I had already practiced the much-needed discipline of telling myself, "I am not the junior holy spirit!" regarding insights or changes I thought might benefit my husband, when I discovered Leanne Payne's wonderful intelligence and insight and her passionate knowledge and experience of Jesus. Either Listening Prayer or Restoring the Christian Soul through Healing Prayer introduced me to Leanne's writings, and very quickly I devoured every book by Leanne that I could get my hands on. I have read most of her books at least twice and have given away numerous copies to others. I currently have Listening Prayer, The Broken Image, Real Presence, and Healing Presence on my bookshelf.
I came across Leanne's writings about 15-20 years ago when I had been getting my toes wet in the waters of intercessory prayer, bringing hurting people to God's throne, asking for His grace and mercy for them. Influencing others is one of my strong personality traits and since I had been barred from teaching at my church and I hadn't developed the necessary disciplines and skills to write and publish on a regular basis, I moved toward the next best thing for someone not allowed the use of manipulation tactics or holy spirit status - prayer on behalf of others. I felt like God had done so much renovation work in my own life and I was hungry to see Him use my prayers to help others.
Leanne Payne's understanding of the psychological and spiritual processes at work in our lives, and her teachings about the presence of God in our lives - incarnational reality, the role of forgiveness in healing prayer, the writings of C. S. Lewis, the dangers of inviting gnosticism and Jungian symbolism into our thought lives and Christian communities has been a skillfully sharp sword in my life, and I could quote many passages that have helped me over the years.
I am choosing a passage from Listening Prayer that confronts and exposes a type of "prayer" that has been around for centuries: substitution. A quick scan may not yield its treasure, so I encourage you, if you spend any time at all helping, praying for or mentoring others, to read it again when you have the time and focus to read it fully and use the very specific prayers.
"When we receive the gift of tears and strong crying out to God in intercession, we are not given special merit. Rather it is a gracious "work" of God's Spirit. We should be grateful and thank God for it. Trying to duplicate this grace is folly and gets in the way of intercession. Much of our best work of prayer will be done without sensible knowledge of this grace. When it comes, we simply give thanks for it.
Having said this, there are bona fide ascetic practices that, when absent from our lives, pretty well guarantee that we will not do much interceding. We are powerless when fasting, solitude, silence, and the classic ways of training our bodies to be temples of the Holy Spirit - as we see in our Lord, those He taught, and the early church - are missing in our lives. Dallas Willard's book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, should be read by all who are serious about true ascetics as applied to prayer and the Christian walk.
Besides the matter of false ascetics with its misbegotten ideas about God or ourselves, two other practices that hinder us in prayer are widespread today. One involves the practice of substitution. This occurs when we pray to take someone else's pain, illness, fear, or sorrow into or upon ourselves. In such a case, we do not intercede to God for them,but try to substitute for them. Rather than looking to Christ as the One who died to take their pain, sin, or darkness into Himself, we ask to take it upon and into ourselves. Rather than looking to the Savior, we attempt to be one. Instead of helping someone carry their burden of guilt, pain, sickness, or whatever to God in prayer, we ourselves fail to trust God. We attempt to carry the person's need in our own strength.
Substitution occurs, then, when we blur the distinction between being a savior-redeemer --something only Jesus could ever be and do -- and being His disciple, a sacramental channel through whom His life is to flow. To substitute is to attempt to do the work Christ has already finished, while simultaneously missing our own proper work. To take upon or into ourselves as mediators the darkness of others is at best based in ignorance, at worst based in pride. Either way, we fall into a messiah or savior complex and will have to confess pride to get out of it.
One of the great dangers in substitution lies in the fact that spiritual forces we do not understand or fail to discern can be directly involved in sickness of spirit, soul, and body. In the case of demonic presences, these are quite amenable to "transferring" themselves from the sick person to the one who asks to "substitute." Such a person unwittingly opens his or her soul and body to darkness, saying to the enemy "Come in" while simultaneously sending messages to his or her own mind and body, "Disintegrate, I give you full permission."
This action, of course, is not rooted in looking to and trusting God -- that is, in true prayer. The well-publicized movie The Exorcist did not feature an exorcism at all, but a substitution. A priest, failing to pray to God and exercise the authority of his office, instead took into himself the demonic force afflicting a child. The movie ends with the priest leaping from a window to his death. This illustrates most graphically the price to pay in substitutions. This price is not one connected with legitimate Christian suffering.
An interesting sidelight here: in PCM conferences, we bring the gospel to bear on the healing of souls. Since we are psychomatic unities--body and soul--our bodies begin to heal as a natural course and sometimes even instantly. Near the end of each conference, we are often led to pray for physical healings, especially those connected to the emotional and spiritual healings received by the people. Invariably, however, when people have the opportunity to renounce their substitutions, we see dramatic and instantaneous physical healings--as well as mental and emotional. There have been miraculous healings of cancer, emphysema, and others from these renunciations. Healings, such as those connected to the practice of substitution, do not seem to occur apart from specific teaching and opportunities to pray for them. Our grief is that there is never enough time in these meetings to get all the teaching and healing prayer exercises in.
If after reading the above, you know or even think that "maybe" there has been a substitution of this kind, now is the moment to name it, repent of it, and renounce it. You can look straight up to God and pray as follows:
"Lord, I asked to take on [so and so's] pain, disease, or darkness of [name the spiritual darkness, physical disease such as blindness, crippling condition, or mental and emotional depression or darkness of whatever kind]. I name my foolishness and pride before You right now. You alone are Savior-Redeemer. My faith in you was lacking, and I asked to do what You have already done--You carried our sicknesses, our sins, our sorrows. Forgive me, Lord, even as I renounce this substitution."
The substitution is then renounced, specifically:
"Lord, I have confessed as sin the pride and unbelief that was in this substitution. I now renounce it before You. [Renounce as specifically as possible the substitution you made, for instance, 'Lord, I asked to take on so and so's blindness, I renounce that substitution, confessing as sin the pride and unbelief that was in it.'] I look directly to You for [so and so's] health and wholeness, and thank you for removing from me, as far as the East is from the West, this malady I've suffered due to this wrongful practice.'
This prayer ends in praise and thanksgiving to God for His forgiveness, for His release from the substitution, and for all the healing that accrues from it."
Leanne Payne, Listening Prayer, copyright 1994, pp 58-60, Hamewith Books, a divsion of Baker Book House Co., Grand Rapids, MI 49516
Though I cannot remember wanting to take on another's physical or mental illness, I have definitely, on occasion, fallen into a "savior complex", which really only, in my experience, impedes or delays the true work of God.
I have been able to steer myself away from commitments and entanglements motivated by the "be the savior" temptation many times by reminding myself: There is only one Savior, and I am NOT Him.