Healing Help 45: Identification, Agony, and Compassion

Let God use You.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27 ESV

This is one place where the ministry of intercession comes in. Somebody has to intercede—to take the place of another.

Kenneth E. Hagin

At the beginning of my first year at Rhema Bible Training Center, there was an announcement about a prayer meeting to pray for the requests that came into the ministry office. I decided to give it a try, as I had never been to a prayer meeting. The leader of the meeting divided us up into two-person teams and instructed us on the procedure. It was quite an experience for a recent convert who had never been part of a Spirit-filled church of any kind. Following instructions, my partner and I followed instructions. We took out the first prayer request, found a Scripture that covered the need, then we agreed together that it was done. Then we began to pray in tongues.

As the other teams in the room did the same, I was spellbound, listening to and watching things I had never experienced. Some people were walking and talking, apparently to themselves. Others were weeping, falling to their knees or lying face down on the carpet. Still others were seated on the ground, kind of moaning and rocking. One lady in particular caught me eye. She was under the grand piano, and seemed to be experiencing something that resembled labor pains: loud groans followed by periods of quiet as she caught her breath. It was all brand new to me, but I am so very grateful for the opportunity to participate. I saw the variety and reality of what it means when the Holy Spirit takes hold with us in making intercession.

There is, indeed, a place in the Spirit where you become aware that the Spirit of God has “taken hold” with you. He is helping, as Paul described in Romans 8:26. It’s not an emotion, it’s internal, but you know when it happens. In persevering prayer for healing, it’s the Spirit letting us know that He is ready to use us in moving the obstacles and overcoming the internal issues that hinder healing in the one for whom we are praying. This is time to press on, not shy away.

In our previous discussions of covenant, committed prayer, we touched on three areas that will help us understand what’s happening when we join forces with the Spirit of God in this level of intercession. They are connected to each other, and none of the three sound particularly pleasant, but it’s worth the trouble to be able to help those who are suffering.

Agony: Remember our friend Epaphras in Colossians 4:12? Paul told the Colossians that Epaphras “is one of you.” There was a connection, an identification as he prayed for the Colossians. He struggled (ESV), wrestled (NIV), or labored fervently (KJV), on their behalf. The Greek uses the word agōnizomai. According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, it means to enter a contest or to contend with adversaries – to fight or to struggle with difficulties and dangers. You get the idea. This is a battle that requires strenuous effort.

Notice how Paul described his pain on behalf of his Jewish countrymen who had rejected Jesus as the Messiah: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. (Romans 9:2 ESV) He used modifiers that emphasize the magnitude of his great and continual internal grief. He goes on to say, “ For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1-3 ESV)” He was willing to take their place, to bear their penalty, to offer himself as a substitute. That’s the agony of intercession.

Passion: This level of intercession is driven by a passion born of love. In the ministry of Jesus, we repeatedly see that He was “moved with compassion.” The word used describes the internal organs. We might say “guts.” This was a passion that was not ritual performance of a task. It came from the gut. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36 ESV) When you’re moved with God’s love, something happens in your gut that prompts you to action.

When I read Paul’s plea to the Galatians, I hear a violent passion: “Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. (Galatians 4:19 NLT) If you’ve ever seen the excruciating love of labor pains, you know this is much more than a casual concern. Having already experienced the travail of birth, Paul says he is willing to go through it again, so great is his desire to see them conformed to all that Christ can be in them and to them. He has a zeal that moves him to extraordinary measures on their behalf. What a privilege we have when God allows us to share in His love for someone by moving in us to pray!

Identification: Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin said that to intercede is “to take the place of another.” Our highest example of this concept is Jesus, our great intercessor. At the incarnation He stepped into our shoes, taking on a body to live as a man (Hebrews 10:5). In the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed for us as He faced His crucifixion (John 17). On the cross He took our place, bearing the punishment for our sin (1 Peter 2:24). At the right Hand of the Father, He ever lives to make intercession for us so that we can receive the fullness of all He has done (Hebrews 7:25).

The mind-boggling truth is that He humbled Himself to live as we live, die on our behalf, and to live for eternity with a body marked with scars. He is able to understand our tests and trials because He experienced them. When He intercedes for us He does it with the fervor that comes from feeling our pain:

[14] Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. [15] For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16 KJV

We can come boldly to the throne, expecting to find help, because Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, has the capacity to identify with us in our weakness. He is “touched with the feeling.” because He faced the same tests. That phrase, “touched with the feeling,” Comes from a Greek word (sunpathes) that goes beyond sympathy or just feeling sorry for someone. It means to feel or suffer together with another. He feels the same pain and enters into the experience with you. We’re in this together.

