Healing prayer is reviving among Catholics.  A long time leader in the healing ministry, ex Dominican Francis McNutt, has recently published “The Practice of Healing Prayer:  A How-to-Guide for Catholics.”  He also reports that his Christian Healings Ministry center is expanding, as are other such groups. 

 Certainly prayers for healing existed among the early Christians who followed Jesus’ teaching and example to pray for healing and daily needs.  Baptized church members could expectantly ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit’s healing power.  If in recent eras this ministry became less prevalent why the present “reawakening?”

 Many reasons come to mind.  1) There is a revival of understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit working within the world.  2) The ‘Call to Holiness’ of all  the baptized is newly heard. 3) The goodness of this world and the body is affirmed. 4) The body-mind unity is recognized as mutually interacting.  

 I also think that science is changing so that a reductionistic materialism can less easily dismiss the power of mind, consciousness and intention.  Matter is increasingly enigmatic.  An older determined machine model of the universe has given way to an evolving cosmos that is open to chance and probabilities.  And more scientific revolutions may be in the offing;  last week’s findings that neutrinos may travel faster than light was startling if true! Are we ready for a multiverse?

The key unknown for our present views of reality is how human consciousness arises and operates.  How is it intentionally directed (as for instance in prayer) and what is the effect?  In my opinion consciousness is so overwhelmingly complex that no present experimental investigations or scientific explanations of prayer can be valid.

Yet theologically and rationally Christians make progress in understanding prayer.  We no longer are burdened with the image of  God as a distant Emperor who sometimes grants the requests of favored saints, and sometimes refuses.  Rather, a Self-giving God of Love is known to work constantly and dynamically within all reality to bring creation to fulfillment.   Christians as created co-creators are called to pray and work for God’s Future.

Consequently, when a healing, (or rescue) is not forthcoming, we can remember that God’s earlier gift of ordered laws and independent secondary causes still operate in our human story.  Alas, physical death remains as an evolutionary prerequisite of organic life.  But at the same time, the existence of chance and an andopen future provide for God’s continual novel creativity.  So in joyful hope we pray and make petitions.  Have we not already experienced many healings and answered prayers? 

 

Comments

6466379 | 10/4/2011 - 9:09am
I didn’t realize that I had become addicted to of all things sherry wine! Or maybe I simply gave in to the deception of, “No! Not me!” However, in 1969 the truth began to emerge and I began to admit to myself that I was indeed hooked on sherry wine. Then I began to pray for deliverance, for healing.
At that time my job in Brooklyn NY got me home past midnight. Interestingly, even while living in the sin of alcohol abuse I prayed the Rosary daily, which I was doing on a certain night as I walked home from the subway, disgusted with myself! As he Rosary ended I arrived at the street where I lived, at which point my attention turned to Padre Pio, the holy Capuchin priest-stigmatist now canonized. My prayer was that he should obtained the grace of my deliverance from alcohol abuse from God.
Suddenly in the midnight darkness of a Bronx sidewalk, I was surrounded by an extraordinarily delightful fragrance, like nothing ever before experienced. The fragrance was enrapturing, all around me but not oppressive. I began looking for a floral source but it was winter and no flowers were blooming on sidewalk plants. I checked the apartment above, every window in darkness, thinking that, perhaps, someone had used a spray- deodorant and some of the scent had waft down in a kind of artificial niceness.  The fragrance I was experiencing was, however, not artificial but delightfully fresh like walking through a rose garden.
I wished the experience would never end, but it did end as suddenly as it had begun. Prior to the experience I was feeling sad knowing that the moment I arrived home I would head for the sherry. But now I was happy and can tell you from the moment of that “night of fragrance” to the present over forty years later, the compulsion to drink sherry, indeed any alcoholic beverage was completely gone! What I once craved, I now abhorred. I was free to say “yes” or “no” no compulsion whatsoever!
I learned later that St. Padre Pio often uses fragrance as a sign that God has granted the prayer. The Church has a name for it - “Heavenly Aroma.”  Gradually I realized that I got exactly what I prayed for - deliverance from Addiction (addiction was the sin, not wine which is a gift of God)  discovering that I could freely have a glass of wine  at  celebratory meals for example without compulsion to do so, able to take it or leave it without  problem. I was healed through prayer and more than forty years later there has been no relapse. 
JANICE JOHNSON | 10/1/2011 - 1:06am
Both Deacon Backes and Winifred Holloway pointed out one of the obstcles to establishing a healing prayer ministry.  If the healing service resembles the "old time faith healing, Elmer Gantry style of ministry, no wonder people are turned off and turned away.  The Catholic church is rather new at this, but the Episcopal church has a long history of solid, respectable prayer healing ministry.  That church sponsors the Order of St. Luke which is an excellent guide to establishing a parish ministry.

