Healing Line

Healing Line

The Media and Medical World Show Increasing Focus on the Supernatural and Healing Prayer

by Francis MacNutt
Summer 1996

Have you noticed? — A startling new development — And a very happy one. Very simply it is this: the supernatural and healing–through–prayer is suddenly appearing in the mass media and in the medical world.

An example of this fascination with the spiritual can be seen in the amazing upsurge of belief in angels! In the past two years scores of books have appeared about angels. Even though some of the new enthusiasm is off center theologically, a large amount of the material generated to feed the public's interest is surprisingly solid, especially when you consider that most current seminaries do not have courses on angels in their theological curriculum (In spite of the fact that St. Thomas Aquinas had a lengthy section on angels in his theological master–theological master–piece, Summa Theologica, written in the 13th century). Like many of you, Judith and I have taken to watching "Touched by an Angel" on Saturday night TV, and find it profoundly moving and very sound in its presentation of the ministry of angels.

There has also been an increase in acknowledgment of the work of bad angels — the demonic realm. Who writes about them? Well, it's Dr. Scott Peck, the most famous psychiatrist writer in the field today, author of the runaway best seller The Road Less Traveled. His next book was People of the Lie, whose purpose was to show that people really are influenced by personal evil, the demonic realm. So the Church faces this amazing contrast: a brilliant psychiatrist who says that Satan exists and that he has encountered him, while many reputable theologians deny the existence of a personal Satan and the demonic realm altogether. The word "supernatural" itself has also fallen into disrepute among some theologians today. Could it be that the Church is being evangelized by scientists and TV writers?

First, there came the realization that many bodily sicknesses have a mental or spiritual component. Dr. Bernie Siegel's books (like Love, Medicine and Miracles) propose that cancer, for example, attacks people because something deeper has broken down that lessens their desire to live. And studies done on heart disease seem to show that undirected anger is perhaps the deeper reason underlying some heart attacks.

This psychogenic approach has been gaining strength for perhaps the past 20 years ("psychogenic" doesn't mean that the illness is imaginary, but only that the origin of the physical sickness lies in the person's soul. Some scientists estimate that 80% of sickness is psychogenic in origin!).

But now in the last five years perhaps, comes a further development: alternative medicine.1 You may have heard that Harvard held a seminar about six months ago on alternative medicine attended by nearly a thousand people including 180 physicians!

This changing attitude among medical professionals is expressed in books like Dr. Larry Dossey's Healing Words, which summarizes more than one hundred scientific studies that show the importance of prayers contribution to healing. Dr. Dossey claims that the research is overwhelmingly positive in demonstrating the value of prayer. Then Leonard Laskow, MD, does research indicating that love has healing power. He became so excited that he sold his gynecological practice and went into full–time research on the healing power of love.

Even more amazing: insurance companies (like Mutual of Omaha) are funding studies on the value of alternative medicine. Financially, it is much more cost effective to get someone healed through prayer in comparison to having an operation. Is this the modern example of the children of this world being wiser than the children of light? This is not to say that all methods of alternative medicine being advocated or explored are acceptable to Christians. Some definitely are not. It is a shame that the world lumps Christian healing prayer under the category of alternative medicine along with New Age and in some cases ancient healing rituals and practices.

Now, some of these studies are not about Christian prayer, but even those that are not seem to show the wonderful forces that God has created in this world to heal us. In this way, the medical world is discovering that in addition to medicine and surgery, we also have healing available through love and community, and the reduction of stress through meditation.

This should give Christians an impetus to share with the world what Jesus can do when we ask for healing and deliverance. And this is exactly what is happening. Right now at CHM we are discussing plans with several research scientists for doing studies on the effects of prayer on patients in a clinical setting. Beyond the reduction of stress and other such benefits, we believe (and have seen) that far more happens when we ask Jesus to heal us, extraordinary healings that we do not think can be explained simply by the power of suggestion or the presence of human love: tumors disappear, crooked bones straighten and people are freed from evil spirits. This is what we know and see, that trust in Jesus Christ and his desire to heal God's children is crucial to our health and happiness. After the suffering of Lent, we truly share — even, to some extent, in this life — in the Resurrection power of Easter!

1Alternative Medicine includes all forms of healing other than standard medical treatment; it includes such diverse methods as acupuncture, shamanism, Transcendental Meditation and Christian prayer.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Summer 1996 Issue