We ran into Eric early one evening as Hannah and I started to walk our over-friendly Labrador, Molly. Eric lives on our street and is a successful attorney. As we chatted with Eric, he began telling us that he and his family were setting off on a trip to China for a couple of weeks to visit his wife’s family there and to show their teenagers some of their heritage.
I asked how he was feeling about the trip. He replied, “I’m excited . . . except for the flight. I’ve had really bad back pain for a while, to the extent that I’ve not really been able to sit down at work for the past ten days. To be honest I’m not looking forward to a twelve-hour flight across the Pacific, plus two weeks of extensive travel in buses and cars after that.”
He continued on, but after he mentioned his pain, I wasn’t listening all that well because most of my attention was taken by the Holy Spirit asking me, “Are you going to pray for him?” I ignored the prompt, though, now growing even more forceful: “Are you going to pray for him? Are you going to pray for him?”
“Okay, okay,” I internally muttered back to God, “but you know Eric’s not a Christian . . . so this is on you!”
As the conversation paused, I plucked up my nerve: “Eric, this will probably sound kind of strange, but as you know I’m a Christian and I’ve seen Jesus heal many people. I think he’d like to heal your back. Would it be okay if I quickly prayed for you now?”
After a very long second of silence, Eric replied, “I’d love that. Thank you.”
So there we stood, on the sidewalk of a busy street in LA, with Molly bouncing around next to us wanting her walk, and I prayed a 30 second, non-religiousy language prayer for Eric’s back to be healed. At the end Eric said he’d felt “something”, and looked moved by the experience. And we went on with our walk.
When I turned on my phone the next day, I was greeted with an early morning text Eric had sent.
~ “Alex, my back feels better today. Thank you.”
Wow! I pondered how to reply, and settled for:
~ “So pleased for you Eric. God is good!”
And back came the immediate response:
~ “Sometimes I forget. Thank you for reminding me.”
Almost three weeks later I ran into Eric after his trip, and he could not wait to tell me how his back had been perfect on the flight out, all the time they were in China, and then on the journey home. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but your prayer certainly worked!”
About a month later we hosted one of our parties for neighbors, and Eric texted to say he had family in town and could they come too. An hour later, when the family came up our front steps, Eric interrupted my greeting as he pointed at me, looked at his family, and declared, “And THIS is the man who healed my back!”
In spite of the slightly flaky theology (which I let ride – his intention was good!), out of that experience Eric and I began reading the Bible together, and his faith journey took a significant jump forward.
Breakthrough Learning for Disciple Making
If you are like me, you long to more effectively make disciple-making disciples of Jesus – and if you want to live on mission where you currently live, work and play – then you must explicitly exercise the power and authority that Jesus gives through the Holy Spirit.
Not to do so diminishes God’s call over you – because, if you love Jesus, then you are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go and make disciples, in the naturally supernatural power and authority that the crucified, risen and ascended King Jesus gives to us. In fact trying to do it without that absolute dependence only leads to crushing striving and little fruit that lasts.
For our family, including our teenage/ young adult sons and their friends, living a naturally supernatural lifestyle has become a breakthrough learning in our call to go and make disciples of Jesus. As I’ll unpack shortly, the summary phrase for us is, “Can I pray for you?”
The results have been transformative. We have seen so many lost people drawn closer to Christ – including a number coming straight to faith – and many Christians becoming better able to go with the Gospel, as well as mature in Christ.
Jesus Gives Us Power and Authority to Make Disciples
The New Testament is unambiguous that we are to make disciples this way. For instance, we read in Luke 9:1-2, “Jesus gave the disciples power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases and he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”
Mark 6:12-13 shows the disciples putting this command into practice: “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”
In Matthew 11:2-6 we gain a further insight into Jesus’ self-understanding of His commission that He then passed on to His disciples: “When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’”
Paul Prioritized the Spirit’s Power
The record of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles – which is there not just to be admired but for us to emulate – records at least 40 miraculous signs, 39 of which take place outside of church gatherings! In other words, the way in which we are to go and make disciples is to be inextricably tied to living a naturally supernatural life.
Paul clearly thought that way about his own ministry. Thus in Romans 15:18-19 he writes, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” For Paul, the gospel is not fully proclaimed without Spirit-empowered signs and wonders.
Famously in 1 Corinthians 2 Paul writes how his message and preaching came not with eloquence or human wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. He calls this God’s wisdom, since only God’s Spirit can reveal God’s thoughts. In verse 5 Paul says that his goal by this approach is, “that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
I don’t know about you, but I find Paul’s focus here to be incredibly challenging.
