RUPA Spiritual Impact Model: How to redeem those we love


How can we grow all of us closer to Jesus?

Lately I’ve been wrestling with a series of questions around:

  • parenting
  • evangelism
  • discipleship
  • inner healing.

This morning — having watched the Indian Forrest Gump last night — I wonder if the acronym RUPA might address all of them:

  1. Relationships that build Trust
  2. Understanding that creates Awareness
  3. Prayer that binds Strongmen
  4. Authority to release Freedom

Here’s a first draft of how that might work. What do you think?

1. R: Trustworthy Relationships

I like to say there is no silver bullet for spiritual growth — only a golden sword. That is, scalable resources like books, sermons, and programs can help us go “broad”, but rarely penetrate deep enough to cause lasting change.

If we want others — or even ourselves! — to have transformational encounters with Jesus, we need to move beyond superficial behaviors and intellectual ideas. In my experience, this requires me to make the first move in becoming appropriately vulnerable, to demonstrate to others that this is a safe space to be fully emotionally present.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t always correlate with long-term friendships. I am blessed with several close friends with whom I freely discuss difficult topics. Yet somehow the “leap of faith” required to create each new level of trust is not much different than for near strangers (in the right context).

2. U: Self-Aware Understanding

I hate to admit it, but I am really good at coming up with brilliant solutions to the wrong problem. Worse, I often end up blaming the people involved for failing to have the problem I thought they did!

I think the reason is that it takes great courage to intervene in other people’s lives. And the cheapest form of courage is simply being convinced you are right. Whether that conviction is based to tradition, ideology, or (my favorite) personal arrogance.

For whatever reason, it is excruciatingly painful for me to stay curious while engaging with a difficult relational situation. There is a constant temptation to hide behind safe half-truths and self-protective words, instead of deeply understanding the other person’s point of view.

Yet I have become convinced that the only way people will receive my truth is if they trust I have received theirs. In fact, it is only after I recognize my own self-deception and lies that I can accurately see which truth they need in order to be set free.

3. P: Binding Prayer

Oddly enough, once I know that truth, it rarely helps to speak it. In my experience, there are very powerful reasons people cling to incredibly devastating lies. These essential fictions help us wall away excruciating pain so we can continue to function, and it is both cruel and counter-productive to try ripping away that fig leaf without something to replace it.

This — and perhaps only this! — is when and how we need to pray.

I am deadly serious. I have caused (and received) untold damage to my spiritual life by fervently praying for the wrong things with the wrong understanding. I became frustrated and angry with God, myself, and other people when I didn’t get the results I expected. Because I was convinced I was doing the “the right thing” by “bringing the desires of my heart before God.”

And perhaps I was. But in the wrong way.

To be clear, I agree there is a time and place for childlike prayer. And generally it is better to pray than not to pray! But there is a class of hard relational problems where, at least in my religious subculture, prayer can become a drug that keeps us from confronting the real problem.

Yet paradoxically, prayer is also the only hope for those situations. These are deep spiritual, psychological, and usually generational wounds that mere words can never heal. We need to pray for God to open eyes, ears, mouths and hearts — and create the right circumstances — if we are to see a breakthrough.

4. A: Spiritual Authority

Yet even when I say the right prayers with the right understanding in the right relationship, it usually is not enough. I now consider this a sign that I don’t yet have the right authority.

Sometimes it is simply a matter of time and intensity. I just need to pound the arrows through fasting and praying until I see the victory.

But more often than not, it is because there is still a stronghold in my own life where Satan has authority over me. And when I try to yank his chain, he yanks mine. With often devastating (though occasionally hilariously embarrassing) consequences.

This is why I have learned to move slowly and deliberately when claiming territory for the kingdom of God. I don’t want to outrun my air cover, or bypass hidden snipers that can then shoot me in the back.

To be honest, this is the area I most need to improve upon. I think I need a community of intercessors to help me see my blind spots, and help me bear the burden of being both efficient and comprehensive. So I can avoid both failure modes:

  • cowardly holding back out of fear
  • foolishly running ahead out of arrogance

This is far from the final answer. But I think I am at least getting better at grappling with the right questions. At any rate, this is where I will start. Care to join me?