This particular word is used only two other times in the New Testament. The first is in Hebrews 10:34 where the writer says, “you had compassion on me in my chains.” He is commending them for enduring the same persecutions as those who endured imprisonment, joyfully sharing in their suffering. The New Living Translation says, “You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail.” The point is that they felt the same pain, sharing in the experience. The only other New Testament use of this word is in 1 Peter 3:8.

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.

1 Peter 3:8 NKJV

The word “compassion” in this verse is our same word for feeling the pain together. This time, it’s given as a directive to Christians as to how we should treat one another. It amplifies and explains the one New Testament commandment, “that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34 NKJV)”

This is how He loved us. He bore our iniquities and carried our pain, taking wounds on His own back to bear the weight of our sickness. This is an identification that is willing to take the blow, to feel the pain, to fight the fight, both with someone and for someone. How do we obey this directive? How do we enter into someone else’s pain, or fight their battle?

There is a place of intercession where we can actually sense the Spirit bringing us into identification with the object of our prayers. When God allows you to experience these things, it may by disconcerting at first. Don’t quit. You are going to be fine. This is done in the spirit realm.

  • In praying for the lost or backslidden, I often feel a sense of desperation, even separation. This is not my separation, but I can pray through on behalf of another. I am to pray for the wandering one, not talk about him. When a brother or sister steps away from God, it should break my heart, not make me mad at them. Don’t be afraid of feeling their “lostness.” 1 John 5:16 / James 5:19-20
  • I may actually feel pain or discomfort when God prompts me to pray for the illness of another. It’s not a physical pain, though it may seem very much so. It’s the Spirit of God touching me with the feeling of their infirmities. It allows me to take the weight of the battle off them and carry them in the spirit. My job is to continue earnestly in prayer until I get a sense of release. The practical reality is that some will never be healed without intercession.

When you begin to pray in the Spirit for a sick believer, stay at it until the Spirit of God allows you to take on the burden, bear the reproach. This is a spiritual reality that we need to embrace: Lord, put it on me. When these things happen in the Spirit, it can be disconcerting. The impulse is to back away, and God will certainly let you say, “No.” But I encourage you, don’t stop until you sense the burden lifting. You’ll know when it happens. Turmoil turns to peace, grief becomes joy, discomfort disappears and relief floods your heart. If you have to stop in order to perform your daily duties, the Spirit will help you plug back in when you have the opportunity.

Let me also point out, that there may be times when the “connection” in the Spirit never comes. I have no explanation for this. I remember one particular instance when my wife came and told me that she had a sense that a man of our acquaintance was in trouble. I asked her if we should pray. She said, “No. We can’t change it.” She had prayed, and that moment of taking hold, of taking the place, never came. I can’t explain it. I just know it happens. Don’t be dismayed. We do the things we know to do, and let God be in charge of the unknown. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

We began this series on “Healing Help” looking for places where our doctrine and practice of divine healing may need some adjustment. We even prayed that God would help us understand what Paul meant when he said, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NKJV)” We are Christians, and we want desperately to fulfill the law of Christ. I am increasingly convinced that one place we need help is in praying effectively for one another. No one who is a Christian should have to fight these battles alone. We are connected by covenant. We are empowered to pray.

Next Steps: Don’t let the distractions of this life keep you from the things that can impact eternity. Turn off your phone and the other screens that bind you. Take time to pray in the Spirit for the ones you know are struggling to receive their healing. Ask the Lord to let you take on their burdens. Pray in faith, expecting that God will move in them and make the adjustments that need to be made. As I have said repeatedly, I’m asking you to take part in a determined, unyielding, inconvenient calling to bring weary believers into contact with the healing power that God provides. Make effectual and fervent prayer in the Spirit.

Now that we know how to be more effective in helping others receive their healing, we have one more step to take. Next time we will look at watchful prayer, seeing the attack of the enemy before it happens and taking steps to prevent it.

Pastor Virgil

For men who want to reflect Christ:

“Man Alive: Christian Manhood in a Twisted World.”

For all other Pastor Virgil books, visit the FCF Tucson Bookstore

4 thoughts on “Healing Help 45: Identification, Agony, and Compassion

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