Freeing The Prisoners
When you ask strangers if they want to be healed, you’ll occasionally be turned down. I often wear my paramedic uniform because I’m either praying with people at work or on the way home from work. When in uniform, I rarely get turned down. But in street clothes, I get turned down more often. The funny thing is – some of the people who don’t want me to pray for them are Christians. When they say no, they usually tell me about the church they go to and how many people are already praying for them.
I often meet people in wheelchairs who receive disability checks from the government. Some of them don’t want to be healed. In most cases they fear that if they were healed, they would no longer receive money for their disability and they’d have to find a job. Not knowing if they could find work, they prefer to remain just as they are, because their income is guaranteed.
I’ve also met people with disabilities who refuse prayer because they refuse to believe that their disability reduces their quality of life. They tend to have an optimistic outlook on life. They don’t believe their physical condition affects their happiness or productivity in any way. They’re quick to dismiss the perception that they’re less able than anyone else. These people rarely accept healing prayer, because they don’t believe they need to be healed to have a better life.
I’ve decided not to engage people in debates about the value of healing. Jesus healed those who wanted to be healed. I think we should do the same. When I meet someone who isn’t interested in healing, I smile and continue looking for someone who does want to be healed.
Being rejected can be discouraging, but I’m not as discouraged as I once was. I’m learning to accept the fact that some people are comfortable with their pain, sickness or whatever imprisons them. They’ve made a choice to keep their affliction and I must honor it. Apparently, God knew I was feeling a little rejected, so He gave me a dream to help illustrate one of the realities of how His kingdom works.
In the dream I was traveling to different locations. My job was to facilitate the closure of prisons. People in the areas I traveled to had voted to close certain prisons and let the prisoners go free. My job was to make sure the prisons closed on time without any problems. I was a representative who had been given the authority to close them. Near the end of the dream, I went to one prison and asked if it was to be closed. I was told that I couldn’t close that one yet, because the people had not yet voted to close it. This was the end of the dream.
I asked God to help me understand the dream. Here’s what I heard Him say:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound”
(Isa. 61:1 – see also Lk. 4:18)
God has been speaking to me about freedom; specifically about our choices and His decision not to overrule them. As an evangelical Christian I was taught about the sovereignty of God. I think many of us (myself included) have faulty beliefs about the sovereignty of God. I was under the impression that God always does what He wants, with little or no regard to what we want. He is all powerful, He calls the shots and we’re subject to His sovereign will. I think this understanding of sovereignty is an oversimplification.
I believe that God is all-powerful; that is to say He has the ability and power to do anything He wants. But I believe He honors the free will of man much more than I’ve been comfortable with.
In my dream, a group of people had not yet voted to close a prison. Their decision was to keep it open and allow people to remain prisoners. And their decision had to be honored. Although God gave me authority as His representative to close some prisons and free the captives, this did not give me authority to overrule the free will of others. And this seems to be the main point God wants us to understand. It is His will that all of us would live free, but some of us have chosen to remain prisoners and His sovereignty does not negate our free will.
I’ve heard leaders teach that it is acceptable to cast demons out of people against their will. In studying the ministry of Jesus, I don’t see this principle practiced or taught. I’m often surprised at how low-key and unobtrusive Jesus was in ministering to people. He often simply asked, “What do you want from me?” In freeing those who were oppressed, He first inquired then gave according to what they asked for. He honored the desires and free will of others. He never used His authority to violate the free will of those who were in bondage.
We do without question have a great deal of authority in Christ. Using it properly seems to be the thing we struggle with. Perhaps the most common problem is not knowing the authority we have or not walking in it. Less common, is choosing to wield our authority at a time when restraint might be the better thing. The harsh reality is that some people we desperately want to see healed, don’t want to be healed and we must respect their wishes.
This is an excerpt from my book Divine Healing Made Simple.