Here is a master of theology, a genius on Kingdom expansion, a key author of some of the very words of Scripture – and yet he says that the way those he disciples will encounter his passion for “Jesus Christ and him crucified” is through “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power”, and hence “my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words”.
The Compliment Chair
Last Friday evening our family gathered some of our boys’ young adult friends and we went out to join with our community ‘First Friday’. We live right behind a major road, with tons of cafes, restaurants, craft beer breweries, boutiques, stores, a museum, two theaters, and so on (it’s a multi-cultural LA hipster heaven!), and on the first Friday of each month they all stay open late. Pop-up booths appear selling everything from crafts to local honey to every political point of view imaginable, crowds throng the street, and we wanted to join in the fun.
Placing a couple of pairs of chairs in front of a store, we invited people from the hordes of passers-by to try out ‘The Compliment Chair’. “If you sit on one of those chairs, we will spend 1 minute saying encouraging things over you!” While a few seemed terrified and refused to look at us, others slowed down to banter, and some would go sit on a chair (or nominate their friend or family member to do so. “My boyfriend needs that!”)
In twos or threes our team would then compliment them in brief phrases – initially from what we could see externally (“I love your shoes!” “You’ve got such a warm smile!”), then about what we saw spiritually (“You carry such a sense of joy” “I see that God wants you to know that He is with you and wants to bring hope to you.”) In many cases this would lead us to having words of knowledge about people’s specific situations, and then prophesying about how God saw things. Where appropriate, we also were able to offer prayer for healing.
The response was fabulous – tears, hugs, people being so moved they were unable to know how to respond. Over the evening the presence of God became so tangible that some would simply not want to leave. We had parents filming us speaking life over their children (who, by the way, are particularly open to things of the Spirit), and couples finding renewed love (including one sweet couple celebrating their 22nd wedding anniversary allowing us to bless and prophesy over them.) We believe that such naturally supernatural ministry will change the atmosphere of our community, as well as impacting individuals, with some of whom we hope to build ongoing relationship.
Why Do We Accept a Lack of Spirit Power?
Let’s be honest: the reality is that most of us don’t live or disciple like this.
Generally, we don’t live naturally supernatural lives – where the active empowering of the gifts of the Spirit flows so readily in the ordinary situations of life that they look as much natural as supernatural.
All sorts of reasons lie behind this lack.
- Perhaps you’ve not experienced these things for yourself. This means that they are not really on your radar – “out of sight, out of mind” is perhaps the best way of describing the supernatural aspects of ministry.
- Maybe you’ve not seen a naturally supernatural lifestyle modeled in a healthy way. When we’ve experienced misuse of the ministry and gifts of the Spirit, it is easy to move to a place where fear of error overrides a biblical freedom to fail. And so we shut it all down, for the sake of integrity and living decently and in order. However, the response to wrong use should not be no use but right use.
- Possibly you think you’re not holy enough to live a naturally supernatural life. And here I’d agree with you – it’s true, you for sure aren’t holy enough! Gosh, if we could see the list of all your sins, none of us would ever talk to you again! (Of course, the same is true in reverse – I am far from the perfect version of me!) But the good news is that this is not all about you. His gifts, while reflected through the unique prism of your personality and story, are not prizes, rewards or trophies. Instead they are the things “of the Spirit”, the dancing hand of God anointing and moving through you to bless others, extend the Kingdom and bring glory to God.
- It could be that you doubt that Jesus will move through you, that somehow you will mess it up, or Jesus won’t respond to your prayer, and then you’ll be left high and dry. These are the moments – which every one of us has succumbed to – when fear of man leads us not to take the risk. Somehow you need a fresh revelation that God is far greater and mightier, that the upsides are so worth the step of faith. It really is true: when you ask for the Holy Spirit, your Father in heaven won’t give you a snake or a scorpion instead (Luke 11:11-13)!
- And finally, you might have a church culture where these things are simply not valued, where the traditions mean that “we don’t do things like that”, and you simply don’t know how to start to upend that opposition. To be candid, that is a tricky situation that can’t always be turned around – some churches and congregations will change over time, while others will continue to refuse the beautiful invitation (and I have experienced both). Only you can discern what the call of Jesus is for you in such circumstances.
Whatever your rationale for resistance, though, I want to urge you from the bottom of my heart: STOP IGNORING THIS CALL FROM JESUS!
Because you have neighbors and friends and family and colleagues like Eric – men and women, boys and girls, who desperately need to encounter Jesus. For many, part of their journey to faith and maturity in Christ will involve experiencing the heavenly dynamite power that brings life and transformation to even the most trying of situations.
