Healing Line

Healing Line

When to Pray for a Peaceful Death

by Francis MacNutt
Jan/Feb 2003

I write this a few days after our dear friend Tommy Tyson died. Even now we find it hard to believe. Tommy, in his 80's, had led a marvelously fruitful life as a Methodist evangelist. He was my closest friend, like the blood brother I never had. In recent years he had been suffering from an increasing number of ailments, including cancer of the prostate and kidneys. We might easily have thought, "Perhaps now is the time to forget about praying for healing; maybe we should let him go on, to be with the Lord." And yet we (including his three children), kept on praying, trusting that Jesus might still heal him.

After all, Tommy had received at least three major healings through prayer. They dated all the way back to 1970 when Tommy and I (with Rev. Joe Petree) were giving a retreat to 70 missionaries in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In the middle of the night Tommy woke up and called out, "Father Francis, I am dying!" We were far from medical help, in a retreat center without electricity, so after a moment of shock, I lit a candle. Then we prayed until dawn when it appeared that Tommy had been healed.

So, encouraged by God's graciousness in the past, our hearts once more moved towards healing prayer.

Is there ever a right time to die? We know that there must be. Even those raised by Jesus from the dead Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus — eventually died. When do we pray for healing and when do we let go of our dear friends and pray for a peaceful death? After many years of struggling with this question — as most of you do — let me share a few thoughts.

First, in a sense, there never is a right time. Death really is our enemy. "He [Jesus] won't let up until the last enemy is down — and the very last enemy is death!" (1 Corinthians 15:26, in the Message translation). Even Jesus wept when he came near the tomb where his dear friend Lazarus was bound up in a shroud. Seeing his tears the onlookers said, "See how Jesus loved him" (John 11 :35–36). It goes against everything human within us to say goodbye to a dear friend.

It is only our faith that makes death endurable, helping us believe that death really is a door leading to a new life and resurrection with Jesus forever. With him, in heaven, we hope to meet our dear friends once again, never more to part. But it is still so hard to see our loved ones die, to see them fade away, and then, finally, to leave this world.

Our minds tell us that now is perhaps the time to go, but our human hearts find it hard to let go. So how do we know whether or not we should go on praying for healing?

Since only God knows the answer to that question, the first thing we must do is to pray and ask God, "Should we go on praying for healing?"

This is a lot easier to talk about than to do. When we really love someone we simply don't want to say goodbye, and our heart's affections may cloud our prayer so that we can't hear clearly. The truth is, if God responds, "Now is the time," I may not want to hear it.

Yet, when it comes to the time to die, it is a mistake for us to hang on. The dying or sick person may see our sorrow and try to hang on to life for our sake. When Judith's mother was semi–conscious, struggling to stay alive, Judith had to tell her after ten days, "It's all right now for you to go," and within minutes her spirit left her body. When the time is right, it is very important for the sick person to let go, and also for the relatives and friends to release the dying person into the hands of the Lord. Agnes Sanford believed that her husband was kept alive for years after he should have died, because some members of their church kept on praying for his healing, long after it was time for him to go. In the last few years of his life, he was only a shadow of the person he had once been. According to Agnes their affection for him was very real, but misguided. They held on to him too long.

On the other hand, others have truly been inspired never to give up hope of healing, even at the moment of death. For example, I know a woman who had a brain tumor; the medical prognosis was that her condition was terminal. Many of us prayed for her and yet the inoperable tumor just kept growing. She kept getting worse and was finally hospitalized. One night the doctors told her family that she probably wouldn't last through the night.

But, amazingly, when the nurse stopped in her room at dawn, she found the "dying" patient sitting up in bed, loudly demanding breakfast (I saw her ten years later still in thriving health).

The lesson here is that our human intelligence — and the physician's prognosis — do not supply all the answers we seek. For an absolute answer we can only tum to God in prayer.

And here is my suggestion: if a clear answer isn't given, follow your heart and trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding you. But don't pretend to be sure that you have truly heard the Spirit when you are not certain but are just hoping.

