How would Jesus engage with the alternate healers of today?

It’s a question I’ve been working again over the last two weeks as I’ve been attending a healing prayer workshop at the local Baptist church. They’ve been going through a course by the same people that brought us Alpha and – since curiosity got the better of me – I decided to go along and for a look see. Picked up a copy of Ken Blue’s “Authority To Heal” while I was at it too. All horribly charismatic and ‘contemporary’ for me I know, but hey, I don’t say I’m eclectic for nothing.

Now I am finding that the course itself is of limited value to me given its focus on application in an attractional church situation, but the subject of healing is incredibly important, both in the life of Jesus and in the life of many spirituality seekers today, and this is giving me useful space to work through some critical contextualisation issues.

On the positive, it has been good that they’ve emphasised repentance from sin and forgiveness of those who’ve been sinned against you as part of the healing process and not focussed exclusively on the deliverance demon busting stuff.

One challenge I have raised though is that inadequate attention has been given to discernment issues or how to contextually engage with non-churched people who may be seeking healing. How would a Wiccan herbal healer or Reiki master or Chakra re-balancer walking through the door interpret Christian healing for instance? And just how do they interpret Jesus? Must go as the baby is crying but that’s just a few stray thoughts. Interested in what others think about healing.

17 thoughts on “Healing Prayer

  1. I’m gonna be real honest with you. I am a skeptic in protest. I want to believe in healing but to me it’s way to subjective. It doesn’t make sense to me that God just fixes some people and lets others die. It doesn’t make sense that doctors heal but we don’t give any glory to God for that. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would just let someone walk simply because they are at a Benny Hinn conference.
    It’s all so confusing. I want to believe in healing and I would say that I do but I’ve never actually seen it. I don’t want to limit or second guess God’s power but do you get where I’m coming from?
    -Wes

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  2. Sorta. Doubting Thomas is my favourite apostle after all. But I’ve learnt over time not to limit God to my own experience of him.
    I have not personally experienced anything that’s ‘extraordinarily’ newsworthy but I have experienced healings of sorts – healing from depression when I first became a Christian being an important one for me – and I don’t discount God can do even greater things.
    I personally wouldn’t use Benny Hinn as my benchmark. His antics remind me of a certain Steve Martin film, if you catch my drift. We shouldn’t abandon all critical thought.
    But I don’t think the scientific-materialist paradigm has all the answers either. Prior to becoming a Christian I experienced the healing power of meditation so I find it difficult to doubt Christ could equip us for healing also.
    One of the things I think we need to move beyond is the strict natural/supernatural dichotomy of modernity. Precisely for this reason I think we should praise God for doctors every bit as much as healers of the more mysterious kind.
    I was reading an interesting anthropological article recently that asserted that an over-emphasis on supernaturalism actually encourages secularization. I feel we need to move beyond God of the gaps (and devil of the gaps) thinking and reconsider healing phenomena afresh.

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  3. I wonder if this is an area where Jesus would say that whoever is not against him is for Him. In fact, isn’t Jesus himself an ‘alternate healer’?
    Having said, I’m not sure how accurate it is to lump all alternative healing together. After all, there’s quite some difference between the three examples you give in the final paragraph.
    Interestingly, in my Aikido I’ve found that they are perfectly happy with the idea that ‘God’ might heal – more so than some Christian I know! Of course, they simply think that many of us are giving the same medicine but we just place a different label on the bottle. (If that makes sense!) So, some of them say that Jesus healed with Ki, whilst Christians would say he healed with Spirit.

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  4. Not sure I’d go that far graham, but I do believe that Jesus would engage with alternative healers.
    We can ask provocative questions regarding the origin of the power that they draw upon to effect healing- I have had several useful conversations in this vien.
    For myself I have seen healing and also prayed for folk who have been healed… recently I too have attended a healing workshop, but unlike the one Matt attended this was rin at an Eastern Fitness centre, and was Eastern based brining in Tai Chi and chakra points- it was a very interesting and challenging session.
    Did you realise that the chakra points correspond to a rainbow- good dialogue starter there.
    At the end of the session we paired off and laid hands on one anothers heads…
    I was told by my partner that she saw gold and therefore I was very close to the divine… go figure…
    I too laid hands on her head and through colours recieved a word of knowledge that this lady was seeking- we have carried n meeting since that time…

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  5. I believe that all healing is ultimately empowered by the Spirit of the Creator, moving through creation.
    As much as I have looked, I have found nothing in the Bible that suggest that demons can heal, in a counterfeit way or otherwise, I’ve only found references to their causing sickness. In that respect I would say that there is a continuity between the activities of all healers, alternate and otherwise.
    That being said, I am drawn to consider the passages in Paul’s letters which discuss the problem for Christiasn of eating meat that has been offered to idols. The meat is ok, but when it is incorrectly attributed to false deities there’s a problem. I think that situation is somewhat analogous to what we have here. The problem of the alternative healing industry is not that they are healing people so much as they are attributing their successes to impersonal emergies like chi and prana rather than the Holy Spirit.
    The fact that alternate healers can heal, despite their non-acknowledgement of Jesus as God, says more to me about God’s grace and providence than the adequacy of their reference frames.
    I think there is scope to speak into these reference frames – their references to kundalini energy and chakras and the like – but we must maintain a critically contextual perspective, and like Paul at the Areopagus, lead them from consideration of the alter to the Unknown God to YHWH who brings all healing through the resurrection of Jesus

