Emily showed up for our meeting as nervous as a cat in a room of rocking chairs. She sat down across the desk from me and placed her keys and her purse between us.
I heard Jesus say to me, "Do not pray for this woman right now."
I thought it was an odd thing for Jesus to tell me not to pray. But I trusted him.
"Before we start this meeting you're going to pray for me. Start praying right now so we can start." She demanded.
Boldness came upon me, and even I couldn't believe I said this.
"No. I'm not going to pray for you."
She quickly grabbed her purse and her keys and stood up. "I can see this isn't going to work with you. Have a good day!" She said as she started for the door.
"One quick thing before you leave, don't you want to know why I said no?" Honestly, I wanted to know why I said no also.
"Kind of..." She said hesitating to leave now.
I heard these words coming out of my mouth, "I didn't pray for you because prayer is a conversation and not an obligation. In prayer, I converse with God and it's voluntary. I don't pray on demand. I don't have to pray before a meeting, to close a meeting or before a dinner or as a morning ritual."
The woman burst into tears. "They made us pray. Before a meal, after a meal, multiple times a day. We had to pray or we were punished. Everything was a have-to. I grew up in a cult and I was spiritually abused. I left and I was excommunicated. I just realized right now that the cult like behaviors are still in me and haven't left. I was making you pray. I'm so sorry! She stated as she wept.
My boldness seemed to break open something happening in the spirit realm. Compassion broke things wide open for Holy Spirit to move in and take over the meeting.
"I'm so sorry this happened to you. Spiritual abuse is very painful. These effects you are speaking of do not have to be permanent. You are loved just how you are. May I please pray for you now? I understand if you do not trust me, but I believe God can touch you right here, right now and he wants to meet you right where you are."
She did allow me the honor of praying for her then. God moved deeply in her that day, bringing her deeper into a supernatural healing encounter and the revelation of God’s love for her. The revelation of how the cult-like habits were still active in her was a difficult reality for her to see, but deep down, she knew it was still there and had to be broken,
The truth is, I had no idea what her background was or why she was behaving that way. But someone did. The God who loves her and created her knew these things were holding her back. There were things in the way. The way she interpreted her world. The way she interacted with God and people was not where it could be.
The good news is, anything can happen when we hear him and follow, even when he tells us something we don't expect him to say.
We can trust him. We can choose to be open. We can allow heaven to invade our everyday lives.
Are you ready?
1. Names used in stories are changed for privacy purposes. Thank you for your grace in honoring the privacy of those whose stories I write for the purpose of healing and education. Stories are powerful and everyone has one.
2. Spiritual abuse is a very serious matter. In my years as a minister and as a lover of God in general, I have witnessed and been on the receiving end of spiritual abuse. In my experience, prayer requests for spiritual abuse issues have come up secondary only to prayer requests for personal family issues. The ramifications of spiritual abuse can be devastating to one's identity, humanity and relationships with people and the Godhead. The toxicity will remain until God reveals his true heart for us in his time, in his way. The divine intervention in this story was remarkable and far more detailed than I have revealed here. A much deeper work of the heart was put in motion. Some healing is immediate. Some healing takes time. Beginning can be the hardest part.
If you have been a victim of spiritual abuse, I am deeply sorry for the ways God has been misrepresented to you. I weep with you. I pray you will find the courage to seek healing. I have a blog series on recognizing and recovering from spiritual abuse, and I am currently working on finishing the the series and it's coming soon.
In the meanwhile, if you are seeking help, I have a recommendation, an immediately available resource for you. My friend Mark DeJesus has produced an excellent, free online course called Healing from Spiritual Abuse: How to Heal and Move into Wholeness. I took the course myself and found it to be helpful and full of resources and vital information. If you find this story has moved you and you feel a prompt to start a healing journey, here is where you can find Mark DeJesus' course. Click on the link: