I am sharing the insights of Jim Glennon's book each Sunday morning. This serves as a written summary of chapters 2&3 with my own comments interspersed.
Chapter 2 "The Prayer of Faith"
[For me this has been a huge conversion in my mind and thoughts. I always said that it is unfair to blame people for a lack of faith when prayers aren't answered. I still think that is true. However, the reality is that faith is the key component and sometimes it is my or your lacking in faith which keeps the blessings from manifesting. Think of it as physical strength. I can't dead lift 400 pounds. If someone says it is because "you aren't strong enough" I agree with them. Physical strength is just that way. So is spiritual strength, faith strength, belief strength. I don't need to be ashamed that I can't pick up 400 pounds, but I don't need someone to tell me that my weakness is not the primary cause for that.... Fortunately, we can exercise and work on it and get stronger. I have hope!]
James 1:6 "Let him ask in faith without doubting..."
Glennon begins by quoting a man who said "Without God man cannot, without man God will not." This, this is how the world God created works. Humans have a part to play in it; that is the law/principle at work in the world. The bottom line for Glennon is that you have got to believe when you pray that God answered the prayer. This faith is manifest in prayers of thanksgiving, immediately. It means that one does not pray and then wait to see if God wants to answer. Such an approach begins in doubt and fear and usually ends in disappointment. Why? Because it is faithless--and the Scriptures say over and over that such an attitude with God is unfruitful.
[this does make more and more sense to me. When I ask my friend Rick to drive me to the airport and he says 'yes' I thank him. I express appreciation before he does a thing. Now sometimes he can't because of a conflict, but if he says so I still thank him. Why? I thank him for the desire to help me, the willingness to help me, and the disappointment he expresses that he cannot help me. Is Rick more concerned for me and my needs than our Father in Heaven??? Yesterday our Gospel at eucharist was: Jesus said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you"... Jesus then said that the way the world works is 'seekers' find, 'askers' receive, 'knockers' get in... That is a rule of life, it is what we must do if we want these things to happen. Then He asks, "if you who are evil know how to give your children good things, how much more will your Father in Heaven give you good things?" That is the heart core center of the salvation/healing ministry! God is the God of salvation: He wants to save, heal, restore, rescue, transform, renew, bless, prosper and complete us!]
Glennon does provide a broader context for understanding the necessity of faith.
1. The minister must pray in faith.
2. The person being prayed for must open in faith to receive.
So the prayer of faith is three connected movements: "Ask-Accept-Thank"
The minister does not ask to see if God is in the mood to heal (of forgive, or free) because the minister knows that Jesus sends out the minister with that commission! If we know God wants to do it, we come to God with confidence and say "Help!" and then opening (body-soul-spirit) up to receive what we ask for; with gratitude for such a graciousness from the Father.
If I'm eating pie and it's delicious and I ask my dinner companion, "want some of this pie?" they should offer their plate so I can slide some on. If for a drink of (holy) water the Lord wants to give it. But bring your cup, the water needs to be received! Gratitude is effective to open us up--being grateful is "faith on steroids." It is an expression of confidence that says not "it might happen" but "I am blessed it is happening!" [but it is not a technique! Just as when I tell my friend "thank you" because I trust he will keep his promise to drive me to the airport; so I genuinely trust God wants to and will heal me.]
Glennon sees value in fasting for deeper faith. He returns to this in a later chapter. Lent is a season of fasting so this is timely advice. Fasting is among the most ancient practices in the church (because it was from Judaism). If you peak at last week's homily you will see that Jesus fasted forty days (although His ministry was not heavy on fasting--He said the disciples would fast after the Bridegroom was gone). Glennon's next statement is worthy of extensive reflection: "believe Christ's healing not the symptoms." The recommendation is to repeat, over and over, "Lord I receive your healing and I thank you for it." This is not easy. Most healing takes time. Discouragement feeds doubts. Impatience feeds discouragement. Believing can be hard, so don't work hard feeding doubt!
The New Testament is full of such admonitions. For example, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." from Hebrews. Jesus talks a lot about faith and trust, especially in the healing ministry. Jesus (in John) told Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe." Finally, "we walk by faith not be sight." The concluding statements I think balances the need for faith and the need not to blame people. Recognize that you have limits, and not all have faith in measure to the challenges. Bigger "problems" require more healing power so there is a ratio of need to prayer--work on growing in faith.
[This to me sums it up. God has made a world where there are actual processes at work. Agnes Sanford was a huge proponent of this, something I did not understand as well ten years ago when I read her book. I always thought "God can do whatever He wants" so the faith seemed immaterial to me--it was all on Him. Now I see how the world really works. God tends to make watermelons bigger where the nutrition, water, sun, weeding, and soil composition are best. I shouldn't think prayer is different.]
Chapter 3 "Growing in Faith"
I saw three major themes in this chapter.
1. We need to forgive. He summarizes the consistent teaching of Jesus in the Gospels (e.g. Lord's Prayer) by saying that we are not saved because we forgive others, but we aren't saved unless we forgive others. [I think another way to say this is "forgiving others does not cause God to forgive us, but the refusal to forgive others is a sufficient barrier to receive God's forgiveness.] Negative feelings (anger, resentment, etc.) toward a person we are praying for has a negative impact. Those dark emotions impede our prayer effectiveness. Unforgiveness is a barrier in praying for and/or receiving healing prayer. I have written about this a lot (and it is a primary focus of the retreat this Sunday afternoon--those notes will be posted next week).
2. The problem of fear. Fear negates faith. It can act as an anti-prayer and contributes to creating the negative outcomes we fear. [In Exodus, Pharaoh fears the Hebrew people, he fears they might rise up against him so he enslaves and mistreats them. His actions create the crisis with them and which leads God to come down to rescue His people. His reaction to his fears makes the fears come true.] We fear whatever threatens our security. The impulse to flee what frightens us is strong. There are many forms of fear (including the fear that God doesn't care) and the power of fear is obviously a main concern of the Bible. There are endless times the Bible says "fear not" or "take courage" or something to that effect. God is victorious. We can face any threat with confidence in God's faithfulness. So it is good to regularly affirm our faith (perfect love casts out all fear--loving God helps make it easier too). What better way to start the day than praying: "Father God you are faithful. I believe that. I trust you. I thank you. I appreciate you keeping me in Your care Father!"
3. Kingdom Parables include many images of growing plants. Glennon reflects on often Jesus' illustrations of the Kingdom are process oriented, time is involved. "The Kingdom of God is like...." Seeds develop into plants slowly. Jesus says that that is how the Kingdom works as well. Glennon's conclusion is that growth over time is part of healing as well. Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God (includes healing) is in process. In light of this he expects that the norm will be this four step process:
a. The minister "accepts in grateful faith God's gift of healing"
b. The person "accepts in grateful thanks God's gift of healing"
c. Then they look for signs of improvement (first the seed, then the blade!)
d. The they should respond to the growth with enthusiastic gratitude! Be on the look out for and
attentive to every 'blade.'
This is a great motto: "Be aware of what you have, do not focus on what you do not have yet."
As we focus on what we do have it increases the faith and silences the doubts raised by impatience and focusing on what we do not have!