Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church, has answered questions about holding prayer and worship services to resurrect a dead toddler. Last Saturday, Bethel's worship leader Kalley Heiligenthal's two year-old daughter Olive stopped breathing. The family called 911 and medics attempted to revive the child at home and at a hospital, where she was declared dead. From there, her body was taken to the Shasta County Coroner's Office.
Kalley Heiligenthal has been asking the local church and the church global to pray for the resurrection of her daughter. "We're asking for prayer," she said. "We believe in a Jesus who died and conclusively defeated every grave, holding the keys to resurrection power. We need it for our little Olive Alayne, who stopped breathing yesterday and has been pronounced dead by doctors. We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life. Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly, and with confidence wield what King Jesus paid for. It's time for her to come to life."
Now Johnson has stepped up to answer questions around this whole #wakeupolive request. Here are some of the questions he answered.
What is the premise for praying for the resurrection of the dead? Johnson explained that they've been praying for a miracle of God because of the "biblical precedent" Jesus set when he raised the dead and commanded his disciples to do so also.
"We try to run with a real conviction and a devotion to the very thing that Jesus taught us to do. So I've been asked, 'isn't this interrupting the sovereignty of God?' And my response is... we don't ever want to violate the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign. He chooses what he wants and we cooperate with him.
"The reason Jesus raised the dead is because not everyone dies in God's timing. And Jesus could tell, and he would interrupt that funeral, he would interrupt that process that some would just call the sovereignty of God. He'd raise a little girl, he'd raise the adult person from the dead. The point is Jesus set a precedent for us to follow."
Is there a formula for how to pray for resurrection? Johnson admitted that the church "rarely knows what they're doing", claiming that the situation is a "new area" for them.
"There's no manual that tells us fast this many days, pray this many hours. We don't have any of that. What we do have is a biblical precedent, Jesus' lifestyle and Jesus' is commands.
How long should people pray for the resurrection of Olive? "Someone asked, 'How long do you pray and when do you quit praying?', and I don't have a good answer. We're kind of in the middle of that journey right now. But there is a biblical precedent to continue praying."
Is there a ritual for such prayers? Johnson said the Olivia has been at the morgue since she was pronounced dead by doctors and church members are not surrounding the child to "perform some ritual".
What happens if Olive doesn't rise from the dead? "When it doesn't work, we don't blame God. We give Him the glory. We give him the praise we celebrate his goodness, his kindness, because nothing about our experience, difficult or not, changes who he is. We are spending our life trying to discover this wonderful, wonderful father, who is so perfect in every way.
"We're in a journey like you like many of you. And we're in this pursuit to see Jesus exalted, and all generation of people that can accurately and responsibly demonstrate the love the purity and the power of God."
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