(Note this post is still somewhat in rough draft form.)
Introduction: What do we expect from God? What do we expect to happen when we pray? What do we expect God may be thinking, feeling, or doing in this or that moment? The way we answer these questions determines a lot about how we behave and what we pay attention to. If we expect that God is present with us, that will have some impact, if we expect God is present and actively working, that will change things even more, if we expect that God is present, active, able, and interested in connecting with us, and cares about every detail of our lives and of this circumstance things will change even more. If we expect God wants to liberate us from every bondage, that God is always taking everything into account and answering every prayer in the most loving way, and that God wants to bring us on a journey to the point that we fully reflect the image of his son Jesus, and we rule and reign with him for ages without end, if we really believe and expect that, it opens up immense possibilities.
What do we expect to happen when we pray for someone to be healed? I have prayed for people to be healed many times and most of the time nothing immediate seemed to happen, though gradual answers are very common when I look back.
Does this mean I conclude that God does not want to heal this person in response to my prayer? Perhaps, but as time goes on and I have more experiences with God, I am beginning to reject that answer and to expect that God does want to heal this person and there must simply be something else going on that God can help me cooperate with. A simple diet of videos and books from credible people like Judith MacNutt, Heidi Baker, Surprise Sithole, Randy Clark, and many others will indicate that there are many people who regularly see miracles with 1 of 10, 2 of 10, even up to 5 of 10 or people being healed fairly immediately in response to prayer. In a little bit I cite Alliss Cresswell who seemed, (perhaps still is) in a season where nearly everyone who came to her for prayer got healed. What do we expect from God?
I think the answer has a lot to do with what we expect from other relationships. Expectation is core in every relationship. We come to expect certain things from the people we are in relationship with.
- What do we expect from a parent?
- What do we expect from spouse?
- What do we expect from a friend?
- What do we expect of our creator who is able to play all these roles and more?
I think God really wants us to develop high expectations for him. I think we should develop at least the same level of expectations Jesus had of God the Father. Jesus clearly had extremely high expectations of what God was up to and capable of to the point that he simply spoke commands in line with God’s will and they were accomplished, to the point that he went to the cross and died trusting the Father with his very life and spirit, believing the Father to follow through on his part and raise Jesus from the dead. This does not mean that God will always do things exactly the way we expect God to do them since our view and perspective is so limited.
When it comes to connecting with God’s presence, what we expect does highly influence how we pray, and what we do after and during our prayer. In most settings when people pray to invite Jesus presence, they quickly move on to the next part of the prayer. What if we actually stopped and noticed what happened after we invited Jesus? This is what we looked at last workshop. So much more is possible when we invite God than we generally expect. In fact, perhaps everything is possible.
Here are just a few questions that come to mind when it comes to expectations about God.
What do we expect God is like?
What do we expect God is capable of?
What do we expect God is willing to do (for me or others)?
What do we expect God wants to do?
What do we expect God will do?
What do we expect to happen when we pray?: Judith MacNutt, a well known teacher in prayers for healing often says, “We hardly give the Holy Spirit time to work in our church services.” I have found this to be true in most contexts I’ve experienced where Christians pray together and I think it has to do in part with having very low expectations of what will happen in response to our prayers. However, most people who regularly see healing or other effects of their prayers seem to expect something will happen when they pray. Therefore, they include additional behaviors like stopping to notice what happens after they pray, and asking God for more as standard parts of their focused prayer times. This seems to be true of those who pray for physical healing, those who pray for emotional healing, and those who pray to help people establish a stronger experiential awareness of God’s presence. Perhaps not every prayer time in every service needs to include stopping to notice, but on the other hand, what might happen if we always did?
Judith MacNutt’s husband Francis was a gentle, thoughtful man who seemed to be an extremely loving person. As he tried to take Gospel seriously and pray for physical healing with more expectation he gradually began seeing more miracles. In one of his books simply called Healing which is commonly known as one of the most practical, comprehensive books about praying for physical healing he wrote that he believes God always does something in response to our prayers (***reference). It may not be exactly what we expected or on the timeline we wanted, then on the other hand, sometimes it is, and sometimes it is even more immediate and dramatic than we expected.
I am hoping to write in the direction of highlighting some of the ways that increasing our expectations of who God is, what God is like, and how God will respond to us can really increase the frequency with which we are able to establish a living, interactive connection with God. In order to move toward that end, I am going to look into four arenas where our expectations of God often seem to show through and have an effect. These are:
- Prayers for Supernatural Physical Healing
- Prayers for Emotional Healing
- Prayers for Deliverance
- Prayers for establishing more connection with God’s presence.
