Unwrapping the Gifts is an easy to read, practical guide to using spiritual gifts in prayer ministry, providing an excellent resource for anyone looking to become better equipped to set captives free and minister healing in a hurting world. Paul lays a solid theological foundation for the ministry of healing and deliverance, and presents a wealth of real-world experience from many sources.
To Set the Prisoner Free
Christina and John were church-going Christians when they received the news that Christina’s brother, Rob, had been in a terrible accident. They clung to each other and prayed while Rob was losing a race with death two thousand miles away.
After pacing and praying for more than twenty-four hours, Christina collapsed into an exhausted, uneasy sleep. Long before she should have wakened, she entered a deep dream. Yet even in sleep, Christina was aware of a dream so real–and so absolutely beyond her life experience–that she recalled every detail.
“I was sleeping and my brother came to me,” Christina remembered. “He lay down on the bed next to me and began to talk, asking me how mom was taking it. I asked if he was going to be all right. Would he live? And he answered he hadn’t been told yet. This was so real. So vivid. I sensed it was real.”
Some details seemed odd, even in the dream. “My mother had moved just weeks before to a house Rob had never seen. In the dream, Rob told me he’d tried to find my mother and couldn’t find her house, so he came to me.
“I tried to keep him there, asking him questions. Wanting to know if he would live. It was as if I was trying to keep him alive by keeping him there.
“He talked for some time, then sat up. ‘I have to go now, but I have something for you,’ he said. He put what appeared to be a small, blue slip of paper in my hands. But as soon as I grasped it, it felt like a cord or rope. I gripped the cord in my hands and begged him not to go. I remember being so afraid he would die and I would never see him again.
“I wouldn’t let go of the cord, so he finally pulled away so suddenly and with such strength that I was thrown to the floor. He walked out the door, and I woke up on the floor with my hands clenched, as if I were still holding that cord.”
Shaking and exhausted, Christina fumbled for pen and paper and recorded every detail of the strange, puzzling dream. What she could not have known was that while she dreamed, Rob was dead; his heartbeat had ceased. In an operating room halfway across the country, skilled physicians, powerful drugs, and 21st century medical technology worked desperately to bring him back from death.
The next morning, as Christina and her mother scrambled to pack clothes, confirm airline tickets, and meet the outgoing flight to Rob’s home city, Christina played and re-played the strange dream in her mind.
“I kept sensing this was real,” she recalled. “At that time, angels and near-death experiences were topics in magazines and on television. But nobody in our little town would believe this.” Christina struggled to describe the experience to a few family members. “How could I tell other people when I wasn’t sure what had really happened myself?”
At the hospital, Christina and her family kept vigil for 15 days while Rob lay in a deep coma. Crash cart and Code Blue became familiar terms. Doctors gently prepared the family for Rob’s death.
But Rob didn’t die. On day 15, Christina sat beside him during the few minutes allowed to visitors each hour. “They finally pulled the breathing tube out so he could talk,” she recalled. “I said, ‘I think I had a visit from you while I was sleeping.’
Rob didn’t even pause. ‘Yes, you did,’ he answered. Then, he repeated our conversation–exactly.”
Christina’s mind whirled with questions. The whole, amazing dream must have been real, but how? What had happened? And what was the blue cord Rob had given her?
Christina would wait months and even years for answers to most of her questions. But one answer Rob knew then. The blue cord was somehow related to Rob, himself, and to Christina’s act of hanging on to him.
During the next months Rob healed, working daily to regain strength in his damaged body. Christina and John returned to their home in the Rocky Mountains. But for Christina, nothing was the same.
Christina launched a quest to learn about near-death experiences. She read everything she could find. One subject led to another, and soon she had a small library of books about angels, spirit travel, life-after-death accounts, and communication with deceased loved ones.
Christina found the church surprisingly silent on the matter. “I’d never heard anything like this spoken about in church. I drove miles to a Christian bookstore looking for some help. Not a single book. Secular books and TV were the only sources of information.”
Soon, Christina was taping episodes of The Other Side, a television program featuring stories of life after death experiences and communication with deceased loved-ones.
Then the “other side” Christina had tried to understand re-entered her life.
“I had communication with what I thought was an angel,” Christina said. “The angel was a comfort. I felt caring. It came to me first with words in my spirit, speaking in my mind.” Christina grew to depend on “her angel.” This spirit-being told its name to her and, soon she called upon it for help and comfort.
A time of confusion, pain, and physical and spiritual harassment began that would take Christina into a downward spiral, like a plane in a fatal nosedive. Chaos took over her mind and spirit.
Christina began seeing ugly creatures and hearing voices. She was repeatedly physically attacked, hit, and bitten. Red marks appeared on her body although nothing physical had touched her. Prayer and her guardian angel’s presence were Christina’s only shelter in this spiritual storm.
“Eventually, the only way I could sleep was to listen to Scripture put to music….The tape player kept going dead. I’d put in new batteries and it would die again. A deep voice, like a growl, came over the headphones telling me ‘You will not listen to this tape.’
