In my last post we began to explore both the Biblical foundation and the great need among leaders for space to focus on their heart- their motives, attitudes, and thoughts- through listening prayer. (If you haven’t read my last post, Discipleship from the Inside Out II, you may want to read it now.) Today we will look at how to make space for a leader’s heart to be touched by Jesus through healing prayer. We will continue to use the metaphor of healthy soil being like the heart of a leader.
Through a little research, I discovered that in an urban context, one with lots of people, there are numerous challenges for producing healthy soil for trees. They are related to the challenges ministry leaders face in nurturing their own hearts in the context of numerous people looking to them for spiritual leadership and guidance. Over the next few weeks I’ll give a brief and novice description (I know very little about this topic!) about a challenge in producing healthy soil in an urban context and then follow it with a brief description of a specific ministry area in the People Resources Team.
If you’ve ever lived in an area of new construction, you’ve probably discovered the reality of this issue! We bought a new home 10 years ago. When planting trees in the yard or flowers in the flowerbeds, we regularly removed shingles, trash, nails, and “you-name-it” from the soil. Construction workers had simply bull dozed dirt over them rather than taking the time and effort to clean it all up. Apparently, this approach happens often in urban areas and blocks the development of healthy soil that oak trees require in order to thrive.
The ministry of Inner Healing Prayer focuses on making space for people to connect their head and heart. Many Christians have heard and know in their heads that Jesus loves them. Yet, painful past relationships and lie-imbedded experiences make it difficult for them to believe Jesus’ love is truly and personally for them, and so their hearts become blocked from receiving it.
The consequence is, as Larry Crabb points out in his book Discipleship from the Inside Out, people cope in response to the pain by developing self-centered patterns of relating that promise control, soothing, and/or insulation. Though these sinful patterns promise the past experience won’t be felt again in the present, they actually allow the lie within the pain to drive the development of a false self, thereby reinforcing the disconnect between head and heart.
When ministry leaders engage such strategies, they become blocked from fully offering the grace of Jesus’ suffering love to others because they have not allowed Jesus’ to communicate his love to them in the place of their broken heartedness and captivity of heart. These faulty strategies may seem to work for a time, but often break down in the midst of the intensities of life and ministry.
As a result, sometimes when people come to engage inner healing prayer, they do so as a further attempt to be fixed, healed, or at least to have their pain soothed. The Spirit of Jesus, however, is primarily passionate about strengthening His relationship with people. He wants to begin with the internal work of preparing the heart to receive Jesus more deeply and more fully. The Spirit uses Inner Healing Prayer instead as a context for deepening intimacy of the person with the Living Christ. The secondary consequence is often healing, comfort, and new freedom. But it may not produce such fruit. That depends on Jesus and what, in his goodness, He wills and purposes to do specifically with each person. As Beth Moore says about the apostle Paul, his life with God lead him to a place where his hindrances (physically or emotionally) were no longer hindrances to the spread of the gospel.
As the lies and faulty strategies are revealed, Jesus responds biblically and personally to the one receiving care.
Tyler’s Story. The way that Jesus met Tyler is a good example. Tyler, now in his mid 20’s, came to us near burnout. Through our Inner Healing Prayer sessions, Jesus helped Tyler identify several core lies. One of these was Tyler’s belief, “I am unlovable.” This lie drove Tyler with the faulty strategy for living that said, “I will prove I am worthy of love by trying hard to please people.” But it was never enough. He knew it was impossible to please everyone all the time, yet he was exhausted by trying. Over the weeks of our sessions, Jesus poured his grace and truth into Tyler’s heart and life. He affirmed and invited Tyler to a different way of walking through his life. Tyler heard Jesus calling to him, “Tyler, I love you. Walk with me.” As Tyler delved deeper, renouncing the lie of being unlovable and the strategy of people pleasing, he heard Jesus say, “You are mine. I made you. Trust me.” It’s one thing to know God’s Word by reading it. It’s completely another to experience the Spirit testify with your spirit that you are a child of God (Rom. 8:16). When Tyler experienced the embracing and life-giving love of God during that session, he let out a deep sigh. He felt free and at peace as he rested in God’s gracious and empowering presence.
The People Resources Team of The Navigators has resources and seminars on learning how to practice Inner Healing Prayer in a Biblical way. They are open to bringing this training to all Navigator staff and, when possible, to other Christian organizations and church ministries too. Let us know if you are interested and we will try to connect you with a seminar.
*The next Healing Prayer Seminar in Colorado Springs is scheduled for May of 2015.
If you are interested in learning more personally, you might check out the book, A Guidebook for Listening and Inner Healing Prayer by Rusty Rustenbach (our Inner Healing Prayer coach). This walks you through the biblical foundation and practical aspects. It is great for personal use and may even be a good in a hands-on small group.