This ministry is very new in my parish.  Those interested must go through a long formation period of prayer and learning.  Never are assurances made of miraculous healings or are people told they are not healed because of lack of faith. 

Another parish in our diocese has group prayer healing services which are subdued and reverent.  Winifred, I hope you can find a parish ministry such as this one and see what you think about it.

I agree with Deacon Backes about the great need for genuine healing ministry.  Both Agnes Sanford and Francis MacNutt write about the crucial part that forgiveness plays in healing.  As a Eucharistic Minister for  homebound I've met many suffering people who are estranged from family members and needing to be at peace.  To be reconciled is a great joy and immense grace from God.  Being in ministries in the church that promote healing through the Sacraments and prayer is a great privilege.
Winifred Holloway | 9/30/2011 - 8:22pm
I do believe in healing, but I am more in line with some of Deacon Baches caveats and more so.  Having been to healing services, not as one seeking healing, but in my role as a eucharistic minister, I was not edified by what i saw.  "Charismatic" priest-healers read "power seekers" and over the top behaviors by attendees left me feeling like a major con job was coming down.  A quieter, less flamboyant and attention-seeking style, I think, would be more comforting to those looking for healing, physical, spiritual or emotional.  There may be those types of healing services out there, but I haven't seen any. 
David Backes | 9/30/2011 - 4:45pm
I was called into healing ministry shortly after my ordination in 2005, and have had many experiences of God's grace bringing healing into people's lives-physical healing, emotional healing, spiritual healing.  It is not magic, and it is easy to turn this ministry into something that can cause a lot of trouble (such as by telling people that they'll certainly receive the cure they want if only they have enough faith), but genuine healing ministry is a great gift of God, and there is tremendous need for it.
JANICE JOHNSON | 9/30/2011 - 1:50pm
Thank you so very much, Sidney, for your article on healing prayer.  I hope it will interest readers to explore the subject further.  My parish recently began a ministry of healing prayer and there are a few others in our diocese who are promoting this ministry.  I've taken several classes and am a member of the Order of St. Luke.  I have had healing prayer and I am a firm believer in its efficacy. 

I think it is interesting that the beginnings of the movement came from the Episcopalian Church and has moved into other faiths, including Catholicism.  A classic book is Agnes Sanford's " The Healing Light".  Another is:  "The Healing Touch of God". Mrs Sanford lived from 1897 - 1982.

Francis MacNutt and his wife, Judith, recently attended and spoke at a conference of the Association of Christian Therapists in San Diego.  Their books and videos are widely available and are excellent sources for knowledge and inspiration.

As an older person approching the end of life, my spiritual goals are to seek forgiveness of those I've harmed and to forgive those who have harmed me.  I devised a little prayer based on Mrs. Sanford's writings.  "Abba Father, I forgive..... in the name of Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord and Savior and with the workings of the Holy Spirit and I thank you God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit that......is forgiven.  Amen"  and "Abba FAther, I pray for forgiveness from......and reconciliation with..... in the name of Jesus Christ and with the working of the Holy Spirit and I thank You God that I am forgiven.  Amen".
Stanley Kopacz | 9/29/2011 - 10:32pm
When I pulled my back muscles  and was in terrible pain, I prayed to God for healing.  I healed well and quickly and then felt so good.  I am in good shape and heal quickly usually, and I suppose it is natural, but it sure feels like a miracle.  Isn't healing always a fantastic miracle and a gift?
Bill Mazzella | 9/29/2011 - 9:49pm
"We no longer are burdened with the image of  God as a distant Emperor who sometimes grants the requests of favored saints, and sometimes refuses."

It would be great to bring the abuses of the fourth and subsequent centuries to a close. Access to God became monetized and powerized whereby one needed to find who could help one go to God. What did the Author of the parable of the prodigal child think of the distant God constructed to favor those who pretended access. Will the Beatitudes be in play again instead of canon law? Faith is the virtue.