Here I want to pass on a practical suggestion that a nurse once gave me. She said that when she isn't sure whether God wanted her to pray for healing or for a peaceful death, she simply admits that she doesn't know how best to pray. Then she asks Jesus to fill the sick person with his life and with his love. With this prayer you can't go wrong. You let Jesus decide whether his life moves in the direction of bringing physical healing or whether it prepares the person's spirit to meet the Lord.

And that is how I prayed for the last two weeks of Tommy's life after having prayed for his healing for the past 35 years.

By coincidence, the liturgical reading for Tommy's last day on earth included the beautiful section affirming that God

will destroy death forever. The Lord
God will wipe away the tears
from all faces
(Isaiah 25:7b,8a).

I was going to phone and read that passage to Tommy when his son, Thomas Earl, called here to say that Tommy had passed on.

with Judith

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Jan/Feb 2003 Issue

One Grand "Alleluia"

by Francis MacNutt
Jan/Feb 2003

Our dear friend, Rev. Tommy Tyson, died at 5:00 AM on December 5, in his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the same bed in which his wife had passed away, just five months previously. Since many of you know him (and he was a member of CHM's National Board) I share the following excerpts from an appreciation I sent to his family.

"Tommy will never die! We all believe that Tommy still lives, but it is still so hard for us: we so miss seeing and hearing him.

In our minds we know there comes a time for this earthly life to end, but in our hearts we didn't want his to ever stop, and Tommy fought courageously for life to the very end. Tommy had the fullest, most joy–filled life of anyone I've ever known. To me, and to Judith, he was like a brother, only more than a brother, and his family became like a second family to us, and Aqueduct — his retreat center in North Carolina — became our second home.

Beginning with meeting Tommy at a life–changing conference in 1967 in Tennessee, a life of spiritual adventure began. In 1970 we went on our first missionary venture to Costa Rica, Peru and Bolivia; according to some historians this began the charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church in Latin America; it was the first of our many journeys that took us to every continent.

So many memories, so many spiritual adventures! You may have heard the story of our trip to Bolivia in 1970, when Tommy woke up in the middle of the night and whispered to me that he was dying. We lit a candle and prayed until dawn, and Tommy lived. It's hard to believe that was more than 30 years ago.

Many of you knew him — his remarkable gifts! To me he was most remarkable in living to the full what he preached. His great teaching was about the Incarnation and the wedding of opposites — of how the human and the divine were joined together in Jesus and in us. And that's what we saw in Tommy, the joining of the human and the divine. He told the best jokes and he laughed harder at them than any of us, but he also preached the deepest, the most profound spiritual truths of anyone I've ever heard.

Another remarkable gift we all recognized in Tommy was his extraordinary joy. People just enjoyed being around him. Aside from the great benefit of absorbing what he taught, the joy that came from him was a teaching in itself. I remember him saying that just as we can catch sickness by being around someone who is sick, we should be able to catch divine life just by being around a Christian. That was more true of Tommy than anyone I ever knew. His joy was contagious. Just to be around him was to come to life, to bask in joy and laughter. Tommy refused to be "problem–centered"; he wanted to concentrate on solutions, and for Tommy, the ultimate solution was always Jesus.

Being privileged to visit Tommy and his family twice this past summer, I was amazed to see how easily he moved between talking to us and talking to God; it was all part of one beautiful movement. He didn't just pray at the appointed times; he would slip into praising Jesus at almost any time. I've never seen anything like it.

His daughter Joyce told me that the last words she heard Tommy say, during those last two day,s, while he was lying in bed, unconscious to the world, were a quietly whispered, "Alleluia. Alleluia."

That sums up his entire life, except that it was not just a whispered Alleluia, but it was one grand "Alleluia."

I don't think we shall ever see his like again.

But our consolation is that we will all meet once again in great joy, where together we shall laugh and praise the Lord — not just for 80 years, but forever.

That will be our everlasting homecoming!"

