How does a church run a healing prayer ministry?

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Hi folks,

Anybody running a healing prayer ministry?  What does it look like?   How do you operate?

At New Life CRC in Guelph, Ontario we've had a Healing Prayer Ministry since about 2005.  We've slowly evolved our focus. Today the ministry has two primary focus:

1. Intercessory prayer for the church

2. In-depth prayer for individuals who come from prayer

Our intercessory sessions typically flow as one-third worship, one-third prayer for a specific ministry of the church (we rotate through a list) and one-third prayer for individual needs and requests.

Our in-depth sessions usually start with half an hour of worship, and then an hour of prayer for the individual who has come.  We use a lot of listening prayer, and incorporate worship throughout our prayer times (for instance, using a song, but incorporating the name of the person we’re praying for into the lyrics, and perhaps selecting only a verse or two that are relevant to the focus of prayer).  Sometimes we have a separate group providing intercessory prayer in another room while a few team members pray directly with the individual who has come.

In general we have a team of 4-6 people participating depending on schedules and availability.  We meet once per week.  We’ve found that it is important to maintain good health and dynamics with team members, and support each other in prayer.  We always have a prayer partner from within the team, and the partners change from time to time.  Every year we have start and end of year retreats, and do family BBQ events together.

Our team is made up of youngish to middle-aged members (30-50ish), with our oldest member being one of our new ministers. We'd love to see a culture of prayer develop in the kids of our church, and we have had members' kids participate in meetings from time to time.  We report back into the church structure through our Pastoral Elders.  We have a team member who sits on the Pastoral Elders, and are available as a resource for the PEs as needs arise.

I would say that we’ve seen some really exciting stuff in terms of people’s lives being changed.  It’s really a joy to pray for the church and the ministries and needs.  And the in-depth times are pretty cool, with a primary outcome being that people come away having a greater sense of God’s love for them.  From that place a lot of other stuff gets resolved, or the process gets rolling with hopefulness and joy.

There’s a quick snapshot of what we’re up to.  Not sure how this network will work in terms of connecting and providing candid comments, but I think it’s a great opportunity to share what’s going on and find common linkages and encouragement.

 

I’d love to hear what other people are up to.

 

Regards

Jake DeBruyn

 

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 Jake,

It was encouraging to read about your "healing prayer" ministry at New Life. No doubt over the five years you have been involved and invested in this ministry, God has been faithful in answering your prayers.

I'd be interested in hearing more about your "start and end of year" retreats. Is this an overnight retreat? What does your format/agenda look like? Does it involve teaching and praying? Does this mean your healing prayer team takes a break over the summer?

Do you require people to be present in order to pray for them? Do you anoint them with oil (James 5:15)? Do people also submit their prayers requests? Do you make hospital/home visits? Do you share God's answers to your prayers with your congregation?

I share your passion - Jake - not only to intercede for those who are suffering and ill; but to begin to develop "a culture" of inter-generational prayer and intercession in our churches.

Again, thanks for sharing what's going on at New Life - hopefully your willingness to share will be a catalyst for more pastors/prayer leaders/intercessors to share what God is doing in their churches...

doug

 

 

 Hi Doug,

Good questions.  I'll touch on each of your questions and statements:

 

God has definitely been faithful.  Praying with others is one of those neat things that is almost never disappointing.  I think that sometimes trying to set up a routine of personal prayer and devotions can be tough, but the concept of two or three gathering together and experiencing Jesus' presence is a really satisfying and fulfilling experience.  There was an article in the Banner a few months ago on this idea that sometimes even if we don't feel like it, all we have to do is show up and God does the rest.  In general our group has found week-in and week-out that this Ministry is a joy to participate in, and not one of those "oh darn, time to go to prayer group" type of events.

