Beneath the Surface

by Francis MacNutt
Nov/Dec 2004

We have just finished six intense weeks, including two conferences in Jacksonville, one in Connecticut, and one in Colorado, all interspersed with hurricanes Frances (notice, it was not Francis) and Jeanne. Nearly a thousand people took part in these conferences. Many were transformed and, we hope, all were blessed.

Yet there is one really important impression we want to share--espe­cially because we believe it is saying something to the entire church, if we only had a channel to share it. There is a depth of suffering out there among the people that is simply not being addressed by what most churches do in their services. When­ever we speak or pray in any depth about subjects that really touch on the deepest spiritual and emotional needs of the people, the response is profound-heartfelt sobs and cries, even though our talks are not all that emotional.

Take, for example, last week where we held a weekend confer­ence in Vail, Colorado (the 2si1i year we have gone there). One of the members of our team spoke about the healing she had received to free her from the effects of the sexual abuse she had suffered over a period of years as a young woman. Responding in the healing service afterwards, about 20 women came up to her, asking for prayer to be healed as she had been. Several of the women had never shared their devastating experience with anyone. (Our teams prayed with people for about three hours afterwards.)

The significance of all this is profound, smce experts in this area estimate that perhaps one out of three women in our country have suffered from sexual abuse, and one out of seven young men have similarly suffered. The effects of this do not go away (140 men who experienced abuse at the hands of priests in the current crisis in pedophilia have committed suicide.) Counseling and psychiatric treatment certainly can help those wounded in this way to cope, but the effects ordinarily do not disappear. The person is permanently troubled, and others may also be affected ( such as a husband or wife who is not able to respond positively to the sexual aspect of the marriage relationship).

What we have learned in our years of praying for healing, is that these sufferers' experiences can be transformed. Often, many sessions of prayer are needed; but always, as in all four of our recent confer­ences, some receive an instant and dramatic transfor­mation. For example (again at this last Vail confer­ence), a woman testified to having been continually molested as a young woman in what her parents had considered a safe home. When she received prayer, she went back 15 years and saw herself on her back, in the shape of a cross, as she had been when she was abused by her attacker. Then she saw the ground rise up under her in the shape of that cross. The ground was transformed into a wooden cross which turned sideways and rose up out of the ground to stand like a traditional cross, and there-she saw Jesus-hanging on that cross. At his feet, she saw her attacker, only now he was repentant, weeping, embracing the feet of Jesus. For the first time, she was freed of the torment she had constantly felt, with her body-from the neck down-feeling as if it weren't really part of her. At the same time she was able to forgive her attacker.

This moving story of healing and reconciliation is typical of what we often see or hear. These devastating stories of abuse affect countless numbers of people who sit out there in the pews on Sunday; however, our regular religious services-good as they may be-do not free the people who are silently suffering. And it's not only sexual abuse; there are the manifold tragedies affecting the human race, including the post-traumatic stress that touches so many returning war veterans who have seen death and tragedy close at hand.

Occasionally, these wounds that may devastate the very depths of a person's spiritual life are healed by what happens in an ordinary church service; but usually, devout people are not touched at the deepest level where they really live.

I'm not blaming anyone, just saying that we are discovering in a dramatic way how much pain and suffering are out there in the people. Thank God we are learning more and more about how Jesus can heal his people. Now we have to discover and open up new channels so that God's healing love can flow into his people.

It reminds us of how Jesus once looked out and saw the people harassed and dejected, wandering around like sheep without a shepherd. They were a harvest, ready and waiting, but there weren't enough workers to reap the harvest. (Matthew 9: end of chapter.) So Jesus prayed for more workers!

More, Lord, More!

Francis and Judith
with Rachel and David

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