Lord, teach us to pray!

While waiting for my wife, I watched a man hobble out of the post office to his car, laboring over each step while leaning on a cane for support. With so many elderly in this community, it is fairly common to see people who are struggling with failing health. My heart goes out to them and often I find myself quietly praying for their healing and comfort.

prayerAs I prayed for the man at the post office, the Holy Spirit impressed me that I was relying on human sight to pray for people suffering from obvious physical conditions. With that in mind, the Holy Spirit prompted me to consider how my praying might change if I could see a person’s spiritual needs and respond with prayer for them.

Admittedly, it is short-sighted to presume God wants us to pray for the healing of every lame, blind, deaf and diseased person. There are times when a physical ailment serves as a ‘thorn’ or ‘cross’ of sorts to draw someone closer to the Lord. In such cases, to pray for healing of the physical ailment is to pray against the very thing God has allowed to draw the person nearer to Him.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (ESV)

If as the Holy Spirit seemed to suggest, my eyes were opened to see the spiritual needs of others, would it not overwhelm the senses? Where it is only a relative few who suffer visible physical conditions that move me to pray, how sad and overwhelming would it be to see the spiritual ills of everyone? This one needs deliverance, that one lacks faith, the other is a son of hell and most of the rest don’t know the Lord at all! So very many spiritual infirmities, dare I ask for the vision to see the whole world in all its spiritual decrepitude? Surely that would be a burden too great to bear!

Occasionally Karen and I have talked about whether or not we would want to see the spirit world. About that, we remember a time 15 years ago when a woman moving through the receiving line following one of our concerts shook hands with me and the Lord gave me vision to see a second pair of eyes that were superimposed over the woman’s natural eyes. An instant before my eyes were opened, I heard a voice behind me say “demon”, which at first expressed surprise that I could see it then quickly turned to vile hatred the likes of which I had not seen before nor since. Karen was spared the seeing, but had spiritual discernment about the demon. This and a few similarly unnerving experiences with evil spirits have made both of us thankful that the Lord shields us from actually seeing the spirit-world.

Far better it is to be led by the Holy Spirit and the discernment that only He can give.

Such was the case a few weeks ago while grocery shopping with Karen, when we passed by a woman who was holding her hand to her temple with a look of pain on her face. As soon as I saw her, as did Karen, we both prayed for her with discernment in the Spirit. When we passed her again in the next aisle, she still had her hand upon her temple and the Spirit moved me to rebuke the devourer and prophetically declare the restoration of her sight and health. After picking up a few items from the bakery, we made our way to the check out counter where the woman was already checking out, but with a complete change in her countenance. She was beaming with joy and laughing with the cashier! Such an incredible change in her! Yet still upon seeing her at the cash register, the Lord moved me declare “you have lost enough, daughter – the devourer shall trouble you no more”.

I don’t expect ever to see the woman again, still the memory of our encounter reminds me that I would rather be praying when and as led by the Holy Spirit, than by what I can see with my eyes and my faulty human understanding.

May our prayer ever be “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)