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Jan/Feb 2003 Issue

A Student's Testimony

by Anonymous
Jan/Feb 2003

Level III training at CHM — October 28–November 1 , 2002

Since 1995, when I thought I gave my life over to the Lord, I began developing a greater appreciation for prayer. The Episcopal priest at my church gave me a copy of Deliverance from Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt and later his book Healing. I read both with great interest, realizing that I had some serious spiritual problems. I come from an Episcopal background, which I departed from on graduation from high school and didn't return to until some 32 years later. My time in between was spent with the U.S. Navy in a variety of roles including several command–at–sea tours. I mention this only to let you know I considered myself a practical, rational man, well traveled and well versed in problem solving and decision making. The spiritual world was more "hocus pocus" stuff from what I could tell. Strange events could be explained by science. What I didn't know — did hurt me.

When I look back I can now see the Lord's hand very strongly in my life, but then I didn't realize it. I spent about 17 years in the occult (not realizing the field I was in was part of the occult) looking for something to fill the void I always felt. Eventually I came to Christian Healing Ministries, following much inner healing and deliverance prayer received from my priest and others in previous years. While I knew much healing had taken place, I also knew something still wasn't quite right, so I prayed for a miracle during my week at Christian Healing Ministries, taking the Level Ill prayer course. As usual I knew little of what the Lord had in ·store for me.

On the first day I had a strong sense, during one or our breaks, that I was to ask one of the students to pray for me. She was a complete stranger, but I approached her anyway, introduced myself, and sat down. I asked if she would pray for me and immediately she began sobbing in what appeared to be uncontrolled pain and grief. Imagine my surprise. In my confusion I began praying for her whereupon she told me the pain and grief she felt so strongly was mine. I was thunder struck. She prayed for me and told me I should just sit and be in the Lord's presence. I was eager to comply at that point. I didn't understand what was happening, but later that evening, when we gathered together in our prayer teams, I found myself undergoing another deliverance. It was intense, but not complete. After returning to my motel room and turning in, I woke up at 2:40 am with my body going through a variety of contortions that I knew were not mine. I spent the next several hours binding the spirit(s) and noted that in spite of much grief the Lord brought me peace in the fight. By the time I returned to class I knew I needed more prayer with someone or some team. I found I couldn't listen to the beautiful music being played, praising the Lord, so I went outside to collect myself. I was alone when Anne, CHM's Prayer Intercessor Coordinator walked by. I did not know who she was, but she said "good morning!" and I fell apart. Now I knew I was really in trouble. I couldn't even handle "good morning". This simply was not me!

She immediately came and helped me, calmed me down and took me where we could pray. I had a splitting headache and backache and was wide open to any relief. After some more prayer I was able to return to class, fit enough to at least listen. Anne joined me shortly and passed me a note telling me she was looking for the phone number of a prayer intercessor for me when her phone rang. The intercessor she was looking for was on the other end telling her he was being led by God to pray for someone at CHM and that he had a terrible headache! Once again I sat in utter amazement at the Lord's work. Anne filled him in about me and in a short while I was feeling much better. My headache and backache were gone. Anne stayed with me throughout the day. By evening, when we broke into our prayer teams, I was much, much better. That evening I was led by another CHM prayer warrior, Nancy, to confess the things I was holding higher than God ... sins I was not giving Him. I had to admit to Him and to myself that I hadn't given myself completely to Him. That was painful but the healing and comfort I felt afterwards were miraculous. That night I had a wonderful sleep and in the morning was filled with a joy I have never experienced!! I was dancing (I don't do that), I was singing praises out loud (I rarely do that) and I ran into Anne's office to proclaim to her my freedom in the Lord (I've never done that). She was amazed at the change.

But it didn't end there. I attended the generational Eucharist and later went into prayer with Susan, another CHM prayer warrior, who prayed over me to break any seals that I had. The deliverance I received was far more intense than that received earlier. At the end I knew the battle was won but the Lord still had work to do. Since returning home I am finding myself more steeped in prayer than ever before. My prayer life with my wife is intensifying, filled with holy laughter this morning, and my relationship with the Lord is rapidly deepening to levels I'd never imagined! God Bless you all at CHM and I thank God for using you all to restore my life.

Jan/Feb 2003 Issue