 

Our start and end of year retreats have taken various forms.  In general they are about discerning where God is leading us. They usually incorporate listening prayer: "asking" a question of God, usually finding some quiet space alone and leaving lots of silence for hearing God, then discerning together as a group how the various things we "get" from God come together.  For this year's kick-off we'll simply be reflecting on what our direction is for the coming year.  In the past we've spent a whole year as a group digging into our individual "barriers" - what was preventing us from moving into greater intimacy with God - we started off that process with a retreat where we got our initial direction or understanding of focus.  Usually we meet away from church for our retreats - at someone's house, at a friend's cottage, at a retreat center.  Sometimes we've had overnight 2 day sessions, sometimes just one day.  They always involve lots of good food!  We incorporate a fair bit of worship, and different ways of experiencing God (art, nature, Children's Worship messages, whatever).  We've also attended conferences and workshops together as a team to learn and grow.

 

As a group we usually run the church season, with time off in the summer. Some things continue through the summer (we each have one of the worship ministry leaders that we pray for individually and that kind of thing keeps rolling).

 

In terms of praying with people or simply interceding, we do both.  In general we have a person in for receiving individual prayer every 2 weeks (we call these "in-depth" prayer times).  Regarding your question, we occasionally anoint the person with oil (a little cross and a word of blessing at the end of the prayer time), but it's not our most common thing.  Funny with the oil, it often seems just slightly awkward, and then when we do it, it's a beautiful thing.  I think that's the case with a lot of things with prayer and with faith in general.  

 

An interesting dynamic for us: perhaps half or more of the people who come for in-depth times are actually from other churches with the connections made through ministers or leaders in other programs, and in particular from one church with a very active Celebrate Recovery program.  We seem to be a good compliment to other activities and programs that people access for healing.

 

We also receive prayer requests.  We pray through these requests on the other 2 weeks of the month, and as the need arises through the week as individuals.  We've done a few home visits, and a little bit of hospital visiting (in conjunction with our Pastoral Elders).  Overall our integration into the general flow of congregational ups and downs of life is small but growing.  Every few months we have a reminder in the bulletin for people to submit prayer requests and these requests do come in.  Often it’s when people are in crisis that they do connect with us.

 

I like your question about celebrating answered prayer.  We are probably not as intentional about that as we could be.  Our church has an adult discussion hour (Discipleship Hour) the hour before the service.  Some Healing Prayer Team members co-hosted one session per month for the last couple years - including a session on sharing experiences of answered prayer.  In that session we had people share their own stories of answered prayer and miraculous answers to prayer.  I wonder whether perceived or actual concerns about confidentiality have held us back from generally sharing about answered prayer (although it's easy enough to ask whether things can be shared or to ask the person to share).  Perhaps also the lack of "testimonial" type sharing in our congregation/denomination means that we have to be more intentional about creating opportunities.  Something to work on... :)

 

I'm interested to know from you Doug how you've seen healing prayer ministries active in other churches.  What's your experience?  What's your personal passion for prayer?  What do you mean by "inter-generational prayer" in your posting?  Why is that important?

 

Thanks for the dialogue!

Cheers

Jake DeBruyn

 Jake,

Thank you for your very thorough answers. I am praying people who read them will be encouraged to ask God about starting a "healing prayer ministry" in their church.

God began to stir a passion for prayer in me over twenty years ago when I was working on my doctrinal studies at Fuller Seminary. The very first class I took - providentially - was "Spirituality and Ministry" taught by Roberta Hestenes. A great course. A wonderful professor. We spent some extended time at a Benedictine monastery and my life/ministry hasn't been the same since. A few years after completing my study, CR Home Missions asked if I'd take on the part-time challenge of mobilizing our churches to prayer - particularly for the lost and the harvest (incl. church plants and planters) and God has been watering and nurturing my passion ever since. The vision continues to grow - not only, in my estimation, is prayer the primary work of the church ("My church shall be called a 'house of prayer'"), but it is the/a essential element in a believers growing relationship with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Healing Prayer is a very "tender" subject in many churches - in many ways because it is often misunderstood. So sadly, some churches who have attempted to initiate such a ministry have found themselves in intense (theological) discussion and sometimes even conflict. At the same time, it is a ministry sanctioned by Scripture (cf. james 5) and integral to the pastoral ministry of a congregation.