Each of these arenas are enormous and I am leaving out so much, but hopefully the slivers I highlight are important ones.
Expectation of Supernatural Healing from God:
The following excerpts come from the book A Diary of Miracles Part 1 by Alliss Cresswell. “It was probably something like twelve years ago that I began asking God to use me to heal people, cast out demons, and send me to preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven” (p. 11). For about twelve years Alliss, who describes herself as a very ordinary person saw very little miraculous response to her prayers. Twelve years later Alliss and her husband started a church and opened a cafe in a rough neighborhood of Chester, England where she regularly prayed for the people who came in. She wrote, “At the beginning of 2009 the Lord spoke to me from a scripture in Habakkuk 2. He was telling me to write down everything that happens, as I would be amazed and would not remember it all. I have been keeping a journal and i recommend you do the same” (p. 10). The book A Diary of Miracles is essentially a printed copy of Alliss’s journal. Here are a few excerpts that seem relevant to our topic of expecting more.
“Thursday 19 Feb… The cafe opened today… Five lads around ten or eleven years of age came in…I began telling them about Jesus but they said they didn’t believe in him and they looked a bit embarrased. I said, ‘Jesus is alive and He likes to show His power. Are any of you ill or in pain? One brave lad, Jack, had a broken arm and said it was painful, although it wasn’t in a cast. He hasn’t been able to ride his bike for a while because it hurts too much and he can’t lift it up. When I asked if we could pray for it he said, ‘I suppose so.’ They were giggling and I know they were thinking we were crazy. I said, ‘Come Holy Spirit.” They all felt the glory. A peaceful, wonderful feeling descended on us all. They fell silent and all looked up as we felt it come down. One asked, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘It’s the presence of Jesus through his Holy Spirit. It’s the glory.’ They liked the feeling. We then put our hands on Jack’s arm and told the broken bone to heal and the pain to leave. He lifted it up and said, ‘That’s weird’ three times as he moved it without pain. He smiled and said his arm was better and he had to agree that Jesus is real! We couldn’t stop laughing” (pp 22-24).
The book goes on to describe miracle after miracle on basically a daily basis that occur as people come into the cafe and get prayed for. There are occasional times when the healing doesn’t occur and the author is actually surprised because she has become so expectant that healing will follow their prayers.
Expectation of Emotional Healing:
After doing years of work with people using the Immanuel Approach for Emotional Healing I am convinced of several things. I’m convinced that Jesus is present in every memory we can go to, that Jesus can help us heal every memory and every kind of painful experience, and that Jesus’ primary priority may not always be focusing on emotional healing. It has become clear to me that Jesus really wants relationship with people and that he often prioritizes things that may feel silly to us like just hanging out together and being silly. Thus my expectation of Jesus ability is quite high, but my expectation is also that he often has different priorities beyond ours, and ultimately better than ours.
Expectation of Deliverance: I do not pretend to understand a lot about spiritual warfare, but I have found that two things consistently work for me. These have worked with such consistency that I have very high levels of expectation about God’s desire, willingness, and capability of freeing us from any demonic bondage. They are:
- A general prayer of cleansing and protection in Jesus name.
- If needed, getting adequate internal agreement from various places within the person that they are ready and then binding whatever it is and commanding it to go to Jesus feet in Jesus name.
I often begin sessions by either silently or out loud praying a general prayer of protection and binding anything that is not of God and sending it to Jesus feet at the beginning of prayer sessions. This seems to result in very little manifestation of dark spiritual stuff in the sessions. Still, there are many occasions where when we begin addressing a particular memory or area in a person’s life there seems to be some kind of spiritual oppression or resistance (beyond the typical human defenses we all have) which seems to be slowing or blocking the work we are doing. Sometimes people see an image like a snake or something scary. I myself have seen a baboon type image in my own work. Thankfully, Dr Lehman has some really helpful essays on dealing with demonic interference at immanuelaproach.com and kclehman.com. He teaches the importance of particular parts of us agreeing that they no longer need or want this thing around to help them with (or as a result of) whatever original problem opened the door to it. At the point that all relevant aspects of ourself are ready to send the demonic stuff that has been infecting this area to Jesus feet and we pray a prayer specifically binding them and commanding them to go to Jesus feet, in my experience they always have to go. This has led me to a high expectation that God wants to free us from demonic oppression and is stronger than any demonic oppression. This is connected to the understanding that that God won’t kick out things we’ve wittingly or unwittingly let in without adequate permission from the relevant places/parts in our heart and minds.
