Prayer Ministry – What’s in a Name?

Prayer Ministry – what’s in a name? Sometimes a great deal.

Through Beth Tephillah Ministry Centre we come into contact with many people working and ministering in the area described variously as Christian counselling, prayer ministry, healing ministry, Theophostic ministry, prayer counselling, and other terms. Often there is no problem because those involved know what they themselves mean when they use their name for what they do.

However, increasingly, different ministries are intersecting as Jesus breaks down the boundaries that have for so long separated us. This is wonderful. It is an outworking of what Jesus means when he prays, “Father, … I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:21,22)

He goes on to speak more about this glory that is revealed through the oneness of Jesus with the Father and us with them. And what is this glory? Surely a part of it is our doing the work of Jesus on earth – bringing freedom to the captives, sight to the blind, life to the dead, and so on.

Di and I have just spent another week with Peter and Heather Toth, of Anazao, on a course in Geelong on ministry to the dissociated. During our discussion the problem of what to call what we do arose again. Let me give you some history.

When we became involved with Wholeness through Christ Ministries in the early 90s, we were learning to do, and were doing, “Prayer Counselling” This was a mixture of various tools as taught by John and Paula Sandford of Elijah House, Carol Thompson’s “Possess the Land” teaching, Denis and Rita Bennett’s pioneering work in healing of emotions, and numerous others. It was Christian Counselling, but with a strong emphasis on reliance on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge that it was Jesus who heals, not us. It was Christian Counselling in its true sense – not secular counselling done by Christians, as so often Christian counselling is practiced, even when it has a spiritual element added, but counselling done by the true Counsellor – the Holy Spirit – with us providing the human presence for him to work through.

After some years an uneasiness set in about use of the word “counselling”, mainly, I believe, because we were not training counsellors in the accepted sense of the word, who could be held professionally accountable for what they did with a “client”. We were really facilitating the interaction of the client with Jesus, plus restoration of what should have been taught in the church in basic discipleship training, but generally wasn’t. It was “Christianity 101”! So, because it involved asking God to work, we began calling it “Prayer Ministry” instead of “Prayer Counselling”.

Some 10 years ago we began to encounter people who had trained using Ed Smith’s “Theophostic” approach to ministry. As we worked with them we discovered that they generally knew nothing of prayer ministry except Theophostic. In fact, they often thought the word “Theophostic” was synonymous with “Prayer Counselling”. They would ask “Have you done Theophistic?” and would be mystified when we told them that we or our team members had done “Wholeness through Christ Ministries”, “Elijah House”, “Vineyard’s Equipping the Saints”, “VMTC”, “Servants in Benloch”, “Ellel“, “Possess the Land”, “Charles Kraft’s Deep Healing”, “Come out Be Free”, “Sonrise Family Ministries“, “Beth Tephillah Ministries”, “Restoration”, “Healing Rooms“, or a host of other training and ministry systems.

Our first encounter with Theophostic, which simply means to bring God’s light into the situation, was the day after a session in our own Beth Tephillah course, where we had taken a person to a deep seated lie and asked Jesus to reveal the truth to the person, after having disposed of the demons getting in the way. Someone loaned us Ed Smith’s basic video course and the following day we began to watch it, to find it was exactly what we had been teaching and doing the previous day, and in fact, for some years.

Theophistic is excellent, especially as a concise systematisation of the steps in this form of ministry. However, the name has caused us some problems, not only because of its unfortunate similarity in sound to the occult science of “Theosophy“, but more because of the isolation of many of its practitioners from knowledge of other, and older, streams of healing ministry. Personally, I believe that Ed Smith is largely to blame for this situation because of the very proprietorial stance he has taken on this teaching. However, he is not alone in this approach. For example, we love the teaching of those real pioneers in all things prophetic and healing, the Sandfords. Yet, at least as it is practiced in Australia, there is talk of an “Elijah House Way” that must be followed if someone comes to an EH graduate for ministry. Other ministries have similar restrictions. Our approach at Beth Tephillah is the one originally taught to us by the Sandfords themselves – add everything to your toolbox. Bring it out when needed and put it away again. Each time allow the Holy Spirit to tell you what he wants you to do.

The freedom that comes with this approach is wonderful. There are no formulas to follow – you must depend on Jesus. It also allows you to be adaptable to new teaching. I remember in our early training by Wholeness through Christ Ministries, we were sternly injuncted to “not do deliverance the way Charles Kraft does it – he talks to demons!” There was a certainty that because demons are liars by nature you cannot allow them to give you information. You will be deceived. In 1995 Charles Kraft came to Australia to do some seminars for Tabor College. WTCM took advantage of his presence to arrange a small seminar for our staff, at which Chuck was able to demonstrate, by carrying out deliverance on our staff director, what he actually did. It was so exciting to see his ability and authority to make the demons reveal truth, especially about the lies that they had been telling the person, while all the time forbidding the demons to cause any discomfort or embarrassment to the person, that we all immediately became enthusiastic supporters of this way of doing ministry, and have used and taught it ever since. Chuck, like others such as Peter Wagner and Jack Deare, had their conservativism broken earlier by encounter with John Wimber and his demonstration that supernatural healing really did still happen today. I still remember the excitement of the Vineyard “Equipping the Saints” conferences in Melbourne, and “Doin’ the Stuff” as John used to call it.