At Calvary, we have a prayer meeting which meets weekly about 48 weeks of the year. Our (small) group of intercessors (anywhere from 4-12) assemble to intercede in many ways like you do - including laying on of hands, anointing with oil. We have, on occasion, made our regular evening worship service a  "healing prayer services"  with prayer teams located throughout the worship center. We have also send "healing prayer teams" to hospitals and nursing homes. While God has not always answered these prayers with dramatic physical healings, God has always heard our prayers and always made his presence known through comfort, encouragement, relief from pain, etc.

It is easy for me to get on a "soap box" and get passionate about this...but churches that pursued a "healing prayer ministry" slowly/carefully and prayerfully have experienced God's rich blessings.

By "intergenerational" I simply meaning praying today with children, teenagers, young adults, and people in their 30s-90's. Prayer becomes especially meaningful, again in my estimation, when grandparents, parents and children are all praying together. It is a wonderful - and very effective - way for the next generation to learn to pray. When parents take prayer "seriously" - their children tend to take prayer seriously as well.

Love the dialogue...

Keep praying,

doug

 

Community Builder

Thank you brothers!  This exchange blessed me, taught me, challenged me...  I loved hearing your stories, and I love the prayer ministry you describe!  I think the general idea of "intercession" may be a less threatening term than "healing" for some....  and I certainly the appreciate the cautionary approach you suggest with the words slowly, carefully, prayerfully.   And now I want to hear some more about how you actually got started.   What steps, what process, how did you talk about your purpose, how did you deal with concerns or resistance, if any?  If I wanted to get something like this started at my church, what advice do you have for me?  Thanks!  and thanks so much for sharing your stories!

 Karl...

Glad to have you joining our discussion. I would agree that "intercession" is a less threatening term - but it is also less focused term. Intercessory prayer covers a wide variety of subjects --for example prayers for revival, protection, guidance/discernment, salvation, blessing/favor (to name just a few). "Healing prayer" is a specific form of intercessory prayer.

And while the call to pray for healing is very Biblical, the term "healing prayer" may bring to mind abuses of "faith healers" who pray and instantaneously everyone they touch/pray for is healed. So, when we talk about healing prayer  - especially in a Reformed context - we should make sure (hence the adjectives "slowly and carefully") we are clear what we are talking about. The "healing power" is not found in the intercessor or in the prayer itself (or some formula) but in the recipient of our prayers - God.  God provides the healing.

And we need to understand, sometimes God decides to heal instantly. Sometimes God heals over an extended period of time. Sometimes God provides limited healing. Sometimes God decides the physical or emotional healing will be reserved for future time. The decision/healing is always God's - and his decision is based on his glory, his kingdom's coming, and for our (eternal) good.

While I would encourage moving slowly (so people feel comfortable praying healing prayers for others and having others pray for their healing), carefully (teaching people what is "behind" the prayers), and prayerfully (we should be doing it in God's timing and as he leads - not because its on our agenda), initiating a "healing prayer" ministry should seriously be considered by every congregation. James 5 outlines the invitation and procedure. Jesus reminds us of the importance of "asking" so we can "receive."

So I would recommend the following steps - although not in any particular order

1. Begin praying (personally and corporately) about beginning a prayer ministry in your church. Listen and follow his leading.

2. Talk about introducing a healing prayer ministry at the consistory/council level

3. Study the subject Biblically (and theologically)

4. Talk to other pastors in your community who have a healing prayer ministry

5. Preach on passages of praying for healing

6. Pray for healing in the "prayers of the people" ("congregational prayer")

7. Invite people to come to receive prayer at your weekly prayer meeting

8. Train a few teams to visit the nursing homes, hospitals, homes (etc) to pray for those who are sick

9. Hold a worship service with an emphasis on healing prayer (message, explanation, prayer teams, etc); then invite people to provide feedback

10. Encourage people at each service to visit the prayer room following the worship service to receive prayer for healing.

The list is not exhaustive. But it should be enough to spark a discussion and get pastors, intercessors, prayer teams, congregational leaders to start thinking about a healing prayer ministry.