Healing Line

Healing Line

Reflections on Impartation

by Francis MacNutt
Sep/Oct 2009

One of the latest practices in healing conferences is for leaders to pray for people to receive an impartation of various spiritual gifts, such as prophecy or healing. Similarly, for years people have asked us to pray for them to receive the gift of healing to empower them to minister in their homes or churches.

There is something wonderful about this practice, the practice of impartation, but it is accompanied by some real difficulties.

The first thing to note is that Jesus, in choosing the 12 and the 72, didn’t ask for volunteers. He looked around at members of his community, then prayed, and then he chose. And St. Paul did the same thing. After evangelizing for several months in a city, Paul chose those who would be his successors. They didn’t volunteer to be bishop. Paul simply chose as leaders those who had already shown gifts for teaching and administration. Then he commissioned them.

The encouraging aspect to the idea of praying for impartation is that Christians, who so often hang back and let the pastors do all the ministering, are taught to be more assertive and launch out in ministry. Ordinary Christians are encouraged to see God as a source of blessing and goodness, who loves to bless in abundance — God is not a miser. We honor God more by seeing him as generous rather than as a miser. And impartation is certainly a healthy, life–affirming attitude for us to have.

The difficulty is that it is not totally up to us to choose our gifts, but we need to recognize the gifts that the Spirit has already given to us.

Take, for example, the gift of healing, which we experience at CHM so much. The heart of the gift is the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit dwells within every Christian. And so all of us are empowered to pray for healing from time to time — and we should expect to see healing take place, especially in our homes. Everyone gets to pray.

But Paul also says in 1Corinthians 12:28 that the special gift of healing is given to some, but not to everyone. And I don’t think we necessarily receive the special gift of being a healing minister by asking God for an impartation of that gift.

Why not?

Mainly, I think it’s because God doesn’t seem to work that way. Ordinarily, God builds his special gifts upon the natural, created human gifts he has already given us “Grace builds on nature.”

Let me give you two examples.

First, suppose there is a good Christian person who seems to lack common sense. This will radically affect the way the person prays with people, and the lack of common sense will impair their healing ministry — and they may actually harm people without even being aware of it. The aspiring prayer minister may have an admirable Christian character, but in addition to having a healing gift, he/she also needs just plain common sense. Haven’t you seen this? Of course, we all make mistakes from time to time. But if we lack common sense, we are likely to make practical mistakes all the time. Furthermore, people who seem to lack common sense don’t seem to recognize that flaw. And that wouldn’t be so bad, except that when we pray for inner healing or deliverance, we are dealing with wounded human beings and we cannot afford to hurt them.

A second good comparison would be if someone prayed for the first gift in Paul’s list, which is often translated as “inspired preaching.” Suppose that someone came to you and asked you to pray that God would impart to them the gift of inspired preaching. And then suppose you prayed for that impartation, and then the person approached the leader of their prayer group or their pastor and said, “I now have the gift of inspired preaching, and I’d like you to offer me the pulpit next Sunday, so I can try out my new gift of inspired preaching.” I think we can all see the difficulty with this approach to improving the preaching in our churches. There are so many natural, human gifts that go to making a good preacher that it’s presumptuous to expect to preach effectively by simply appropriating the gift of preaching. Becoming a good preacher takes time; ordinarily, a fifteen–year–old will not be as effective a preacher as he will at 30.

What I am afraid of is that good people will come to CHM and attend a School of Healing Prayer and pray for an impartation of the gift of healing; then they will tell their pastor, “I attended CHM’s school on how to pray for healing, and I’ve asked for an impartation of that gift, so I am now offering myself to lead the healing ministry here.”

I think we can all see that this approach might not work. To have a real spiritual gift of healing, we also ordinarily need natural, human gifts of compassion, of wisdom, of patience — and the virtue of taming our oversized need for recognition and success. Also, what the healing minister has learned from long experience enters into his/her ability to pray for healing. It would be highly unusual for a person to suddenly gain what most of us only learn from long experience by receiving someone’s prayer for an impartation. It is not a reasonable expectation.

In addition, the minister of healing — the person who has the gift of healing — on another, more personal level, has to be free of an inordinate desire to make money off the gift, and also to be free of an inordinate desire for recognition or fame. In short, the minister of healing moves into an arena of work where there are real moral dangers that many healers have fallen into. In other words, the healer needs to be spiritually mature and free from serious sin.

Having said all that, I’d like to say that we are happy to pray for Christians who want God to use them in a healing ministry. But it usually takes time to develop the various aspects of Christian character, together with the gifts that it takes to become a truly healing person. Usually, no one person has the totality of gifts needed for a healing ministry. Ideally, we need to surround ourselves with dedicated, sold–out Christians who can help us develop some of those gifts of healing in which we are still learning and growing.

Seeking impartation to grasp the gift of healing seems to be well–meaning but overly simplistic. The right approach seems to be to recognize the healing qualities he has already given us, and then ask Jesus to give us the light to understand how best we can grow in discernment and spiritual power to heal God’s wounded, hurting people.”

“. . . speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work . . .”
— Ephesians 4:15–16

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Sep/Oct 2009 Issue