Healing Line

Healing Line

Why Should I Take a Course in Healing Prayer?

by Francis MacNutt
May/Jun 2002

Sometimes good people ask us why they should need to take a course in healing. They believe in it; they pray for it. Why study it?

It's a good question, so I'll try to answer.

First, healing prayer should be basically simple. Everyone should be encouraged to pray. We know, too, that the prayers of little children (for instance, when they pray for a sick parent) are often answered. The prayers of the poor and uneducated in underdeveloped countries seem to be answered more frequently than in our wealthy First World. The basic form of prayer is simple, "Ask and you shall receive." And so, why get complicated? Pray for the sick and let it go at that.

At one level, that's enough. It would. truly be a great step forward if all Christians learned to believe that Jesus still heals today when we pray simple prayers. And that may be enough for most people.

But there is also a desperate need for something more, because if you actually get into a healing ministry, you need some answers. The most obvious question is, "Why are some people healed when we pray, but at other times, nothing much seems to happen — at least on the physical order?" Many people give up on prayer, because they do not seem to see results, and they feel they are setting up false expectations if they offer to pray for the sick. And, if you have ever prayed for a seriously ill person, and they experience no relief, how do you answer their question, "Doesn't God love me?" I believe that one reason healing prayer largely died out in the fourth century was because Christian leaders didn't know how to answer that question. So they stopped praying rather than be embarrassed when their prayer seemed to fail.

And that's only one out of a multitude of questions that any thinking person would ask. If you get seriously involved in praying for the sick, you are bound to need more teaching.

There are two basic reasons to learn about healing prayer:

1. The first is to avoid mistakes — to avoid hurting the very people you are trying to help. And this happens often. Some fine Christians developed a theory and taught it widely. It goes like this: "If you really believe in healing, because it is a promise made by Jesus, healing will always take place when you pray in faith." If healing, then, does not take place, it's the fault of the sick person who didn't have enough faith. What do you yourself think about that theory? I personally have known terminally–ill patients who belonged to prayer groups that believed in "claiming your healing." The only reason they knew for a person not being healed was that the patient lacked faith; when a given patient was not healed, he/she then died feeling abandoned by God and filled with guilt. I have seen it happen.

I have known men in the healing ministry who believed that all depression is caused by demons and proceeded to pray to cast out a demon of depression from every depressed person. Were they right? Others who have ministered to persons who suffer from split personalities have tried to cast out all the various "alters" as if they were demons, and have ended up nearly destroying an already fractured personality. These simplistic procedures have resulted in harming people rather than helping them. The sad result is that many counselors and psychiatrists advise their patients not to go to a Christian group in search of healing prayer.

2. The most important reason for learning more about healing prayer is a positive one: so that you might be better able to help people.

To take a common example: how do you tell if a person who seems mentally disturbed needs deliverance from evil spirits or whether the problem is on a purely human, psychological level? If Andrea Yates had come to you, how would you have proceeded to pray? Or should you have tried to get her hospitalized first of all?

How long do you pray with someone? Just once? For hours? And how do you decide about how long to pray? If you pray for someone's physical healing and nothing seems to happen, what do you say or do then? Is there any advantage in praying in tongues? How do you proceed if you are praying with someone who seems to be severely infested with evil spirits? How long should you expect to allow for a deliverance session? Ten minutes? Two hours? An open–ended day?

We can go on and list a thousand (at least) questions we need to answer if we are going to minister healing prayer in any kind of depth.

I think that anyone who has actually prayed with a number of sick people realizes a great need to seek advice from others more experienced in the healing ministry. I know that I turn to others when I am trying to help someone who is troubled in an area where I have very little experience. To take just one example, we are encountering a number of people who are victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) and most of them have developed an intricate network of what used to be called "multiple personalities." How do we attempt to help this sufferer from "Dissociative Identity Disorder" (DID)?

To learn from those who have experience in the areas where we have no experience or knowledge is simply common sense; we need to become more humble, to avoid presumption and to grow in holiness and wisdom.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. May/Jun 2002 Issue