Healing Line

Healing Line

The Blessing of Persistence

by Francis MacNutt
Nov/Dec 2011

When you are in the midst of a struggle, it is often hard to last long enough to see that it has all been worthwhile. Like many of you, I worked for years to bring the need for power of the Spirit to the attention of Christians. Like many of you, our (Judith’s and my) struggles have been to bring the practice of healing prayer into common use. For me, it has been forty years from the time since I first learned that many of the sick really did get well if and when we prayed. It has not always been an encouraging path and, at times, church leaders who were considered authorities gave me orders to cease and desist — for example, “Stop slaying people in the Spirit.” At times the orders came in such a way that healing prayer as a whole was discouraged. For example, have you ever heard the objection that when you get the sick to hope for healing when you pray, you are only setting people up to lose whatever faith they may have if they are not cured? This, of course, is a valid question that we must deal with every day as we lead a ministry that emphasizes faith in healing. All of us who pray for the sick must answer this question in some way. Many of our friends have suffered from cancer and we have been the first to admit they have not all been healed.

What drives us on is the experience, the knowledge that not just a few, but many are cured or at least improved. For me one of the best comparisons for our prayer ministry is the practice of medicine. We go to the doctor when we are sick, full of the human faith that we may be cured through the physician’s treatment. If a fourth stage of cancer has even a 10% chance of being cured because of medical treatment we accept that 10% chance with gratitude, hope, and we include prayer. Even if the curative treatment is painful and has harsh side–effects (e.g. chemo) we are willing to undergo great pain hoping for a cure. No one criticizes you for taking even a slim chance if a cure is faintly possible.

It’s very important for us to recognize that skepticism is a normal and common response to proposing prayer as a solution. So many times we have been unbalanced in our presentation and promises that change will take place, but it will take time — maybe a lot of time.

In this road where persistence pays off, Judith and I have a good example of patience. It was about 40 years ago when I first heard about Christians who prayed to heal the sick. Because this was unheard of in most of the Christian groups to which I spoke 40 years ago, I had to make a choice. I was President of the Catholic Homiletic Society (CHS), made up of about a thousand Catholic priests. Our Board of Directors told me that I had a choice to make. If I continued to talk about praying for the sick with the laying on of hands, the Board said they would bless me in this new direction — but if I continued to encourage people to pray for the sick, I should resign as Executive Secretary of CHS because I was moving in a questionable direction. I recognized the Board was right but I also decided that bringing the healing ministry back to the Church was more important than working for an organization aimed at improving preaching. In fact, I was teaching, based on Matthew 10, that the best way to improve preaching was by connecting it with the power of the Holy Spirit, by healing the sick. This was the way Jesus himself encouraged his followers to proclaim and demonstrate that the Kingdom of God was “at hand.”

Without any hard feelings I resigned from my job as Executive Secretary of CHS, and began to speak about the power of the Holy Spirit, combined with healing and deliverance. After my own baptism of the Spirit in 1967 I began to speak about this exciting new topic to any church that would invite me.

These 40 years have passed by quickly and have brought a whole new life. In those 40 years, there has been a remarkable change — perhaps we could call it a revolution. A gentle revolution, but a revolution nevertheless.

Our friend Father Richard Rohr put it very well in his recent book: “I put this down as an encouragement to any of you who have been faithfully working — perhaps for years — to bring in some measure of change in the Church. It is not probably impossible, but it does take Faith and TIME.”

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Nov/Dec 2011