Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
- – Mark 13:5-8
“There are, no doubt, passages in the New Testament which may seem at first sight to promise an invariable granting of our prayers. But that cannot be what they really mean. For in the very heart of the story we meet a glaring instance to the contrary. In Gethsemane the holiest of all petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. It did not. After that the idea that prayer is recommended to us as a sort of infallible gimmick may be dismissed.”
- C. S. Lewis, ‘The Efficacy of Prayer’ (The Business of Heaven, ‘Prayer is Not a Gimmick’)
I recently talked to someone who had joined a new church. In the new church, the pastor promised great power from the Holy Spirit if the person being prayed over could let go all reservations and doubts. My friend wanted this power. I cautioned the friend that the best, and most lasting power of the Holy Spirit, is the power to sustain us day to day, the counseling when we need someone to talk to, and the guidance for our future. My friend said they had that and felt His presence, but my friend wanted more. I said that the Holy Spirit could not grant what was not in the will of God to grant. I wanted to add that the Holy Spirit does the will of God and does not do for us what we demand, but I was already was having misgivings about the conversation. My friend was convinced that this new pastor was speaking the truth. After all, the pastor had quoted Scripture, probably some of the passages that C. S. Lewis alludes to in the quote above. I did not press further.
After the conversation, I was torn. I could see this pastor as one referenced by Jesus in Mark 13:5. He might not claim to be Jesus, but he claimed to have discovered how to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit as an infallible gimmick, power on demand. But the gimmick is fallible. That is why this pastor puts the blame on the person if the ceremony fails. My friend did not ‘let go all reservations and doubts.’ Charles Stanley says in his book, The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life, that there is no instance in Jesus’ ministry where Jesus puts the blame on the person who was not healed. That would make part of the power required for the miracle through the power of the one being healed. No. All of the power for healing in every one of Jesus’ miracles comes from Jesus, from almighty God. Jesus mentions to the healed person that his faith has made him well, in a couple of instances, but that faith was a gift of God. In an appendix of the book, Stanley asks, “Why don’t people with the gift of healing go to hospitals?”
I was burdened. I love my friend. My friend had a hard life, and the pain associated with wrong decisions is a great burden. Of course, they wanted more than sustenance. They wanted healing. They wanted power from the Holy Spirit, to fix what was broken. To many, it is greed. Like a friend quipped at Sunday school last weekend, “Lord, I want patience, and I want it NOW!” But to some, they want more from God because they cannot imagine anything less would be needed for survival. They are wrong. God will give them what they need, but they are at the very last thread of hope and some pastor, either misguided or a con artist, is trying to snap that last thread, and blame them in the process. I prayed earnestly that the Holy Spirit would reveal Truth and expose any flim-flam that gave a dear soul of God false hope.
I was still in this state of prayer when I picked up the C. S. Lewis devotional, The Business of Heaven. When I saw the title, I knew that God was giving me an immediate answer to my prayer. “Prayer is Not a Gimmick.” It comes from the essay on ‘The Efficacy of Prayer’. The entire essay can be found on-line or in The World’s Last Night and other essays. I truly had my answer.
We cannot conger the Holy Spirit for our purposes. The Holy Spirit can work extremely powerful things, but as it fits into the will of God. I prayed further for my friend, whether affected by a charlatan or not, my friend needed healing. If the pain is still there by this posting, God has need for the pain to remain, for a season or longer. I pray that my friend does not lose hope, thinking that their lack of faith was the cause of their continued pain. That is the cruel side effect of this type of practice.
When we go to God in prayer, the Holy Spirit can lead us to better understanding of God and of God’s will. As Jesus says in the Scripture above, we need to watch out that no one deceives us. And sometimes the Holy Spirit gives you the answer right away – a little God-gift to let you know that He is listening.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.