Possessing the Gates of the Enemy
Bearing Other’s Sicknesses
Over the past years we have received a number of sad reports from pray-ers across America. One of the saddest involved an intercessory prayer group leader who had become sick. As she prayed she felt that this sickness was not hers but that she was bearing it for another friend. She said openly that this sickness could not touch her because it was not real and was only something she was carrying for the weaker person. As time went on, however, she got sicker and sicker. When finally she went to the doctor, she learned that she had an advanced case of diabetes. She was in such serious condition that the doctor could do nothing for her, and she died. This woman took on false burden-bearing and stepped into an area of presumption and deception that killed her.
In studying about this problem I reread a section in Norman Grubbs’ book on Rees Howells that shed some light as to where the idea that intercessors should actually take on another’s sickness might have developed. I share this not to attack a man whom I consider personally to be one of the greatest intercessors who ever lived but to make the point that although Rees Howells was a pioneer in the area of intercession, his explanation in writing might not convey exactly what the Lord meant when He spoke to him about “identification.”
Mr. Howells had already known something of the groanings of the Spirit in him for the needy and afflicted. . .. But what would it mean to intercede for a consumptive? As an intercessor, he must enter into the sufferings and take the place of the one prayed for. He knew that a bed- ridden consumptive could have no normal home life, was confined to one room, and was cut off from everything that once comprised the interests and pleasures of life. So during this time of “abiding” the Holy Spirit went much deeper in identifying him with the suffering of others. And as he did so, it was not just this one woman, but the consumptives and sufferers of the world whose burden came upon him.
“Mr. Howells had not gone very far on this path before the conviction took definite hold of him that before he was through, the Lord would literally let this disease come upon him and that only as an actual consumptive would he fully be able to intercede for consumptives. That this was not a foolish imagination but a practical possibility will be seen later in his life when, after taking great personal risks to care for a consumptive, it looked as though he had contracted the disease. Moreover, in all the earlier intercession he had literally had to take the place of, and live like, the ones prayed for. “
This passage opens some dangerous areas for intercessors because the idea of identification could be stretched and taken out of context until intercessors feel that they are the ones who bring salvation and change, that their works bring healing and wholeness.
God’s Word tells us that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the cross and that we are healed by His stripes (1 Peter 2:24). Nothing in our carrying sickness brings healing. Only the work of Christ, which we appropriate as we pray, can do that. To say that we bear someone’s sickness physically in intercession is a false fellowship of suffering. It is true that we will suffer certain things as we intercede, such as hunger when we fast. Isaiah 58 says that fasting afflicts the soul, and I believe it; it surely does afflict mine. Other times it might mean giving hours of your time when you want to be out doing something else. For many intercessors it has meant being misunderstood or thought of as kind of crazy.
I am sure that many intercessors are saying at this point, “But the same sickness afflicting the person I was praying for hit my body, too.” Others might be thinking, “Sometimes I didn’t even know that the people I was praying for were afflicted with the same kind of sickness I had. Why did that happen if I was not bearing their sickness?”
Please remember that when you stand in the gap for another you place yourself in prayer between the person for whom you are interceding and whatever the devil is trying to inflict upon him or her. Thus, the very sickness that is hitting the person for whom you are praying will sometimes hit you, too. The important thing is to resist immediately what Satan is trying to do not only against the person for whom you are praying but also against you. If the enemy cannot kill the person he has targeted, he does not mind afflicting an intercessor instead. Remember, Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
At other times you may not even know at first that you are supposed to be interceding for a person who is sick, but discover later that your symptoms were exactly the same. There are times that the Lord puts us in the gap, and we are not aware of what has happened at first. This is another reason always to resist the fiery darts of the enemy and ask the Lord if those darts were meant for you or someone for whom you are supposed to be praying.