To Live or Die?

by Francis MacNutt
Sep/Oct 2004

Dear Friends,

When my parents were in their 70's, they said that the strangest thing was happening: their long-time friends were dropping like trees toppling in a forest. Then, a short time later (30 years ago), I was with them both when they died, six months apart. As you can imagine, it was a painful time, made so much easier by good friends' presence.

Another painful time arrived this past month, when at least eight friends we know all came down with life-threatening sickness-cancer, stroke and the extreme effects of aging. Again, those in the healing ministry are faced with the everlasting question: Do we always pray against death? Jesus healed Lazarus, but at some point, he died. Was it the next year, or was it 40 years later? We simply don't know. But we do know that eventually everyone dies-some, sooner; some, like St. John the Evangelist, many years later.

Over and over, this month, we have been faced with the question, "How best do we pray for someone who is elderly and very sick?"

Here are a few suggestions since, some day, we all must face this question.

The first thing to pray about is, "Is now the time for my loved one to go on and be with the Lord?" Based on what you seem to get in prayer, you either pray for healing or else for a happy death.

If you don't get a clear answer-and often, if you are close to a person, your heart inclines you to want the person to live, and then your affection may distort your judgment about whether or not you should pray. If you aren't sure whether or not to pray for healing, I pass on to you a suggestion from a nurse, who always prays that Jesus will pour his life into the sick person-and then allow Jesus to decide whether his life moves in the direction of healing-or towards preparing the sick person spiritually to enter the pres­ence of God at death. Even when you believe that now is the time to die, you can pray for a lucid mind, against any harmful side effects of medications, and you can pray, too, against extreme pain. Above all, pray that they will experience the companionship of Jesus in their suffering.

Also, as we mentioned in a recent newsletter, praying in tongues is a great help here. You can just lay your hands on the sick person (when feasible) and turn your prayer over to the Holy Spirit who can decide with God's wisdom the direc­tion your prayer will take.

And now, to cap it all off, we would like to share an immediate testimony concern­ing this painful human dilem­ma. It concerns Judith's dad, Joe Sewell, who just achieved his 891h birthday. He has been in failing health for several years and is suffering many effects of aging, including being mostly confined to his chair, and find­ing it hard to communicate because of deafness. A short time ago, he was sent by ambulance to ER to deal with an acute urinary tract infection. In the little hospital in Judith's hometown of Jackson, Kentucky, they treated him for three days with various medica­tions. By the time we got to the hospital (August 8) he was drifting in and out of hallucinations.

The hospital transferred him to a nursing home and the ER physician told Judith that her dad would never recover enough to go home to his wife in their trailer home.

Judith and I did everything we have just suggested, mainly praying in tongues. Two days ago we left her dad, who was now out of it, heavily sedated after two totally sleepless days and nights. Happily, just before we left the nursing home, Joe opened his eyes and recognized us, called us by name, and told us he loved us. He had the most beatific look on his face, the most loving gaze Judith had ever seen. Then we left for the Lexington, KY airport.

Our thought was, if that's the last time we see him, we have a beautiful memory to remember him by. (The physician had said he would never leave the nursing home.)

Then last night, after returning home, we were trying to relax in a restaurant when Judith's cell phone rang. It was Judith's brother, J.C. Judith dissolved in tears when J.C. told her that her dad was suddenly lucid and talking. He was eating and had even sent J.C. out to get a candy bar. In fact, he was feeding himself, which hadn't happened for a long time. Judith was in tears.

As we have always said, healing is a mystery. And we don't need to know all the answers.

But God is good! So good!

Francis and Judith
with Rachel and David

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Sep/Oct 2004 Issue

What Did You Go Out into the Desert to See?

by Dale S. Recinella
Sep/Oct 2004

"What Did You Go Out into the Desert to See?"
- Matthew 11 :8

In the prison I am visiting, the number of prisoners and staff, taken together, total more than the population of my town. This is a massive complex of various levels of security and functions: death row, disciplinary solitary confinement, protective custody, close custody, general population, psychiatric solitary· confinement, even a medical hospital. Today I am bound for the medi­cal hospital.

After clearing the entry station and greeting the long uneven queue of blue clad men waiting for the outpatient clinic, I climb the stairs to Level Two. The brightly painted scenes of water and birds coating the stairwell walls smack of an oasis, a brief respite from the desert beyond the door ahead: Level Two. This is where it gets serious, especially for prisoners from Florida's death row.