Ernest Prabhakar
May 14, 2023

3 thoughts on “RUPA Spiritual Impact Model: How to redeem those we love

  1. Good stuff, Ernie! This is what I love about you: Your willingness to bare your soul while searching for Him in every situation. Truth is my prayer life isn’t what it used to be when I was an intercessory missionary.

    I had hours upon hours on weekdays to seek and dwell in the house of the Lord, His holy temple, to gaze upon and behold His beauty, and inquire in His temple. Those four years before Him changed and marked me. His seal upon my heart was strengthened. Yes, I trip and fall but I know Who made me and wants what’s best for me, especially after a minor prophets study in BSF (yes, I survived).

    The Test
    I have only one relationship for which I allowed myself to be vulnerable only to have my heart spit upon and crushed. Rather than pray, I seethe. I say I’ve forgiven them yet I’m still angry. It has poisoned mutual friendships—people who are in church leadership—because no one wants to confess they were wrong about me much less seek actual truth and reconciliation. I realize even more spiritual authority will come after truth and reconciliation—not lip service, platitudes and arrogance.

    I enjoy spiritual authority today but it has come at the cost of close relationships. I want Jesus more although He also wants me at peace with my brothers and sisters in Christ. When I pray, I feel His presence. When I discuss my project, I feel His presence. When I fellowship with believers, sometimes I feel His presence likely because I’m imperfect.

    How is it possible for believers to be incapable of confessing their trespasses against us? It’s not a healthy relationship when only one person apologizes for something both did to each other. It’s certainly not healthy when an arrogant believer won’t get off their high horse, humble themselves, turn from wicked ways and get on their knees (in their heart) and see/hear what Jesus sees/hears.

    Steffany Gretzinger sings it best: “Tell me the truth, even if it hurts me, even if it’s ugly, my heart is open, Tell me the truth without the self-protection, love can mend what’s broken in me and you.” It stinks when only one is willing to open their heart. What I hear and now see so clearly is someone so broken they fear crossing the rubicon of being vulnerable to others. For them, it seems impossible.

    Admitting we aren’t perfect or right all the time is not weakness. It’s strength. My weakness is an honor before the Lord because He is strong when I’m weak. He’s working when I can’t. He’s fighting on my behalf when I don’t.

    My prayer is simple: Let there be light. Let both of us see the devastation clearly. Holy Spirit come. Is that too simple for a prayer? No.

    • I hear you. Unfortunately, it does not seem to work that way. For some reason, there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood.

      I don’t know why. But before healing begins, somebody has to choose to first give their life away. No strings attached.

      That is the only thing that saved the world. It may be the only thing that can save ours…

  2. Fortunately, Jesus shed that blood for both of us and that is THE only thing that saved the world. I think what you’re pointing to is dying to self. This is akin to an alarm going off in a morgue: No body reacts.

    When we stop reacting and start responding as Christ would, then we have a starting point for reconciliation. It requires both to lay down their weapons and turn swords into plowshares. In Jeremiah the Lord terrified His chosen people until his wrath was exhausted. With the blood of Jesus, we don’t have to experience the full force of His wrath.

    However, some who know Jesus seem to believe they are entitled to exhaust their self-righteous wrath on those who seemingly sin against them. Truth is their heart likely needs to be enlarged, tents stretched open to receive more than their understanding. His thoughts/ways are higher than ours so when you look at it from 50k feet, with all that’s happening around us, how important is it and what is your part in cleaning up the mess? Is it yours to clean? Did you hurl insults, verbal attacks? Perhaps repentance is in order.

    The blood of Jesus and His perfect love cover a multitude of sins. To break free from heartache, their must be repentance, an admission that mistakes were made. We ask the Lord to let those of us living with PTSD know when that opportunity presents itself. Is it the proper time? If one is still tender, raw, perhaps more time is necessary before reconciliation.

    For me and PTSD, I always need more time because every cut is deep. I’ve been prayed for, over for PTSD healing to no avail. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be healed meaning, sleights will always pierce my heart deeply. It’s a shame there’s no real acknowledgment of this wounding. This is my self awareness, the thorn in my side. His grace is sufficient. Period.

    To recap, the only one who needed to die to save me and the world is Jesus. When we die to ourselves, we are far more prepared for whatever comes.

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