A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
Praying down a blessing
You have the power to pray the blessing of God into people’s lives. Your words, under the power of God’s Holy Spirit, have the ability to impart purpose, blessing and courage into people’s lives. In a very real sense, those you bless will be blessed and those you do not bless will not.
What is a prayer of blessing?
Blessings are found throughout the scripture, in the Law of Moses, the Psalms, the Gospels and the Epistles. Under the Old Covenant, the Levitical priests were given the authority to impart a blessing upon God’s people. "Aaron was set apart, he and his sons forever, that he should sanctify the most holy things, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister to Him, and to give the blessing in His name forever." 1 Chronicles 23:13
We are so unfamiliar with the idea of a prayer of blessing that, at worst, we associate it with sneezing - "Bless you" and at best, we see the blessing as a way to end the service. Yet, when the priests blessed the people, they imparted God’s name, favour and presence, saying "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." ‘"So they shall put My name on the people, and I will bless them," said the LORD Numbers 6:24-27. Since Christ has made us a royal priesthood and a holy nation, (1Peter 2:9) this authority to impart blessings is no longer a Priestly or even an Apostolic function; each of us may, in prayer, impart the Name, favour and presence of God to His people.
When Jesus’ disciples entered a house they were to give it their blessing, a greeting conveying the peace of God. Jesus said, "When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’. If the head of the house loves peace, your peace will rest on that house; if not, it will return to you." (Luke 10:5-6). The Apostles closed their epistles with an impartation of God’s blessing; one of my favourites is 1Thessalonians 5:23-24: "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it." Then, so that we understand all blessing is an expression of God’s grace, he closes with, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."
How then might we pray the blessing of God into people’s lives?
Three steps to praying down a blessing
1. If we are to pray a blessing, the first thing to realize is that blessings are positive affirmations of God’s love for people, towns and nations. Blessings can never be negative; "bless and do not curse" wrote Paul in Romans 12:14.
God’s kingdom is always built upon positive principles. It is the perversion of the flesh or the rebellion of the devil that distorts God’s positive kingdom into sin and legalism. God’s plans are always positive. If our outlook on life and faith is negative, then we do not share the heart of God. His purposes always move from negative to positive. God forgives sin in order that we may walk in righteousness. He brought the Israelites out of slavery into the Promised Land. He gives us the gift of love and we debase it to lust. He gives repentance so that we may enter into faith; He cleanses in order to fill us with His Holy Spirit. God always has the destination in mind, rather than the difficulty we are facing. He deals with the negative IN ORDER TO BRING US INTO THE POSITIVE. Now, prayers of blessing must arise from the positive life-enhancing kingdom of God. Do we really think that the Lord inhabits the criticisms and complaints of His people? The problem is we are essentially negative people who have been brought into a positive kingdom. We need to begin to think as God thinks. He deeply loves people and wants to bless them through our prayers.
The majority of our prayers in Church focus on confession or needs. We pray for forgiveness and against poverty or sickness. These are valid prayers, but their focus is the point of need, they do not often rise above the immediate problem to view the heart of God in the situation. They do not flow from the place of unity where God commands the blessing (Psalm 133). A prayer of blessing comes from the very heart of God and imparts His blessing into the situation.
2. In order to impart a blessing, we must first align our lives with the source of blessing. Unconfessed sin, criticism and hard-heartedness will close the door to prayers of blessing. It is as we walk in unity with the one who blesses, that blessings flow. The blessing is not ours but God’s and we can only bless those whom God is blessing.
However, do not make the mistake of thinking God’s blessing is only for Christians. Jesus healed ten lepers, only one returned. It could be the blessing that brings someone to Christ. Recently a couple attended our chapel, thankful for the birth of their child. The blessing of a baby ultimately brought them to Christ. Someone I know came to Christ because they prayed for and found a job; the answered prayer took them to God’s house in thankfulness. In the same way our prayers of blessing can open the door to faith, as God’s blessing comes on people’s lives. God loves to bless.
A blessing is in essence a Trinitarian prayer, speaking the will of the Father, into the heart of His child, through the blood of Christ, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Blessings are bloodbought, love laden and Spirit anointed. They impart God’s purpose and presence; they resonate in the soul, inspiring courage and devotion. A blessing is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give. Ultimately, if people remain outside the cross, our blessings are limited to the natural and not the spiritual realm.
3. A blessing should be specific to the situation. We no longer just use a form of words to bless as the Levitical Priests did. In the New Testament Epistles, the blessing given to each church is unique. It was spoken into their situation from the heart of the Father. I recently brought the ecumenical welcome to a new team Vicar appointed to St Cuthbert’s and St Stephen’s. The large church was packed, the Bishop officiated, the Bible and elements of communion were brought forward and Janice was duly inducted. The ecumenical representatives then came forward and, as I took the hand of this colleague in the Gospel, I thought of the blessing a minister needed. Without closing my eyes, I prayed God’s blessing firstly into her spirit, for that is the place where Christ dwells and where ministry is born. I prayed a blessing on her soul, for that is the place of exchange, where peace, wisdom and joy are known. I prayed His blessing on her body, that her strength may be equal to her task and asked God’s guidance and favour in her life. As the words of blessing were spoken, the Holy Spirit took them and applied them to the heart. The blessing was not simply given it was ordained of God and received by faith.
As you pray blessings, realize they are positive affirmation of the Father’s love; remember you must be in unity with God to impart His blessing and listen to the still small voice of God whispering in your spirit, the specific blessing for this occasion. A blessing is often given in the presence of the one being blessed, but we may also bless our Church, our town or a nation.
- If you pray with a friend, close with a prayer of blessing, speak God’s positive words of life into their inner being.
- If you have a prayer meeting, come in unity and speak God’s heart of blessing on your church and town, pray for "kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." 1 Timothy 2:2
- If you lead worship, take the example of the scriptures and pronounce a blessing fitted to the occasion, ministering into the lives of God’s people.
This study on blessings only scratches the surface. I trust it will inspire you to carry God’s blessing. A prayer of blessing is creative for it carries the seed of God’s love and the power of His presence. May the God who has known you from eternity and called you by name, equip you with overcoming faith, that you may be blessed and be a blessing. May your radiance shine from the secret place of God’s love that you may walk in His blessed presence carrying peace to a broken world. Above all may you know Him who is the source of joy and life. The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.