Moving a prisoner out of the death row building is no small feat. Massive security is required, even though the cement walkway out of the building is literally a tun­nel-fenced left, right and above-with razor wire hanging in every direction. At one end, an unseen guard who moni­tors by camera must open the electronic gate that allows entry to the tunnel. On the other end, a different guard in a movement control station regulates the release of the locked gate to exit the tunnel. One has to be seriously ill in order to be removed from the death row building for medical treatment at the prison hospital.

Even so, there's always the security concern about feigned illness as a setup for an escape plot or a misguided attempt to obtain more favorable prison conditions. It's hard to imagine a man faking a brain aneurysm or cancer or a stroke. Yet, in order to discourage even such a remote possi­bility, the hospital cells for death row inmates are designed to duplicate the regular death row cells. Same dimensions. Same steel door with waist-high food flap. Same property locker. Same steel toilet and wall sink. Same stainless steel shelf cot with the same paper-thin mattress.

If a man becomes so debilitated that he starts to fall out of bed, a hospital bed with side rails may be ordered. Otherwise, he "lies and dies", bedsores and all, on a steel shelf with a mattress thinner than many peoples' place mats. Such is the reality of death by natural causes on death row. A reality which is a far cry from the notions hyped in the media about justice denied because death row inmates die comfortably of natural causes instead of by execution.

Ministry on this hospital wing is usually done through the food flap in the door, just like in solitary confinement. Normally, I would kneel on the tile floor in the hall and the man inside would sit in his wheelchair or on the corner of his property locker. But the man I'm here to see today is too ill to get out of bed. The hall sergeant unbolts the door, allowing me to visit him at bedside. Clearly, he is dying.

I met him six years ago in my rounds at death row. He is Pentecostal. I am Catholic. In this part of the country, the two do not usually mix. But I am also charismatic. So, we made a conscious choice to focus on the gifts of our faith that we share in common, especially the power of the Spirit and of praying in the Spirit.

On prior visits we have shared Scripture, prayed over memories, prayed in tongues and sat for long quiet moments basking in the presence of the Lord's glory. Sometimes, as we prayed, the dull white walls seemed to become brighter, the air felt electric. And his physical pain would frequently abate, at least for a while, as we soaked his weary body in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

He is no longer able to sit up or to move from side to side. Our eyes greet each other first. Then I take his hand in mine and begin. We open our time with the Lord's Prayer. The rhythm of the prayer, which we have spoken together a hundred times, is no longer in his natural cadence. Here is a man who has owned virtually nothing for years. His very clothes are not his own; they belong to the state. His body is not his own; for men under a death sentence, their body is the property of the state. Now, from the paucity of his poverty, even his own speech patterns have been stolen by the deterioration caused through his illness.

A haphazard stack of unopened mail rests atop his property locker, leaning precariously near the edge. I hold each envelope up to his view and, when he nods "yes" with his eyes, slit the top open with my pen and pour out the precious contents. Piece by piece, I read them aloud. One large manila envelope from overseas holds dozens of letters, each with hand drawn pictures to illustrate the writer's heartfelt concern. Holding up each of the lively colored pictures drawn by a classroom full of Italian chil­dren, I angle them high and close enough for him to see. The pictures are warm and spirited. Another envelope contains a letter from a friend, a famous author. The lucid, flowing sentences have poured from a pen whose ink is love and friendship. In all the letters, the words are filled with guarded farewells. They know. I know. He knows. His time is almost up.

As I read from his favorite translation of the Bible, the King James, about Paul in prison, I cannot help but marvel at the fact that many of the Apostles, even Jesus himself, were imprisoned and most were executed by capital punish­ment at the hands of the state. It is indeed a mystery that so many of us Christians don't even try to wrestle with that his­tory or with Jesus' admonition to the eternally condemned in His description of the Last Judgment: "I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me .... Then they will go away to eternal punishment." Mt. 25:43 and 46.

When we have finished sharing the Word, I open the book by Joy Lamb, The Sword of the Spirit: The Word of God, which has been close by his bedside for weeks. The book falls open to special prayers that he used almost daily while he could. I suggest a new battery of prayer for a salvo on issues that many of us face as we near the end. His eyes nod in knowing agreement. We tum to the prayers of forgiveness and inner healing. In a truly Catholic style, I say the words one phrase at a time, which he then repeats, praying to forgive all those who have hurt or mistreated him during his life, for his and their release, and for healing.