Expectations about Establishing a Stronger Connection WIth God’s Presence:
This arena seems markedly different in my experience than the arenas of prayer for physical or emotional healing in the following way. With the first two, it seems that there are a lot of times when prayers for physical or emotional healing even by people who see a lot of healing are either incomplete, delayed, or don’t seem to happen in spite of persistent prayer. With prayer to become more aware of God’s presence, I have found, personally, that the amount of time that people establish some measure of living interactive connection with God is much higher. There are still times when people have difficulty sensing God’s presence, but identifying the causes and blockages seems to be easier. Thanks to a lot of good training and input from people along the way, I have gotten to the point that I think every single time someone has had difficulty sensing God’s presence I can point to one or more fairly common things that seem to be blocking the connection. These nearly always revolve around one of the following reasons:
- God’s presence or guidance is in the background but doesn’t feel important in the way the person expected and easily gets overlooked without extra help.
- Something else feels more important consciously or unconsciously to focus on than God’s presence/guidance.
- It feels important to some part of the person not to focus on God’s presence either out of anger or fear or some other concern.
I don’t think I have ever experienced a prayer session where I walked away with evidence that suggested the reason for a difficult connection was simply because God didn’t want to connect with the person that day. My expectation that God is present and wants to connect with people is extremely high based on experiences in several thousand sessions where this has always been the case. Consequently, my persistence with troubleshooting blockages, and my expectations of eventual success are very high and the results speak for themselves. I have a very high success rate with helping people who want to connect with God establish a connection with him. There are some occasions where it takes months or years to untangle blockages and some people are unwilling to stick with the process, but eventually I think in every case I have been able to put my finger on something that seems to be in the way of the connection.
I wasn’t always like this. Around 2007 I learned about Immanuel Prayer and started receiving sessions for myself. These were the first times I first I started consistently experiencing a more tangible, concrete experience of Jesus presence in a way that I could see and interact with. I remember after the first few sessions I came in to pray with an older couple in the church, who generously facilitated many sessions for me. I remember saying something like, “I feel like I’ve used up my quota. I’ve had some amazing experiences of seeing Jesus and I feel like I’ve used up my fair share of experiences with God and now I’ll be going back to my ordinary kinds of prayer interactions.” The woman facilitating for me wisely suggested I share this concern directly with God. The response that came back to me in thought form was something along the lines of, “Andy, we are just getting started.” This word helped me relax and combined with the fruit of continuing to have consistent experiences of God’s tangible presence in prayer sessions it shifted me out of a scarcity mentality. Instead of subtly expecting that God were just doling out a few slices of bread to each person God is helping me adopt an abundance mentality where I am coming to believe God wants to provide us all with tons and tons of experiences of his presence and participation in our lives.
What promotes expectation: What is it that helps us increase our expectation of what God will do. For me, two of the biggest boosters to my expectation level have been:
- Being around other people who have already reached a higher level of expectation of God and experience with God and absorbing their faith and modeling, and experiences that happen when I’m praying with them.
- Listening to stories of other people’s experiences of God’s presence and activity including miracle stories, healing stories, and Immanuel moments.
- Personal experiences with God’s presence and activity in my own life. Particularly when I take risks to expect a little more from God and God responds.
- God is always present
- God always wants to connect with us.
- It is theoretically possible to have a connection in any moment with an awareness of God either in the foreground or background of our conscious awareness.
- God is always aware of what is happening in our lives.
- God always cares about what is happening in our lives.
- God always listens to our prayers.
- Our prayers always have an effect on God. (For example God feels things in response to our prayers.)
- God always responds to our prayers in some way.
- God always wants us to have ultimate deliverance from every bondage (physical, emotional, spiritual) though the order and timing are influenced on all the variables God is taking into account.
- God is present in any memory, positive or painful and we can become aware of his presence there.
- God regularly answers prayers or our what we tell the body to do with immediate physical healing seemingly more often when there is expectation and persistence, and ideally kindness/compassion.
- God always wants to free us from emotional bondage, but there are many complex variables that lead to God responding to prayers for emotional healing in ways that are often not exactly what we expected.
I also want to note that in spite of many wonderful experiences of God’s presence and God’s healing I am still a very flawed person who God is still in need of a lot of work. Just because I have had God’s grace to experience strong connections with him, I am by no means anywhere near being fully made into the image of Christ. God and I with the help of loving community are still heavily in process and I am on the journey just like everyone else who lives only by God’s grace.