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  6. The kind of healing you are talking about is our struggle to be in control of it. Medicine is good at it. But we want to be in control of the mysterious spiritual healing that is pointed to by Jesus and other traditions. How do we invoke the Spirit to do our bidding and stop the pain?
    The first problem is our relationship with pain. We live in a pain allergic society. Consider that the main institutions of power, business and science, exist for pain relief. Business cannot sell pain. It would go out of business and lose power. A hundred years ago, aristocrats held power through force and threat.
    We seek healing from our pain. The example of Jesus’ ‘poof! you’re healed,’ appeals to us. No mess, no fuss, no icky side effects.
    Jesus taught us not to understand pain. Just stop it. Today we do it better than ever before.
    Modern theology, in its scramble to correct its legacy of abusive dominance, has redefined God/Jesus as ‘love,’ and all pain comes from man. This is only half true.
    God does bring pain and suffering. Pain is transitional. There is wisdom and a reason for why it comes. Be it emotional, spiritual, physical, they all bring the same message about ourselves personally. If we want to know why it was sent, God is more than happy to grant us the wisdom so that we can grow out of it. If we don’t, the pain cycles back again in another form, another opportunity to learn the lesson.
    Modern society believes popularly that pain is only gratuitous. That is its error, so it never learns its lessons. So society’s pain goes on and on. The wisdom is never gained.
    As far as healing from the spirit world, Christianity is at a disadvantage of sorts. It believes that the only spirits are God and humans. It does not know anything about the spirit world, which encompasses Creation itself. It is a taboo and mirky waters for a Christian to venture into. So it struggles with non-Christian spirituality from its ignorance. It does not know the reality, the ground rules, of all the other spirits God has Created outside of the specific consciousness of God and souls.
    Spiritual healing is our attempt at breaking the natural laws of inert matter, just like Jesus did. It is a pining to know more about the spirit world but with only the Christian doctrine to go by. How does Jesus fit into this other spirituality? How does it relate to the monotheistic God? How do we become a part of it and break free of the limits of this inert matter? We are interested in the ‘gap’ in our spiritual knowledge.
    If science could break free of traditional understandings of reality as inert matter and walk into the infinite knowledge of physics, then can we do the same expansion beyond the spiritual limits put upon us by the Church?
    We live in brave times. It is time to explore.

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  7. Sun Warrior
    It is important to remember that the Christian movement is multifaceted.
    Whilst I’d agree with you that Christians coming from the fundamentalist ‘name it and claim it’ end of the Christian spectrum often seem to see no value in pain and avoid it at all costs, the reverse could be said for the ascetic ‘grin and bear it’ end of the Christian spectrum where it’s considered almost unfaithfully presumptive to pray for release from suffering.
    What I would argue for amongst Christians is a balanced approach that recognizes both the crucifixion and the resurrection as paradigms for the life of discipleship. That is, an approach that fully acknowledges that there is such a thing as necessary pain, but simultaneously, that pain is problematic and we are called to dream for healing of mind body and spirit for all one day, for ourselves, for others and for all creation. We pray for a global transformation whereby pain will one day become unnecessary.
    Digging deep into the scriptures reveals that the prophets and poets of Israel were conversant with both sides of this coin. The story of Job particularly stands out as one where God is said to be behind some serious suffering. As there are Christians of various different stripes who are actively engaged in exploring the implications of this I must ask you to consider if you’re over-generalizing a bit with your references to ‘modern theology’ (and ‘modern society’ for that matter give New Age thought is increasingly so mainstream).
    The tendency for secularized Christians to view theology entirely in terms of God and humans is by no means universal to the Christian movement as a whole. In fact I think there’s a reasonable case to assert that this is a historical aberration of the industrial-capitalist era which does not sit well at all with other forms of Christianity in other places (such as the third world) and at other times (such as the early centuries after Christ). African Christians for one would strenuously deny your assertions that they’re unaware of other spirits. I do concede your point that anthropo-centricity is a strong vein within contemporary western theology, I’m just cautioning against viewing all Christianity through that lens.
    You may find it interesting to consider what I’ve recently been writing against in respect to ‘the powers’ and ‘spiritual warfare’ and what other missiologists have writing about in terms of the excluded middle (see the alt. intercession links in my sidebar for starters). Monotheism does not require us to reject the existence of lesser Powers, only their demands for worship, and in that respect I am quite open to receiving guidance from God through animals, plants, rocks, the moon and the stars, provided God is acknowledged as God.
    The Bible itself asserts that Balaam (see the book of Numbers) received spiritual guidance through his donkey and that the Magi (see the Gospel of Matthew) were led to Christ by a star. Guidance through the wider creation is not foreign to the Christian tradition, only forgotten in some quarters. In theological terms it is known as ‘general revelation’ and is thoroughly accepted by many orthodox Christians. New spiritualities are simply prompting us to clarify what that actually means for us here and now and stretching us to consider the implications of what’s already dormant in our own teaching.
    I consider discussion like this to be very important though, for they provide a reality check as to where the church has failed to meet people where they are at and how much we need to reassess our teaching and practice in these areas. Our awareness does need to be stretched and I thank you for working with us in this process.
    There are many dimensions to healing, and gaining wisdom through the experience of pain is certainly an important one. So is the healing of all creation beyond humans, and prophetically witnessing against the destruction of animals, plants, trees and the wider environment to satisfy the sick greed embedded in our souls. Let us hear the crys of creation and open our eyes to the wisdom of God.

