Healing Line

Healing Line

Thoughts From Francis

by Francis MacNutt
March 1994

Dear Friends,

In November I was privileged to be one of 27 people invited to a pioneering conference held in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Our purpose in gathering was to discuss research into Alternative Medicine, ways of healing that differ from traditional medical methods (allelopathic medicine). Present were doctors studying the effects of love upon healing, a doctor doing research on the effects of the Maharishi's TM, doctors studying the effects of religion upon aging, and an expert on traditional Chinese medicine which utilizes the energy fields of the body.

As you can imagine, this was unfamiliar territory to me. How much of it was good and helpful? Clearly, some approaches ran counter to Christianity and it was unfamiliar, too, to be in the minority. I was the only one asked to speak about Christian prayer for healing although there were other Christians and Jews in the group.

These alternative approaches were popularized by Bill Moyers' fascinating TV program which you may have seen on PBS. If you saw those five hours of programming you probably wondered, as I did, why there was nothing on Christian healing prayer, which is, after all, the most popular and widely practiced Alternative Medicine practiced in our country. This meeting in Virginia helped me understand some of the reasons for the omission; and hopefully it was an encouragement to the scientific community to start doing research on the value of Christian prayer.

Perhaps the most significant thing about the meeting was that it was sponsored by the Research Department of the National Institute of Health (NIH), a department of the U.S. government (Dr. Wayne Jonas of the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC. was in charge of our meeting).

Positive Aspects

Some hopeful ideas were presented at the meeting and I would like to share them with you:

1) The medical profession as a whole is becoming increasingly open to considering alternatives to traditional medicine as helpful and valid.
Through the influence of research and the influence of authors like Dr. Bernie Siegel and Dr. Scott Peck, doctors now see that many factors, including a person's spirituality, are key elements in healing the sick. Doctors are no longer simply disease–centered but are more willing to consider the whole person and factors such as personal relationships, diet, and environment, together with the spiritual and emotional health of the patient as factors in physical healing.

2) The medical profession now seems to be at a crucial point where they are becoming open to doing serious research on the value of prayer for healing!

Causes for Concern

The not–so–good news is that we also face some significant problems in developing credibility with the medical establishment. We can change these, but the first step is to be aware of them. Here are some of the primary problems as I see them:

1) Christians, as a group, to this point in history have not been serious about connecting with the medical profession and doing research. I know there are exceptions (such as, Oral Robert's' City of Faith, when it existed), but the people I met who are actually doing research into alternative medicine seem to have little or no contact with Christians who pray for the sick.

Contrast this with one MD., who gave a talk on more than 400 research studies on the effects of TM (Transcendental Meditation) upon health. I know of a few Christian studies, but nothing on this scale. As a group we simply do not connect, do not communicate on a level that most doctors or researchers can relate to. They are not impressed, for the most part, by testimonies seen on TV. The fact that I was the only Christian in the healing ministry invited to the meeting clearly indicates the need for more communication.

2) Part of the reason for the lack of communication is, I believe, the perception that Christians are dose–minded and condemnatory of anything new. I would like to emphasize here that, as you know, we at Christian Healing Ministries strongly disapprove of anything that might involve demonic activity, and much of our ministry involves deliverance from evil spirits. Certainly we do need to sift things out, but what I'm talking about is a kind of a superior, prideful attitude that evangelical, Pentecostal Christians seem to take, by not only disagreement with people but seeming to condemn them. At the end of my presentation, one couple from England, for example, asked me, "Why do the Christians we meet condemn us to hell?"

The people I met at the meeting were very open to what I had to say, including a good half–hour on the need for discerning the presence of evil spirits. Many of the talks I found to be helpful and they had nothing to question. Yet those speakers have been lumped into New Age. Other speakers I would certainly not agree with and I would regard their approaches as dangerous and New Age in the bad sense of the term. As a group I found them to be sincere spiritual seekers, looking for truth and trying to be loving. I see them as open to the Gospel — if it were ever truly presented to them.

3) Some of their research was fascinating in its implications. One doctor, for instance, had left his medical practice to do research on the effects of love in healing disease. He had performed experiments showing that directing love to groups of cancer cells actually helped heal cancer. I don't see that any Christian need question the value of that kind of research. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that kind of microscopic research were done when we pray for patients with cancer? In short, we need, more than ever, to be able to sift out: What is of God? What is good in the natural order (created by God), such as the healing power of love? And what is demonic? But mostly I would like to celebrate a new openness in the medical community. I would also like to be able to celebrate a new openness in the Christian community, an ability to discern what needs to be forsaken in the broad movement known as New Age, but joined with an ability to recognize those areas that are not New Age at all, but where we can all learn and discover.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. March 1994 Issue