“I was afraid nobody would believe me or they would assume I was mentally ill. It was affecting my marriage. The more I tried to read…trying to understand, the more harassment. My husband felt so helpless.”
For a year Christina fought a losing battle. “I was headed for a funeral,” she recalled. In desperation, she contacted her new pastor, hoping this virtual stranger might believe her but knowing he might just as easily decide she was mentally ill. The pastor met with John and Christina.
“This was God-ordained,” Christina now says. “He sent this pastor to our little town to tell me where to get help.”
Christina left the meeting with a name, a phone number, and a thread of hope. She clung to all three as the weekend crawled by. The next week, trembling, she called Aslan’s Place, a California ministry led by Paul and Donna Cox, and poured out her terrible story. Paul seemed calm and unsurprised. That day, and for many days afterward, Paul Cox prayed for Christina. The battle had begun.
Initial prayer brought some relief. Small changes, like being able to sleep, seemed like miracles to Christina and John. Soon they scheduled a trip to California to meet Paul and Donna Cox face to face.
At Aslan’s Place teams of mature Christians are commonly assembled to pray for hurting, wounded people. Each team member brings unique spiritual gifting and insight to the prayer session and the ministry.
Some intercessors may hear the Lord, audibly or “in the spirit,” speaking words of instruction or direction. Others may receive images, like mental pictures. God may give “seen” visions or reveal information unknown to anyone but the person receiving prayer. The Lord may also reveal His mind, will, and intention to prayer teams through specific words or Scriptures, emotions, thoughts, and physical manifestations of touch, temperature, smell, sight, and hearing.
Janelle joined the prayer team for Christina’s first visit. Following Paul’s leadership, team members prayed and waited for the Lord’s direction and revelation. Paul had previously prayed for peace and protection from demonic attack. Now the battle for Christina’s life, peace, and spiritual freedom escalated. The team wanted to find and remove the roots of this bondage.
“Christina had a special relationship with her angel,” Janelle recalled. “I felt this ‘check’ in my spirit. Like the Lord was saying, ‘Slow down. Pay attention here. Something isn’t right.’” Janelle prayed, asking the Lord to show her the truth. She searched her memory for any scriptural example of humans having relationships with angels. “It just didn’t sit right with the Scriptures.” Janelle began to feel a “creeping fear.” In the past she had experienced that same sensation, sometimes coupled with seeing flickering lights, when evil was present.
Lord, who is this angel? Janelle prayed silently.
Janelle had a visual image of a leather strap around Christina’s neck. In that moment her mind cleared and she knew with certainty that God had answered her request for the truth.
“Janelle said my guardian angel was really a demon that had me in bondage,” Christina recalled. “Was that the leather strap around my neck?” For many months, Christina had been plagued by a physical pressure “like a heavy crown or weight” on her head. It now felt as if screws in the side of her head were being turned, tighter and tighter.
Christina cringed. How could that be my guardian angel? It can’t be, she thought. He told me his name.
“Ask the Lord to show you the truth,” Paul Cox said. “Ask if this guardian angel is wearing a mask.”
Christina felt frozen. Immobilized. Conflicting thoughts circled in her mind like boxers in a ring. How could she doubt the angel that had been her companion and comfort? The questions about her angel seemed fabricated and ridiculous. Hadn’t she heard that Christians couldn’t have demons?
Christina sat for 20 minutes or more in silent struggle. “I was so hurting. So desperate. Finally I told the angel to go to Jesus and asked Jesus to show me the truth. I closed my eyes and said, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, drop your mask if you are a deceiver.’”
Instantly, the beautiful face turned into a hideous, ugly demon. Christina’s friend, companion, and guardian angel was actually a demonic, “familiar” spirit.
Over many days, the prayer team and Christina asked the Lord for understanding. She learned that the visit by her brother was real. Although communicating with her brother in the dream wasn’t sinful in itself, Christina soon understood she had clung to Rob as she clung to the blue cord. She also saw clearly how her efforts to make sense of the whole experience had led her to real evil–communicating with spirits, reaching out to the spirits of dead people and, eventually, opening the door to demons through her relationship with the false guardian angel.
Healing came slowly over many, many months. Some prayer sessions were done by phone. During this time Christina’s mother heard a voice in a dream “I can have one member of the family in every generation.” They called Paul for prayer. The words, “unholy shroud.” and unwrap her were heard. Paul asked Christina’s mother to act on this word.
As Christina’s mother lifted her hands like a mime, as if unwrapping bandages from Christina’s body, Christina described a physical sensation to Paul. “From the top of my head down I feel this tight binding being slowly unwrapped.”
In separate incidents, two people saw, in their minds, an image of a woman holding a baby in a hospital nursery. Both people felt uneasiness, much like Janelle’s experience of “creeping fear.” The team began to ask the Lord to reveal what this, too, meant for Christina’s freedom and understanding.
Between prayer sessions, Christina, Paul, and team members asked Jesus for understanding. Christina returned home, but the ministry continued. Christina’s freedom wouldn’t be won in a single battle. This was a war, with still more ground to take.