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  8. All I can say is it is a mystery!
    I was part of a group recently that ran a stand for a few days at a Mind Body and Spirit fair in London.
    While there people, including reiki healers, came to us for free prayer for healing. (Free as everyone else there was charging for heling!)
    What we experienced was amazing – people were clearly being touched by the Holy Spirit even though they did not recognise this themselves. A reiki healer told me I had a greater power than her after I prayed with her. I reminded her (as we did with everyone) that I did not have any power and that we were simply asking God, the creator, to heal through his Holy Spirit.
    I will remember for a long time the Hindu lady who had hurt her hand that morning so that she would not let anyone touch it. Before she left us she was shaking it and amiling saying ‘it’sd amazing, it’s been healed … my hand is back to normal’.
    I don’t know why God chooses to heal, I don’t know why he chose to work through us with people at the fair who were not actually searching for Jesus, but just wanted an experinece.
    But … God acted and in that sense I guess there are times when we do what we feel we are called to do, and then leve the rest to the wonderfully mysterious God that we have. God will be God

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  9. My own sense having offered prayer at several Mind Body Spirit Exhibitions is that we need to be up front, first in acknowledging that we pray to God through Jesus, that the power is power from the Holy Spirit, who is also God- that we cannot explain the Trinity nor do we know why or how God chooses to answer prayer.
    I have prayed for some folk who have experienced physical healing, others speak of a sense of peace and someone coming alongside them in their suffering…
    It is a case of stepping out in boldness, at a recent exhibition we were challenged by the Holy Spirit to give words of knowledge, we approached this with caution saying to folk I sense the Spirit is saying this”…..” does that mean anything to you? 9/10 times it did!!!!
    We cannot secong guess God, nor can we explain the mystery of healing, and so we make ourselves vulnerable in the process of going and of offering. There is a fine line between vulnerability and presumption!

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  10. Rob,
    Your last paragraph echoed my much of my own experience from the Sydney Mind*Body*Spirit festivals. Just do what your do and leave the rest to God, so true.
    As to why God heals people who are not actually searching, consider the story of Jesus and the ten lepers. Only one returned to thank him, yet he healed them all. And when you think about it, we never find out even if that one became a Christian after the resurrection. Who knows? I think the lesson is God is gratuitously generous and moves well beyond us.

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  11. I should point out to readers of this thread that you’ll find a related conversations on Reiki, Christian healing and moving beyond demonization at
    Jonny Baker’s blog

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  12. The study on prayer and healing mentioned in the BBC report was about patients undergoing heart surgery. The study received funding from the Templeton Foundation and the full report will be published.
    The same news item received coverage in several other publications. One point noted in MSNBC’s coverage was:
    “Researchers emphasized that their work can’t address whether God exists or answers prayers made on another’s behalf. The study can only look for an effect from prayers offered as part of the research, they said.”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12082681/
    Other stories about prayer and healing covered in US periodicals since 1999 include these diverse items:
    Does prayer heal?
    Prescribing Prayer for Health care
    Probing the power of prayer

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  13. I just wanted to say in regards to one of the other comments…that chi and prana IS the Holy Spirit…whether the people who use these terms realize it or not. Chi and Prana are life force energy( breath) and it comes from God our creator. Breath=Spirit

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  14. Hi Phil,
    I’m not sure A = B with regard to the Holy Spirit and Chi/Prana. I propose that there are several sources of “energy”. Perhaps energy is the underlying fabric of creation – visible and invisible – but it seems to that in addition to this humans produce energy, that there are pure-energy beings, and that there is a Godde who is the creator of energy. In this sense the Holy Spirit as the creator differs from Chi/Prana/Energy though they have similar characteristics.

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  15. Every believer is responsible for discovering what God has intended for them. If Christians will stop being codependent, expecting Christ to jump off the cross and help! It ain’t gonna happen. Guess what, you are in control. You believe what the word says+do what the word says and viola you will receive the wisdom and the promised life. Just do everything for God. Sorted!

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