(Photo: The Christian Post/Alex Murashko)
IDYLLWILD, Calif. – The subject of intercessory prayer for healing was a bit foreign for Bible study leader Alan Huggett. When his small group arrived at the Center for Prayer Mobilization located in the San Jacinto Mountains for a weekend retreat he was not sure what to expect. Neither did the rest of the group.
"Not really having any experience with intercessory prayer, and it wasn't really taught too much in my upbringing in the church, it was something new to me. However, I did go in with an open mind," said Huggett, 43, who had previously attended a Presbyterian church, then a Mennonite Brethren church, and now a nondenominational congregation in Southern California.
During the retreat at the center led by Pastor Tim Price, Huggett and the others listened to biblical teachings on letting go of resentment and emotional pain from past experiences in their lives. They were also "prayed over" by Price, his wife, and an assistant during intense prayer sessions that included the laying of hands on a few members of the Bible study for physical and emotional healing.
The sessions also included brief moments of the center's staff speaking in tongues. For most of the group, having come from mainly mainstream church backgrounds, intercessory prayer and the techniques used in Price's healing ministry were an introduction into something entirely new.
"There are different styles of intercessory prayer. I think of Romans 8:34 where it says that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and He intercedes for us," Price told The Christian Post. "Intercession is simply praying for someone else in a manner that the Lord directs. For CPM and our ministry we are looking specifically at healing intercession."
Intercessory prayer is nothing new in Christian history and the community. However, the practice of doing so within a ministry is still widely unknown.
"We have a large number of people that have never heard of this type of ministry before," said Price when talking about those who have attended his center. "In the '90s the Church didn't know what to do with us. We were either a cult or at best way out in left field. Inner healing is becoming more and more acceptable to the general population of the Church."
In 1861, speaking on the subject of intercessory prayer during a sermon, renowned Rev. C.H. Spurgeon said, "Four things I would speak of this morning, and yet but one thing; I would speak upon intercessory prayer thus – first, by way of commending the exercise; secondly, by way of encouraging you to enlist in it; thirdly, by way of suggestion, as to the persons for whom you should especially pray; and fourthly, by way of exhortation to all believers to undertake and persevere in the exercise of intercession for others."
When asked whether there was a particular strategy for this type of prayer, Price answered, "Most of what we get in terms of personal prayer and inner healing is from the Holy Spirit. Basically we go before the Lord and ask, 'Okay, how do you want to proceed with this? Where do we need to go?' Then, through an interview process we develop what we need to do first."
During the retreat with Huggett's small group, members were asked to think about what they wanted to "leave behind" about themselves. Those that revealed to Price and the group what their "emotional baggage" or, in some cases, physical ailments were, were then prayed for.
Price said he became interested in praying for "the wounded and broken" through the pastor of his church in the early 1990s. "At that time there were some personal events in my life that needed some attention," he said.
The leaders of today's intercessory prayer healing movement are John and Paula Sandford, said Price. The couple are founders of Elijah House, Inc., an international ministry established in 1975 "in response to the Lord's calling in Malachi 4:5-6 and Matthew 17:11."
"One of the most important things from my aspect is that we have a lot of people sitting in the churches that deep down inside really want to do something, but most of them are so wounded that when they try to step out they get slammed by either the spiritual opposition and/or the woundedness of people within the church," Price explained. "Their buttons start to get pushed and they say it's not worth it. The whole aspect is that the more inner healing that we have and the more we deal with our own stuff and our own issues, the farther we can progress and the less stuff that the enemy has to play with, so to speak."
He added, "There is a lot of discussion in regards to the inner healing prayer that we do as a ministry. There are some that don't agree with styles and techniques that are used by different ministries. We want to stay in tune with the Holy Spirit and only go to the areas and places that the Holy Spirit and the guest want to go. Again depending on your personal belief system there can be a lot of discussion about the type of ministry that we do."
Huggett said he had an enlightening discussion with one of the center's assistants during a break in between sessions.
He said he felt more comfortable with the concept of an intercessory prayer ministry for healing that includes speaking in tongues after "really seeing the sincerity in her heart and the openness and the love coming out of her."
"She is really attempting to communicate directly with God in the process of interceding, not trying to communicate to the actual person she is praying for," Huggett said. He also liked how specific and detailed the prayers were for the needs of group members.
"It was really a wonderful time together in God and I saw how other people in my small group were touched by it and how it caused change in them," he said. "I want to see more laying of hands and praying for small group members incorporated into our group. I saw prayer as a more intimate act of unselfishness."