small healing is a recipe for powerlessness and doubt when you need a big miracle. This is how all spiritual gifts work. If you’ve never preached to a group of 200 people, you wouldn’t assume you could step into a stadium full of people and preach an amazing sermon to thousands. Yet, this is exactly how we treat healing prayer.

Someone might say, “But couldn’t God move powerfully anyway?” Yes! Of course He could. He could also help that person who’s never preached to preach an incredibly powerful and moving sermon to a stadium full of people. God loves to do that! But on our end, we are being irresponsible and arrogant if we are relying on God’s sovereignty to bail us out of our indifference.

Paul’s advice to his protege Timothy was, “…be prepared in season and out of season…”(2 Timothy 4:2). This advice applies to all the spiritual gifts. And when it comes to healing, being prepared means we are praying for small and big miracles alike. It means we grow in our ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance in healing prayer. It means we are seeing “small” healings happen and allowing those to build our faith.

So we celebrate every healing, big or small, because it is a tangible expression of God’s grace. We pursue and celebrate the healing of every disease, big or small, because healing is a sign of God’s Kingdom breaking into this world. We pray for healing because it is an act of love and compassion that was modeled for us by Jesus. Cavalier indifference toward physical healing is an unbiblical and irresponsible reaction that dishonors Jesus’s activity in the world.

What was important to Jesus should be important to us as His followers. And clearly, from reading the Gospels, physical healing was extremely important to Jesus.

Is it important to you? Who have you prayed for recently?