Russ Parker shares candidly how an unlooked-for prayer request helped him re-think the meaning of God’s blessing
This article was published in the September to December 2022 edition of Rapport magazine.
Some years ago I was the keynote speaker at a conference for Roman Catholic prayer leaders in Italy, and was launching my new book Forgiveness is Healing at the same time.
When I arrived, I discovered that my book had been published in Italian without my knowledge and this version was selling remarkably well whereas my own, official copy of the book, remained unsold. Needless to say, I was very concerned and upset. Then in the middle of all this a woman came up to me and not only asked me to sign her copy of the offending book, but also to pray for her! I did my best to swallow my pride, signed her book and then laid hands on her head and prayed (without being translated), ‘Lord! Give this woman the biggest blessing she can live with.’
She was immediately filled with the Holy Spirit and later told me that she had experienced an overwhelming sense of God’s special love for her. She said that it lifted the heaviness that she had grown accustomed to living with and believed from this that her life-long battle with depression was at last being won. She believed that she was healed.
Rediscovering the lost ministry of blessing
Following this blessing prayer, in a matter of moments, I had a queue of people clamouring for prayer ministry. As I could not speak Italian, I prayed the same prayer over them all and in rapid succession. There was a powerful demonstration that God was meeting people at their point of need and lives were changed and transformed. It took my breath away, and so began for me an adventure of discovering the lost ministry of blessing.
Up until this moment in time, the word ‘blessing’ for me was a reference to praying for God to answer my prayers and do something good in someone’s life. There were no specifics attached to praying ‘Lord bless this person, Lord bless our church’. It was Christian shorthand asking God to do something or to bring well-being. Not a bad thing to desire of course but if we are honest with ourselves, this kind of praying also comes with the hazard of becoming boring after a while, with an almost zero level of expectation. It is this carte blanche use of the term that we find the world over.
When someone sneezes we say ‘Bless you.’ When a baby does something endearing we say ‘O how sweet. Bless.’ And there are still a few would be sons-in-law who will ask the father of their intended bride if he can have his consent, or his blessing, to marry his daughter. They all convey the wish to see good fortune for someone. Yet the Bible teaches us that blessing is a unique ministry resource gifted to believers to bring about the purposes of God in peoples’ lives. Like any other ministry procedure, it has its own rules and rhythms of grace.
There are examples of the ministry of blessing that stand out in Scripture and from which we can learn so much. First there is the priestly blessing of Aaron:
‘The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:Numbers 6:22–27
“‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”’
The first thing to notice is that when giving a blessing it is not asked for, but pronounced with authority and expectation. This is not arrogance or assuming an authority we do not have, but it is the exercising of a commission to be the people that bless. The other thing to notice from this passage is the purpose: the name of the Lord is to be put on the community of Israel. It is interesting to note that this is the first recorded blessing since the debacle of the rebellion of the golden calf, when the people of God were in great danger of losing their identity as the people of God. This priestly blessing was to herald that God was back, putting His presence and name powerfully upon this community. Oh how we need this blessing on so many of our churches today!
The benefits of being blessed
Secondly, there are the Beatitude blessings of Jesus, Matthew 5:3–10. The Greek word used here for blessing is ‘makarios’ and it is almost exclusively used on the lips of Jesus. William Barclay translates the first Beatitude as ‘Oh, the bliss of those who know their poverty of spirit because Jesus will give to such the kingdom of heaven.’ Jesus is stating the benefits of being the blessed.
We are to be the people who will be comforted in times of loss and grief, by God’s goodness; we will inherit the gift of his earth, and we will know the mercy of God upon our lives and have the honour of being called His children. The Christian is known as the person who is blessed of God, and it shows.
Thirdly, we have the injunction upon all Christians is to be the people who bless, in 1 Peter 3:9 – ‘Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called, so that you might inherit a blessing.’
It would be so easy to miss the astounding simplicity of this text. Although it is referring to our response in times of evil or being insulted, it is a reminder that part of our calling as Christians is to be the people that purposefully bless others, or as The Message translation puts it, ‘It’s your job to bless!’ In his book The Grace Outpouring, Roy Godwin tells of how his faith community in South Wales began purposely walking the lanes around their property blessing the local farmers with good and healthy calves and lambs and that their crops would prosper.
Prospering livestock and crops
Over the course of the years it became apparent that the industry of the farmers was prospering and they linked this to the focussed blessings of Roy and his companions. Quite a few came to a new faith in Christ through this. It is a perfectly legitimate thing therefore to ask God, ‘Who are the people you want me to bless and what should I bless them with?’ If you are a parent then immediately I would encourage you to ask yourself, ‘What is the blessing that my son or daughter needs in order for them to flourish in the way that God intends for them?’ When you have the answer to your questions, then convert this into a pronouncement of blessing. Here is one I pronounced over my son who was living over a thousand miles away from me at the time:
‘Joel! I bless you with knowing how much God loves you and what a lovely boy you are to me.’ I prayed this continuously for over a year and all the time I pronounced it I noticed that my son began to turn around in his life and eventually came home to Jesus which was a tremendous thrill for me.
I think the ministry of blessing is long overdue for renewal in the lives and practices of Christians whose calling, amongst others, is to be the people that bless!
Rev Dr Russ Parker
Rev Dr Russ Parker is the Founder and Director of 2Restore, which offers a range of resources to help churches resolve and heal their legacies of unhealed stories. He is the author of a number of books including Healing Dreams, Forgiveness is Healing, Healing Wounded History, and Rediscovering the Ministry of Blessing.
Join Russ at Lee Abbey Devon in October
3–7 October 2022 (Mon–Fri)
This is an opportunity to discover the power and purpose of Blessing as taught in the Bible.We will learn its transformational impact when applied to the healing of wounded churches, the healing of the land, and our own need to receive the Father’s blessing. Blessing is also an important element of our prayer life and has particular relevance when we want to touch those in our families who we think are beyond our reach.