God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Mister e-worshipper

Posted by Martin on February 4, 2007

Love this pic!I had a very strange experience today as a guest at a church which I won’t mention. All I’ll say is that it was slightly more of the charismatic variety than I’m used to – they have a lot more of an emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit than the average church. Which is cool by me – I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for today and all that…

And it was a cool church. The worship was great, and surprisingly understated; the speaker was great (he spoke, shock horror, on the Holy Spirit!), and there was lots more about the place to recommend it. However, there was one thing that happened which I found very difficult.

At the end of the service, the leader announced that they would have a time of prayer ministry – I guess they have this every week. People gathered at the front for prayer, specially appointed/anointed ministry team members joined them to pray, and then ‘the spirit showed up’, which theologically I don’t begin to understand – but the fact is that a lot of people began to manifest a reaction to some kind of supernatural force.

That’s not the bit I struggled with. My wife and I decided not to go forward for prayer. We stood and watched (this was far more entertaining), and since it was our first time at the church, neither of us felt brave enough to do any more. After a few minutes, the leader decided to call the service to a close, and said a final prayer. My wife closed her eyes, I did not.

Seeing my wife with her eyes closed, a floating ministry team member saw her opportunity to pounce on someone who was not being prayed for. Within seconds, my wife had a hand in her back, and this lady was feverishly praying for her. Being a polite English person, my wife didn’t open her eyes, but I know her well enough to know that this was unlikely to be particularly comfortable. Still, since I am also English, I didn’t intervene, and stared into the distance, hoping it would go away.

It, or rather she, didn’t. Instead, she grabbed a friend, and this person also began praying, even more enthusiastically, for my now-clearly disturbed wife. And so despite being a visitor, and not going to the front for prayer, she now had two hands on her. Two unauthorised hands, I might add – no-one had asked my wife’s permission to pray.

Eventually my wife opened her eyes, and after a brief argument with the woman who apparently ‘hadn’t finished yet’ – we managed to get away. She was a little bit fed up at the intrusion, but had tried to go with it in case God was trying to tell her something.

Ultimately, it didn’t bother us all that much. But my concern is that while my wife is a Christian, this same thing could happen to a visitor who perhaps wasn’t, and had simply closed his or her eyes during a closing prayer as a mark of respect.

I’m not going to name the church, because this isn’t meant as an attack on them – in fact, we may even go back on Sunday. I’ve written to the minister personally, and hopefully he’ll address the matter. But it raises an important flag for me about Best Practice. I’ve been involved in the past in prayer ministry – I’m now trying to remember whether I treated the people I prayed for back then in this same way. I honestly don’t know if I always took the time to ask permission to pray, or whether the heat of the spiritual moment sometimes took over.

So to draw something positive from a slightly bad experience, hopefully this post will remind any readers who do this sort of ministry to check themselves on the issue of permission. Appearances can be deceiving – I honestly don’t think it’s ever right to assume that someone wants or needs prayer. Someone might be crying in a heap on the floor, or kneeling with their eyes closed – unless they’ve asked us to pray, it’s probably not our place to invade their physical space – especially when we’re working with young people.

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