When Jesus told us to go and make disciples by healing the sick, driving out demons and proclaiming the Kingdom, He didn’t secretly think, “I don’t really mean the healing and deliverance and dead raising parts, just do the talking and that will be enough!”
We have to go with this spiritual power and authority because:
- Believers need to be EQUIPPED to go and bring Kingdom transformation out of heaven’s resources, instead of simply relying upon their own energy and skills, and…
- The lost need to EXPERIENCE this spiritual reality, so that their faith might rest upon God’s power and not human wisdom.
How to Train Others to be Naturally Supernatural
While there is a huge amount of training that can be done to develop a rounded and mature naturally supernatural lifestyle – later I’ll share a couple of options for accessing that – we have found that there are five words that can supercharge anyone into this adventure:
“Can I pray for you?”
Here’s the thing. There’s a high likelihood that you and the Christians around you are a competent lot, and that you have a decent quotient of kindness as well. Those are both marvelous assets for advancing the Kingdom – and that is undoubtedly a good thing.
However, the potential pitfall is that we are so good at doing them in our own strength we wouldn’t necessarily notice if the Holy Spirit wasn’t really around that much in the center of the action. And that is why I propose a different approach.
When we start by saying to a friend “Can I pray for you?”, what we are doing is putting the explicit focus back onto God and His resources, rather than our own. Our role shifts from problem solver to the one who simply knows how to access the limitless treasures of our Father’s storehouses.
- If your colleague is struggling with a dilemma at work, why not pray for a revelation from heaven that will unlock a solution?
- If your sister is sick, we are explicitly told to operate as ones who are empowered to bring supernatural healing.
- If there is demonic oppression over a household, we know the One who is far more powerful than the enemy and who loves to bring liberation!
- If your neighbor is stressed about lack – of finances, a job, parenting skills – we can of course offer our wisdom, but how much more powerful to start by praying for God’s divine provision.
- If there is a new baby, let’s speak words of life and blessing over that child, rather than simply sending a bland Hallmark greeting.
There are so many times and place where this works as a great jumping off point. In fact, if you simply trained your church to spend a year hanging out in their places of mission joyfully building relationships, looking for the opportunity to ask, “Can I pray for you?”, you would see some amazing fruit.
You Will Mess Up
As you step into this discipline of offering to pray for others – especially those who are not yet saved – know that sometimes it won’t go according to plan. You will pray the prayer for healing and their sickness will remain. You will offer to pray for someone, and their heartache will cause them to refuse and swear at you. You will speak out what you sense from God and they will see no connection.
But just because sometimes we fail, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t step into a naturally supernatural lifestyle. After all, if we took that as a principle, we would never share our faith again, let alone pray about something that we’d like to see happen!
They key, though, is this: Do you operate out of love?
While the miracles are amazing and the healings wondrous, they are not the ultimate aim. Yes, we want them to happen, but the greater goal is that the person we are ministering to experiences the Father’s heart for them. We want them to truly feel His love through our posture, actions and words.
There have been a number of times when I’ve prayed for someone and they have been deeply impacted by God’s love for them, even though the presenting issue has remained. To be honest, I want to see both take place (and that’s not a bad place to be – we should hate sickness, oppression, lack, etc), but if I have to choose, the love of God is the foundation and the destination of it all.
Free Video: “Can I Pray For You?”
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, my wife Hannah and I recorded a 20-minute teaching video on this a few months ago. Click Here to watch video.
Every couple of weeks we release a new free equipping video – we focus on the intersection of disciple making, living on mission, and naturally supernatural. Check out the full list here – and subscribe to be automatically notified when new videos are released!
We offer two further options for you to build a more naturally supernatural lifestyle and culture around you:
- Invite us to lead a training in your church, possibly partnering with other local churches. This can include wider training sessions (perhaps over a weekend), staff/leadership equipping, and/or preaching. To start the conversation, complete this short form.
- This summer we will be starting a new group for our Naturally Supernatural Coaching Cohort. Over a 12 month process, as part of a small online group which meets every two weeks, we will walk you through a comprehensive process to equip you in the main areas – topics will include hearing God’s voice, prophecy, words of knowledge, healing, deliverance, tongues, miracles, Kingdom theology, spiritual warfare, prayer and fasting. Our goal is not only for you to grow, but for you to have the resources to equip others in your local context. Find out more here.
Whether or not you take advantage of these resources, know that you CAN grow in a naturally supernatural lifestyle, because this is how Jesus has wired you to operate! This is how you are sent – in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, so that, with confidence, you can ask the eye-opening question, “Can I pray for you?”
By Alex Absalom of Dandelion Resourcing