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The RIght Prayer Partner


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Sometimes people apparently aren't healed because the right faith-filled person did not prayer for the answer to the need in question. This thread will explore several relevant testimonies and then reflect on (a) the biblical basis for this reality and (b) what this means for the church's ministry of prayer support.

(1) Anglican mystic, Agnes Sanford, has written several books on prayer and spirituality. In her classic, "The Healing Light," she tells the story of her dying baby grandson. Doctors had doomed the baby to imminent death. She was caring for the boy and organized prayer vigils to pray for healing--to no effect. She prayed constantly for healing without success. Then one day, a young first-year Bible school student dropped by, saying, "I heard you have a dying baby here and I've come to pray for his healing." Agnes said she felt indignant at his presumption. Didn't he realize that she was an expert on prayer and that the room was prayer-saturated? The arrogance of this inexperienced young man! But she couldn't bring herself to deny his request; so she grudgingly complied. She watched as he picked up the baby with joy radiating from his face as he lovingly prayed for the boy's recovery. She saw the baby gloriously healed before her very eyes, and was properly humbled by the realization that this young man was the right person at that time to serve as God's instrument of healing.

She was too ego-invested and too agitated to be God's instrument of healing in this case, and the Bible school student's calm divinely instilled confidence was exactly what God needed to channel full healing. Such anecdotes can be multiplied.

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(2) Dave is in our weekly small prayer group, He suffered from a massive blood clot that extended from his foot to his waist. Doctors expressed the hope that this clot would eventually calcify, removing the risk to his heart. Dave and his wife Patty's prayers did nothing to change his condition.  the clot was very painful when Dave did any extensive walking and the doctor advised him not to go out much.  But one day, Dave defied that order and took his wife to dine at Mavericks, a restaurant I can see from my residence. An unknown young couple approached their table, asking, "I hope you don't mind my asking, but do you have a serious physical condition that needs prayer?" Dave was initially taken aback at this intrusion, especially with other customers overhearing the question. Though a tad embarrassed, he told them about the massive clot. They nodded relief, and felt that their "word of knowledge" they had clairvoyantly received was confirmed. Then the couple asked if Dave wanted prayer for his condition. He consented , expecting to pray quietly,  but he was again taken aback, when they prayed loudly for his healing.
I did some detective work and later learned that this couple were new charismatic believers.  Mark, the husband, had recently experienced "the baptism of the Holy Spirit," had spoken in tongues, and was eager to explore his new spiritual gifts.  I later had dinner with  them in Maverick's and asked to hear about Dave's healing form their perspective.
Subsequent x-rays confirmed that Dave was completely healed. Dave realizes he would never have been healed unless God brought the right prayer partners. Nor would he have been healed if his pride prompted him to decline their request to pray for him. So this healing provides a great parallel to Agnes's dilemma at the presumptuous Bible school student's request.

The faith lessons? (1) As in Agnes's case, true humility is a great asset to effective faith. (2) Real faith takes risks, risks I would typically lack the confidence to take.  I would have been more polite and prayed quietly--and my prayer would have had no effect. I would have been hedging my bets to prevent myself from looking really bad! I later learned that gifted faith healers do not pray softly in situations like that, because they want the healings to serve as a witness to God's power. (3) The younger generation is jumping out of the windows of mainline churches, because these churches are "holding to the outward form of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid them (2 Timothy 3:5)!"  Thus, Paul says of his rivals: "I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people, but their power. For the kingdom of God depends not on talk, but on power. (1 Corinthians 4:19-20)."
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I'm posting my next example because the family involved hunted me down and called me last night.  I was embarrassed because they were  good friends and I hadn't contacted them in over 10 years after moving form Buffalo, NY, to northeastern Washington state.  I'm puzzled by how the family was able to track me down and was humbled and delighted to hear from them.  Karen, the mother of Austin in the testimony described below , wanted me to know that our discussions on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the paranormal long ago had born fruit because she was now a Charismatic Christian.   We will now be e-mailing each other on a regular basis. 
(3) When I was a pastor in Buffalo, NY Austin was a quiet teenager who avoided my many discussions on paranormal incidents with his parents. What we didn't know was that Austin had become addicted to opioids. One day, he accepted his friends' dare to go see the movie Paranormal. Austin was not the horror movie type and it frightened him badly. Soon thereafter, he began to see lights in his closet in his blackened room. He tried to ignore this, but soon psychokinetic experiences began to terrorize him, e.g. his blankets would suddenly be ripped off his bed by an unseen hand. Finally, in desperation he confessed all this to his parents. They invited 2 charismatic Christians who supposedly specialized in deliverance ministry to bless their house and exorcise any demonic presence. This had no effect and the paranormal manifestations continued relentlessly. Then in desperation, the parents called the Catholic church. This step was hard for them because they were not pro-Catholic by any means. The bishop sent a gentle Nigerian priest who, with no histrionics, quietly took command of the nasty spirit presence and successfully exorcised the house. There were no more paranormal manifestations. This Nigerian apparently had had prior experience with African witch doctors (shamans). I learned about this and met Austin's baby son, when I was asked to return to Buffalo to perform the wedding ceremony for Austin's brother. I like to share this story with anti-Catholic charismatics who seem to think they have a monopoly on deliverance ministry. Again, the right prayer partner proved decisive.
In my 12 years as a theology professor at a Catholic university, I had a colleague who was a priest exorcist and had been a good friend of Father Bawdern, the priest who had performed the exorcism in the famous paranormal that inspired the horror movie, "The Exorcist."  This priest knew the paranormal details of this afmous exorcism.  As in my friends' case, in that famous exoicism a Protestant minister had attempted and failed to perform the exorcism and was injured by the boy's superhuman strength in the attempt.  And that's why Father Bowdern was summoned and proved to be the right choice.

I am known around here as a debunker of alleged possession cases, because I have had to deal with the harm done by wannabe exorcists who treat ordinary psychopathology and mental illness as cases of possession. Real possession cases are rare and every step must first be taken to find alternative explanations of the aberrant behavior and phenomena. Still, my family has encountered and dealt with a couple of dramatic possession cases in a convincing way, but only a couple in my lifetime. Again, the right prayer partner was essential.
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