By Michael H. Brown
EXPERT WRITES OF CONSTANT HEALINGS WHEN FAITHFUL USE BIBLE, FOLLOW DIRECTIVE OF JESUS
We tend to treat spiritual healings as rare miracles — something like a bolt from the blue; very unusual. Meanwhile, often (too often) we hear of diagnoses that seem insurmountable.
Cancer. Diabetes. Heart problems. Arthritis.
Indeed, modern scourges!
Yet according to nationally-known Catholic healing expert Dr. Francis MacNutt — who was once a prime speaker on the charismatic circuit (drawing thousands to stadiums) — wondrous cures in fact occur on a constant basis and need to be focused upon by our clergy as well as the faithful. Not everyone gets better. And most often — with spiritual healing — it’s a gradual or partial process (more improvement than total reversal, despite the histrionics we sometimes see on TV).
But there are many, many total cures and — as MacNutt points out — if ten percent of cancer patients were cured by a new drug, people would flock to get it, even travel to somewhere like Mexico.
Yet that’s probably the percentage with spiritual healing or thereabouts — total reversals of misfortune, meaning we should flock here also! MacNutt recounts in a new, highly readable, useful new book (endorsed by his bishop) called The Practice of Healing Prayer the case of one woman who had a leg that was six inches shorter than the other but that witnesses (including a bishop) actually observed to grow several inches over the course of a couple days. (The bishop, Uribe Jaramillo, of Colombia, later became a leader of the Charismatic Renewal in Latin America).
Dr. MacNutt, who runs Christian Healing Ministries in Jacksonville, Florida, was involved in one study of forty arthritic patients with the results that the average number of tender joints in those participating went from nearly 17 to less than six, while swollen joints declined to a third of what they had been. Four of the patients were totally healed through prayer.
Our point: there is always hope. Prayer works. We should rely upon it as much as anything else. We should even bless our medications (to make them more effective or to prevent side effects). Everyone has a role.
There is nothing that cannot be cured (if the situation is right, if the prayers are right, if the heart is right, and when God wills). Now let’s get to the actual mechanics of healing:
Most effective, says MacNutt, is when we pray for each other in the presence of each other — opening with a prayer of protection, asking for the Holy Spirit to guide us, being specific, expressing gratitude, bringing in the Blessed Mother, having high expectations, leaving out doubt. And of course, primarily, invoking Jesus.
Often, says MacNutt, healing necessitates “soaking prayer”: We have to “bathe” the infirm with hours or even days of praying — not just hasty supplication (although there are times when quick prayers work). In the history of the Church’s “desert fathers” is the account of the monk Macarius, who cured a paralyzed woman by anointing her and praying over continuously for forty days. Long periods of supplication were also recounted when Saint André of Montreal healed through anointed oil.
Blessed salt and Holy Water are similarly useful, claims the evangelist — even drinking the water.
Often, we also need to address emotional healing. “The most prominent obstacles to our receiving healing are hated and unforgiveness,” MacNutt says. We must forgive everyone everything, or we hold ourselves back; we are in bondage to them. We must purge sin, pride, and bad habits. When there is darkness, this is an obstacle. He emphasizes the special need for healing prayers in the confessional. “I think that if priests would learn to say prayers after the sacramental Confession asking Jesus to heal the sinful tendencies and addictions to the sins that have been confessed, people would flock to Confession,” he notes.
All of the sacraments — and sacramentals — are valuable.
“The Eucharistic celebration is also a time when you can ask Jesus to heal you emotionally of past hurts,” points out the book. “You simply break down your life into several natural divisions of time, such as year by year or by childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and so forth. At home, before Mass, spend some time writing down the blessings that you remember during that year, and then in another column, write down the painful things that wounded you, especially if they were connected with broken relationships, such as with parents or authority figures like teachers. When you are at Mass, make your special intention first of all a thanksgiving for all the good things that happened during that year. Then take the harmful things you listed and ask the Lord, especially as you receive Him in Communion, to bring inner healing to each one.”
The laying-on-of-hands seems often to greatly help, when done while praying for the Holy Spirit, reciting the Rosary, speaking in tongues, or simply talking to God spontaneously from the heart. (Before any laying-on-of-hands, we should add, there should be prayer and fasting, for one person can impart a spirit to another).
But what a promise this is: that life on earth will not be terrifying if we are in a constant state of Godly communication, if we simply follow what Jesus told us to do and what He Himself did. Never mind just “wonderworkers”: you too can heal. You too — in your own household — can be healed.
That’s not so say there aren’t folks who have a special healing gift. There are. It is to say that with persistence and faith (underline “persistence”) many remarkable cures or improvements occur. “For example,” writes MacNutt, “we have seen instances in which the longer we prayed over a cancerous tumor, the more the growth seemed to grow smaller and softer while we prayed until, at last, the tumor was totally gone.”
“How can it be that in the early Church (the first 350 years), everyone prayed for the sick, but today most of us can’t remember even our mothers or fathers praying with us when we were sick as children?” asks the author. “Pope Benedict XVI has actively encouraged Catholics to be baptized in the Spirit and to rediscover and experience the charisms, including healing. With over forty years of experience, I’ve seen thousands of sick people at least get better when we pray, and some are totally healed. The most extraordinary thing of all is how much healing takes place. Once you actually see what happens to bless your family and friends when you pray, your life (and your family’s life) will never be the same.”
Indeed! We are all called to heal. Jesus said this. “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those suffering from virulent skin diseases, drive out devils” (Matthew 10:1, 7-8). That was to the twelve apostles but right after the same kind of directive was given to the 72 disciples who basically represent the rest of us. “All the marks characteristic of a true apostle have been at work among you: complete perseverance, signs, marvels, demonstrations of power,” adds 2 Corinthians 12:12.
Yet once the Church became institutionalized, healing suddenly became the province only of saints and priests — special holy people — and in England and France it became the province only of the king and queen. (In England it was illegal for a time to heal if you were not royalty!)
In our own time, one segment of Christianity continues to follow the prescriptions for miracles from Scripture, while the other segment, says MacNutt, have unfortunately followed extremes in the “logical” way of the “Enlightenment” and “Age of Reason,” including its “sophisticated agnostic” view of healing (read: doubt). Laments the healing evangelist, “These intellectuals now began to teach that healing prayer and exorcism were superstitions that represented a primitive approach to religion.”
Once more, all we have to do is go back to Scripture.
Just read the Bible — upon which Christianity is based.
The signs that will be associated with believers are that “they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover,” said Jesus (Mark 16:17).
[resources: Francis MacNutt’s The Practice of Healing Prayer]