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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Prayer Power and PipeTheory

Here are some things that  Jesus is quoted as saying:

Jn 14:12 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do, and in fact, will do greater works than these, because I go to the Father...If in my Name you ask Me for anything I will do it." 
Jn 20:21 Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me so I send you. [then He breathed on them and said to them] Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins they are retained.
Jn 15:1 I am the Vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in Me and I in them will bear much fruit for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Mt 10:1, 7-9 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness...As you go proclaim the good news. The Kingdom of Heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals or staff; for laborers deserve their food.

Agnes Sanford begins her book Healing by saying: Healing prayer is like electricity. If you turn on a switch and a light doesn't come on you wouldn't declare "I don't believe in electricity!" You would try to figure out what the connection problem is. ...The whole universe is full of the creative energy of God, but only the amount that flows through our own being will work for us.... We doubt the willingness or the ability of God to actually produce within our lives and bodies the results that we desire. God's water of life can flow through us if the pipeline between our spirit and His Spirit is intact. If we are in harmony with God God's power can flow through us.

We looked at the issue of faith last week. We spoke of Biblical faith as having three dimensions.

1. There are "creeds," the what I believe. Do I believe Jesus has sent me, I am a branch (piping His power), that I have power to forgive sin, heal the sick and dispense with demons?
2. There is the emotional investment, what might be called faith as trust. Do I truly in my heart expect the miraculous because of my trust?
3. There is active doing the praying, preaching, exorcising and abiding. There is actually telling people the Kingdom is near (because you believe it and trust in it yourself)

Agnes Sanford recommends that we do experiments with this faith. She is very British in her empirical approach. Her assumption is that Christians need to see God working in order to believe God works. It is not meant as "putting the Lord your God to the test" which Jesus condemns when Satan tells Him to jump off the Temple. It is more like God's word through the prophet Malachi 3:10-
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus pit me to the test says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an ever flowing blessing. This is test in the sense of try it out and experience it for yourself.

She asks why Christians pray for world peace (a gargantuan prayer) when they don't even believe in the power of prayer to relieve a headache. Think of prayer as weightlifting. If you can't budge five hundred pounds off the floor you wouldn't be surprised. But if you start low enough you can find an amount that you can clear ten times. Then by adding 1% a week you gradually get stronger and stronger. Who knows, maybe some day you will reach 500?

We also said last week that faith is ecclesial--it is personal and communal--and is strengthened with others. That is why this Sunday school, like a cooking class, will be a time to practice together. A blog reader who wants to understand the Sunday School needs to have practice time with a prayer partner(s) on a regular basis. This is a practice.

Last week we meditated a bit on the image of a mother loving her baby. We said God promised that He loves us more than a mother loves her child. That He will never forget us. Ever. Does the story of God's unending Mother/Father love for you take the center place of your believing, trusting and living? We asked people to physically connect and say this to one another, to pray for one another and to let the love of God flow through us into the other person. There was a power in the room. It was not easy for some of us. Really being church together was difficult, but worth it!

We need to make the connection with Jesus stronger by being more open to Him. In a small partnership ( 2 or 3 gathered in His Name is His recommendation) begin the process of praying over one of the John texts above. Ask Jesus to make it manifest and strengthen it in your heart. Tell each other why you believe it is possible that Jesus would want to do this. Declare in a short sentence why it is reasonable to think this is His will (in His Name).  Of course Jesus would want us to abide in Him! He loves us! Of course He would want to bear fruit through us! Of course this is His will.

There is power in articulating these things. It makes it more real for us and actualizes the potential. As I say that "I am a branch" and "I am connected to the Vine Jesus" I begin to be more aware of it. As I become more aware the connection strengthens, the "pipe" opens, and the juices flow from the vine (Jesus) through the branch (me) more and more. The energy is real and, especially for people who are new to this, will often manifest as heat, tingling and other physical phenomenon. As we pray together that we believe Jesus wants to do it, can do, is doing it---we need to thank Him for this gift. Acknowledge the reality with gratitude. "Thank you Lord that you want him/her/me connected to you, as a pipe for your power, as a branch for your vine. Thank you Lord that your love is flowing through me/him/her." Now you are ready for a prayer--to remove a demonic issue, a sinful desire, a physical malady, a mental challenge, a worry or concern.

The first prayer experiments need to be simple things which are measurable. "I want more faith" is hardly something that I can prove. I want this wart to disappear is much easier (i recall that happening at a healing conference with a teenage girl who had unsuccessfully dealt with warts for a long time. She believed in Jesus more after that!). So start with a "five pound" weight. Something small and maybe almost trivial. Pray and see. As your prayer muscles move five pounds with ease, move up to six or seven... DO this with your prayer partner(s) and let the prayer partner(s) pray with you as well.
There you have it. Two or three agreeing about something in Jesus' Name and trusting He can do it and will do it. And thanking Him for doing it. And knowing it may be immediate, or it may take a bit of time--but we live by faith not by sight---so we trust Jesus at His word and celebrate with joy His salvation and deliverance.

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