As Related in Letter by Paul Gabrielson,
Editor for the Prayer Fellowship Group, Lutheran Bible Institute, Bellevue, WA.
Dear Prayer Partners,
Can we learn how to pray more effectively?
This month and next I've chosen to use the cover letters toshare a summary of ideas on prayer given in three recent chapel messages at LBIS by Pastor William Vaswig titled "Prayer for Healing as a Trainable Gift," "Positive Thinking," and "The Healing of the Spirit."
Pastor Vaswig is a friend of many faculty, staff and students at LBI. He is one of my classmates from both Concordia College, Moorhead, and Luther Theological Seminary. He is also a member of our Prayer Fellowship Group.
After several years as a fine parish pastor and through some dramatic, life-changing experiences, for the past 9 years Pastor Vaswig has been Director of PREACHING AND PRAYING MINISTRIES here in Bellevue. He now spends 3 weeks a month in his office praying for people for healing and 1 week in congregations throughout the U.S. preaching, teaching and praying for healing. The author of 2 books and many tapes, he is probably the foremost practitioner and thinker in the Lutheran church on the subject of prayer and healing.
[Note: My mother knew him first, perhaps, as a parish pastor of her own church, and because she was faithfully involved with LBI in Bellevue for many years and even later as it changed its name, became a college and moved to Issaquah. Their paths crossed a number of times, and she came to know him in his prayer and teaching capacities. But there was a third way she knew of him and drew from his walk with God, his two books and his ministry tapes. She kept copies of his books close by her into her very last years--and never let them go while she had them, and would read in them from time to time as she no doubt reviewed the lessons of the Spirit and the teachings Pastor Vaswig had to offer, both in his autobiography and his ministry. Her copies became dog-eared, and one I recall was losing its cover.
On this letter she wrote at the top "Save, by Pastor Wm Vaswig". I am glad it was saved, and I have it now to learn from and to share with anyone else who wants to pray more effectively.--Ed.]
Pastor Vaswig's desire is that all of God's people become more effective in their lives, not least by learning better how to pray--including prayer for healing. I've taken 21 ideas from his messages I believe we can use to improve our prayer life that will result in positive changes in ourselves and those for whom we pray.
1. Like all of life, prayer is a gift from God.
2. Contrary to most of our thought and practice which rarely gets beyond learning, "Now I lay me down to sleep...," "Come Lord Jesus..." (a table prayer), and "our Father..." (the Lord's Prayer), prayer is a trainable gift, one we can improve. We can be taught how to pray for healing.
3. Prayer has many forms, such as praise and meditation, some of which God uses to change the one who prays. But the chief focus of New Testament prayer is petition, asking God for things--including healing. Petition should also be the heart of our response to our Heavenly Father.
4. Our prayer actually makes a difference in what God does. If we don't believe this, we could almost as well stop praying.
5. Most of us don't really believe God will heal those we pray for, so we add the proviso, "If it be thy will." We add this phrase as a cop-out, just in case it doesn't work. We walk away from the prayer really believing it isn't going to work--and our negative expectation is fulfilled.
6. It is God's will that we be whole and we can pray with freedom that those for whom we pray will get well, prahying, "Let thy will be done on earth..."
7. Most healing is not miraculous in the sense of a genuine New Testament miracle like raising a dead person to life, or curing a genetically blind person, etc.
8. What we see healed is what the body will ordinarily heal itself, but for some reason is not healing. For example, Pastor Vaswig sees cancer healed through prayer all the time. All of us have cancer cells our bodies get rid of every day. We see the body, through prayer, doing by God's power e perfectly heal what it is supposed to do anyway.
9. Most healing is "processive," not instantaneous. That is, most healing is a process which takes place over time and not all at once. Keep praying for healing even though it doesn't happen right away.
10. Most healing is temporary. Eventually, shrot of our Lord's return, we shall all someday die--and his children will all be healed in the resurrection. Pastor Vaswig tends to pray for those healed of cancer every six months, like a kind of booster shot.
I find these ideas fascinating. Given this understanding of prayer for healing, I might get bolder about doing more of it.
To be continued....
Paul Gabrielson, Editor