Healing Line

Healing Line

The Gift of Healing

by Francis MacNutt
Jan/Feb 2011

Most of us are aware of Paul’s listing of special gifts of the Holy Spirit needed to build up the complete body of Christ and that one of them is “healing” (I Cor. 12:8–10 and 12:28–30). While we are all encouraged to pray for healing (Luke 11:9–13), it is clear that some Christians are especially gifted and should be recognized in the Christian community as being gifted. Paul also encourages us to pray for those ministry gifts which are all given by the Holy Spirit who “distributes gifts to different people just as he chooses” (I Cor. 12:11).

Now, how can you recognize whether you or someone else has the special gift of “healing” that is meant to work with the other gifts to build up the total church? Scripture doesn’t spell this out but here are some reflections based on 40 years of experience.

The person with the greatest manifestation of this gift knows which sick people to pray for. If there is a particular block to being healed, the person praying may also receive knowledge of the root of the problem. For example, if the person has had an abortion and hasn’t prayed about it, they will probably need to repent and receive forgiveness before healing can take place. The minister of healing may also have this extra gift of “reading your mail” to discern the roots of sickness. (We have people on our staff at CHM who have this gift — this “word of knowledge” gift). It’s not the same as the “gift of healing” but it is connected with healing and is a great help.

We can all expect some healings to take place when we pray, but more than ordinary are healed when the gifted healer prays. The average is higher. I like to compare it to athletes: we can all walk a mile (unless we are disabled), but only some are able to compete successfully in running a 10K (i.e. 6.2 miles) race, and even fewer are called to run in the Olympics.

Among professional athletes two factors go to make for success. First, the average percentage of success is higher. For example, Alberto Pujols, who is perhaps the best baseball hitter in our day gets a hit about one time out of three (a .333 average), as compared to an ordinary hitter who generally hits successfully only one time out of four (a .250 average). Second, there is hitting home runs, which is more difficult. This compares to the ministry of healing more difficult diseases — such as cancer.

It is also evident that some ailments are commonly healed. For example, with some, I am surprised if the person is not healed when we pray. But other healings are more difficult: example, soldiers coming back from Afghanistan who are paraplegic or quadriplegic; do you know of any who have been healed? If they are, it is certainly not common. Anatole France, the famous French writer was asked what he thought about the healings at the famous healing shrine of Lourdes and he commented, “I see discarded crutches, but where are the wooden legs?”

In this case the person with a gift of healing is needed because of the degree of difficulty. For example, the healing of cancer seems to be more difficult than the healing of a sprained wrist. For some reason most books written about healing prayer rarely deal with this.

Christians often quote Paul’s “All things are possible” (Phil 4:13) but, having quoted Paul, can they follow–up with actually bringing healing to the more difficult cases? When I was a medic in World War II, I worked for a week in a ward where the men were all paraplegic. At that time (1945), I didn’t know about prayer for healing but praying for combat veterans like them would have been an exciting challenge. I often think back on those days and wonder what it would have been like to pray for those men.

It seems to me that healing services have been good experiences and that some of the sick have been healed, but those with more serious illnesses they need powerful individual, one–on–one prayer. To reach these individuals is hard, because at the large healing services there is little time to spend with each person.

Only a percentage of the people we pray for are usually healed. However, this percentage increases when another gift, the “word of knowledge,” goes along with it. The person who has the gift of knowledge is guided by the Holy Spirit to pray for certain individuals but not everyone. God has indicated to the healing minister, “I want you to pray for this particular person.”

At CHM, listening is our first step in praying for healing — listening to the sick person with one ear and trying to hear God, as it were, with the other ear. “Listen, love, and pray.” The danger is to fall into a routine that does not change. It’s so easy to slip into repeating ways of praying that have worked in the past.

I’ve been reading about the life of John Wimber, written by his wife Carol, and she movingly describes how you could actually see John trying to “hear” God.

“God started speaking to John so clearly about what he wanted to do in the meetings that it became distracting for him and he would lose his train of thought. He soldiered on anyway in his effort to give a good sermon, but most times God won the battle and John would just stop and say that God wanted to do something. You’ve probably seen him do it yourself, stop right in the middle of his lecture, turn his head to the side a little as if listening to an off–stage coach. He would remove his glasses, take a deep breath and apologize for talking so much when the Lord wanted to minister to someone.”1

This picture of John with his head tilted to listen is an image that really strikes me. I want to hang on to it as a kind of lifetime stance I would like to hold as an ideal in our ministry — a real belief that God may “speak” and change our planned direction at any time.

This is our ideal at CHM. I hope we live up to it!

1John Wimber, the Way it Was by Carol Wimber. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1998, p. 136

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Jan/Feb 2011