Family and friends who have rejected us, fled from us, as though we were pariahs. "Jesus knows that pain," I assure him. Mt. 26:56.

The always present, small minority of people who cannot deal with total control over another's life without heaping abuse, scorn, ridicule, sometimes even physical suffering upon those in their charge. "Yes, and Jesus knows that pain." Mt. 27:27-31.

The public humiliation of being stripped complete­ly-dignity, reputation, humanity, everything, even one's clothes, many times a day. "Jesus knows that pain, too." Mt. 27:28 and 35.

The prayers for heal­ing and forgiveness seem to trigger a stream of memories, pictures vis­ible to him while I can see only his face and his tears. Over and over we pray, "Father forgive them. They didn't know what they were doing."

The healing is deep and permanent. He clutches my hand tighter than ever as he whispers, "Thank you. Thank you. They are all forgiven."

Finally, we pray softly in the Spirit for a long time. My left hand is upon his head with the other folded over his cupped fingers. Tongues pour gently in waves of power and praise. He is no longer grimacing or squirming with unease. The unique cut of his smile, the glint of his eyes, has returned, sublime yet distinctly present.

To my farewell hug, he responds hoarsely but firmly, "I needed so badly to be in the Spirit. Now, I'm filled with peace."

I will always remember the peace in his eyes and face at that moment, the last time I would see him on this side of the great divide.

Francis MacNutt Dale S. Recinella is the Director of Planning & Projects for CHM. Dale is also a volunteer prison chaplain in North Florida. Sep/Oct 2004 Issue

Praise the Lord and Give Thanks

Compiled by Anne Early
Sep/Oct 2004

Testimony of student who attended the July class of School of Healing Prayer Level I: "I was carry­ ing so much 'baggage' when I arrived, then Judith came through the door. By the light in her eyes, it was as though Jesus had come into the room. Every day I saw the light of Jesus in her eyes, and in Francis, too, and I experienced so much inner healing. Every day I looked in the mirror, hoping to see that same light in my own eyes, but it was not there. Finally, this morning (the last day), I looked in the mirror and I did see that light in my eyes. Praise God, I am free."

Email from a second student: "Thanks to Christian Healing Ministries for being a vehicle of God's life-giving love. Words scarcely express the depth of my appreciation to many who prayed for my healing during the School of Healing Prayer Level I. Anxiety, depression, fear and doubt had taken root, squeezing out the ability to engage in life and live it abundantly. During prayer at the school my heart, having shut down due to early childhood traumas, was touched by the magnificent power of our Lord's kind generosity and brought back to life. Thanks be to God for sending us a Saviour who continues to redeem us daily, and thanks to the many who bring His love to heal the broken hearted."

From an email to Francis MacNutt: "Thank you so very much for sending the books I ordered from you on July 1, 2004. I received the two books yesterday, and spent the rest of the day and today reading The Prayer That Heals. God began an inner healing within me as I read this book. By the last chapter I was in tears as the healing power of Almighty God enveloped me. Past hurts came to light and the healing power of the Spirit of God took them away. I feel totally freed from those old hurts."

From Jennifer: "I came to CHM, desperate and in need of healing. The Lord healed me, within three days, of depression. Since then he has healed me of all anxiety and the physical pain that came with it. Praise God, Praise God, and thank you, CHM. P.S. He also healed my brother of alcoholism."

From Joao Dinis Joao, in training as a missionary with the Camboni Novitiate in Lusaka - Zambia, Africa: "I've read Francis MacNutt's book Healing. I really like the message and believe it with all my heart. I have the hepatitis B virus. By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, I believe I will be healed."

From our mail: "Thank you for your ministry. I went to CHM almost every Tuesday for two years. Be­ cause of your ministry I believe God is in control, I have peace that passes all understanding, I know God more intimately."

From Carol: "When I first came to CHM I was so broken. Now I praise the Lord that my health is im­proving each day. You gave me the love that was needed, the hope I had lost, and the prayers to heal and make me whole."

"Praise the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all his benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases
(Psalm 103:2-3)."

(The Praise Reports have been edited for readability.)

Sep/Oct 2004 Issue