We have had similar experiences with other ministry movements, such as the misnamed “Toronto Blessing“, for example. At the founding meeting of what was to become Intercessors for Melbourne, Diana and I encountered this laughing, falling, rolling, shaking phenomenon, exactly one year before it broke out in Torronto and spread to the rest of the world. As happened at other places, the Lord told me he was going to be doing this soon and that we should reassure people when it happened that it was of Him. Once the Lord released it, it rapidly became an opportunity for renewal, deliverance and healing in many centres and churches. Although the initial excitement has dimminished, these opportunities continue. But the fear and criticism of this movement have also continued. Some said it was God, some were adamant that it was of the flesh, others that it was demons. I still don’t see why this was such an issue – all were correct, it was God, the flesh, and the devil! Whenever God shows up in power, our fleshly fears and desires become revealed, and any demons around come under pressure and are exposed. It was a wonderful opportunity to deal with them, not to run away because it offended our theological sensibilities. It was meant to upset the applecart of a church that had become dry and stale – that was the point of it!

Why do I mention this example now? Because, this too is now commonly called “Prayer Ministry”. It is typically carried out after a conference or church meeting, up the front near the stage. Perhaps, on reflection, this really is prayer ministry, because all it asks of the “minister” is either laying-on or laying-off of hands (as we used to do it to avoid charges of pushing people over), and asking the Holy Spirit to come on the person in power. And he did! I’ve had the joy of simply looking at people from the stage and they would fall, and of walking around a conference centre and see people fall as I went past. Yes, we encountered flesh, and demons. But we saw a lot more of the Lord. There were times that I was standing behind someone to catch them, and if they resisted they would be leaning back at an impossible angle and not falling, while I would be struggling to stay on my feet in case they did. The flow of the power of God’s presence was often so overwhelming that the catchers reached the floor first.

Over the past two years Diana and I and our team have reached another such watershed in ministry. This has been brought about by our encounter with Peter and Heather Toth of Anazao. Their approach to ministry to sufferers of Dissociate Identity Disorder and to victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse is revolutionary. Not that others have not been ministering and teaching in this area before them, but they have found a new model for understanding dissociation that acords much better with reality than that of previous ministries and secular psychiatric thought, and through 1000s of hours of counselling have become effective in freeing people quickly and completely from dissociation and true SRA. We had previously looked at how others handle these situations and found them so unsatisfactory that we decided to leave them alone. Now, using Anazao’s model and methods, we are having real success in quickly setting people free, and it is impacting our approach to other areas of ministry.

However, the problem of what to call what we do comes up again. Anazao use Theophostic ministry to deal effectively with demonic interference, because Peter learned to do this from Ed Smith. Of course, Ed Smith does not like Anazao’s approach to dissociation and SRA, but that is another matter – Theophostic works in other situations! Yesterday as I discussed with Peter his misgivings about our use of the term “Prayer Ministry” it became clear that he did not use the term the same way as we did. He was thinking more of the “up the front of the church” style of ministry, and his observation of our use of a separate intercession team to feed in encouragement on a sheet after the ministry session seemed to him as if our ministry was asking God to speak through the minister to the client.

I can understand such misgivings. Anazao, as do we, prefers Jesus to deal directly with the client. The ministry team is to facilitate this process, not to be directive. Actually, I think we might even emphasise this more sometimes, because Anazao also does far more of what we would call “counselling” than we do. We try to minimise the giving of advice or instruction as far as possible. This is not a criticism of Anazao, just an outworking of the fact that they are counsellors where we are not, and although counselling is a necessary part of healing ministry, we have generally prefered to separate it from the prayer ministry. In practice, however, I have found myself liable to counsel rather more than many other prayer ministers of my aquaintance, because it reflects my particular spiritual giftings as prophet/teacher and the Holy Spirit’s role as “Counsellor”. I expect that as we embrace, and are trained to use, more of the revelations that are being given to the ministry today through Anazao and others, we will see the development of a more rounded approach to healing, just as happened in the past through the Sandfords, Wimbers, Krafts, etc.

A few years ago, when there was a change in the structure of the Prayer Ministries Network we changed the name to Healing Prayer Ministries Network, to better reflect that as a network we were welcoming of different expressions of healing ministry apart from what we had mostly come up through. Of course, this only increases the ambiquity, as “Prayer Ministry” or “Healing Prayer Ministry” now even more deliberately includes many different expressions of ministry. This is healthy, because we can learn from and support each other, and refer people with different needs to that which is most appropriate or available to them.

But, it leaves ministries such as Beth Tephillah Ministries, and others, with a problem – What do we call what we do? I throw this out as a challenge for discussion. I would love to hear your ideas on this, either through comments in this blog, or by email through the HPMN network, or directly to me.

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About Mal

Pastor, prayer ministry centre director, theologian, philosopher, musician, radio amateur, electronic engineer, webmaster
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