Across the world we may be due another wave of what is sometimes called “ministry prayer”. Last year such a move was sparked off as the ministry of Todd Bentley was publicised across the internet. And now Todd has a new website and appears to be getting ready for a comeback. There was a wane in these times across the world following news that Todd had fallen into an affair. So might Todd’s comeback reverse this trend? I sincerely hope not!
So what's the problem?
Is it Todd's recent divorce and remarriage? Well actually Todd is now going through a time of "restoration". He has made himself accountable to Rick Joyner. This is documented in videos on his new site. Of course falling as Todd did is a very human failing. We can and should learn to rebuild our trust of him in this area.
No, I have a different concern – the whipping up audiences especially using exaggerated claims. Todd claimed some incredible miracles. News media such as ABC's Nightline broadcast concluded that not one of these could be independently verified. Nevertheless his staff worked overtime collating testimonies and medical reports. So what are we to think? I am sure that some people were really touched but also I think there was a lot of hype.
Don't get me wrong. I am a great believer in prayer and I look for God to heal today. But observing the way that phenomena such as this spread makes me wonder to what extent human psychology is involved. And in fact whenever I see people called forward after hearing a motivational message I wonder how much of what follows is due to suggestion. I'm not saying that the emotional manipulation is always intentional. But when the focus is on an individual and their needs people tend to get over emotional. Those that do respond in this way may even start to get dependant on this emotional experience.
In our church we are careful not to make claims we can’t back up and not to whip up emotions. Times of “ministry prayer” are thankfully rare and, when they do occur, often the meeting is formerly closed so that we can get a coffee if we prefer, which I do. But I long for more of God and I feel that sometimes it would be good to respond to him with a physical act but, to be honest, for all the above reasons most of these "appeals" give me the willies.
So what are the alternatives? Well I think we can be more creative. Why can't we have activities in which we can all take part if we want to – not just those “in need of prayer”? Let's not be so intense about it.
On occasions in our worship we have been encouraged write or draw something to give thanks for and bring that forward to be displayed. Once during our Time With God we wrote down things that we were praying for God to get rid of such as debt or injustices and dropped them into a litter bin. I saw a number of activities like this at Prayer House at Spring Harvest this year. And in previous years I have seen many ideas in worship sessions at Greenbelt. On my bookshelf I have a series of books with many innovative multi-sensory ideas by Sue Wallace. The list could go on. I’m sure we can think of more of these ourselves and use them as ways to respond in our services.
More “ministry prayer”? No thanks!
But I would love to see more of these creative and relaxed ways for us all to respond to God. Come on! Let’s go for it!
For a related article by a friend of mine see Catching Men by David Matthew.