When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31
There is little if anything new under the sun, a saying that’s true about the church and discipleship. We constantly go back to the Church of Acts to rediscover the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is the key to unlocking the power of the Holy Spirit. Almost everyone believes in prayer, if only as a last resort, like atheists in foxholes. Wherever I travel in the world, there is a thirst for prayer to quench parched souls.
Many times our mission teams carry Bill Hybels’ book Too Busy Not to Pray. People we encounter on flights or at mission sites will ask to borrow it. Prayer unlocks the door to other blessings of the Holy Spirit. It can activate healing through the oil of anointing. It can herald new beginnings for one who receives baptism through water. It can foster reconciliation through Christ’s body (bread) and blood (wine or juice) during Holy Communion.
When I visit Africa, I see medical clinics where people gather in two lines hours before opening time. I asked once, “Why two lines?” One line was to see the medical experts, and the other was to receive oil for healing. When I asked why, they said they believed in both healings.
So I am curious: Why don’t we have prayer for healing at our medical clinics and pharmacies? Why not have healing, anointed prayer at CVS, Rite-Aid or wherever? Here’s another question: Why don’t we offer prayer with healing oil every week during worship?
I have family members who went through some difficult times in their marriage. They wanted to have a blessing with water to signify a new beginning—baptism. They had been baptized as infants, but now they wanted full immersion. Should they be refused?
It was and is a powerful statement of their faith and their relationships to each other and to God. Millions of people experiencing transformation might want their new beginnings to be blessed with water. Can we offer this to others? How about making the mark of Christ’s cross on a forehead with water? How about offering this service at locations in our community? How about offering it every week at our worship services?
There are many broken people in our churches and in our world. The blood of Christ represents repentance and forgiveness—reconciliation. Can we go out into our communities and give the blood and body of Christ to people who are looking for spiritual and relational healing? Can we offer this to one another at our weekly worship services?
Clearly, the starting point is prayer. We need to develop prayer teams who have the gifts and graces to offer healing, reconciliation and blessings for new beginnings. If I were starting a church, I would have four trained, consecrated lay teams at every worship service ready to represent all four stations of the Holy Spirit:
People in need could come every week to one or more of the stations. Then we would take these same four stations of the Holy Spirit out into the community.
There would be video announcements, inviting those in the congregation who feel called to explore and use their gifts in this ministry, and more videos to tell them about the four stations of the Holy Spirit. Later we would offer an orientation, where people would hear explanations of what to expect—for others and for themselves—in this ministry.
Those willing to explore further would take the first step: a spiritual gifts test to identify gifts consonant with prayer, healing, baptism, and/or Communion. We would look especially for people who score high in gifts of prayer, healing, acts of mercy and encouragement. Then training sessions would help them nurture and apply those gifts in any of the four areas.
We could use multi-media resources to inform and inspire the congregation about the importance and implementation of this ministry during and after worship. Churches that already offer a time of prayer at the end of worship could just incorporate oil, water and wine or juice as elements for healing, baptism and Communion. People who come forward with prayer needs could be directed to visible stations around the sanctuary, marked by signs and persons waiting to serve them.
In doing this, we are moving beyond the usual corporate prayers and responding more specifically to the types of prayer needed by individuals. If there is limited space or a limited number of trained prayer helpers, then the four stations could be grouped or combined at one location, as long trained prayer helpers are there and able to offer any of the intercessions guided by the Holy Spirit.
For those concerned about the consecration of the wine/juice, water and oil, we could have a pastor do this before worship begins for these elements.
Once we have offered this potentially life-changing sacramental prayer after worship, we can begin to take it out into the community. Teams representing the Four Stations of the Holy Spirit could be trained to find places where people gather and to offer prayers along with anointing, baptism or Communion almost anywhere.
Two-person teams could talk to business owners or managers, or gatekeepers in other community venues, asking to offer prayers and more for an hour or so, maybe starting on Saturdays and Sundays. They could wear distinctive, appropriate attire that makes them identifiable to others in stores, lobbies or other locations.
They might offer only prayer in these venues initially, but perhaps add anointing, baptism and Communion later where allowed, especially at establishments whose owners are known to be Christian, such as Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A.
Once we find locations open to this prayer ministry, we could offer practical training on different types of prayer scenarios—the “what if’s”—followed by debriefings to examine what really happens and what corrections need to be made.
This Acts ministry—a daring, new concept to many but not really new at all—may require some fluidity and many adjustments as it develops. But several Eastern PA Conference Congregational Development Team members are already giving it a try.
If you want to try it, we are eager to share ideas and receive feedback. So please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 267-258-9507.