I was just checking out the website of the Mind, Body,Spirit Festival in Sydney which is on now, and once again I am dazzled by all of the options for well being and healing available. And once again I ask does Christian spirituality have any place here? Have Christians reacted to the so called ‘new age’ and shut down any thought of the miraculous by over intellectualising their faith? It still saddens me that at a time when so many are searching for true spirituality Christians preach a more cerebral faith while neglecting the spiritual.
Which brings me to the topic of healing….
Why is it so hard to get this right in the Christian expression of faith? I am constantly coming across people who either say they believe that God heals today but in fact would never think to take action and actually, seriously, boldly pray for healing for a wounded person or those who do pray boldly, seriously but with such ‘uninformed zeal’ that it is painful to watch. Where are those who are getting it right? I am sure they are out there but they must be hiding because generally we only hear about those anti healing and those who are a bit of an embarrassment.
Almost seems like the representatives at the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival are doing it better here…..
What characterizes good practice for healing prayer? Without going into the details of such practices here are some broad principles that I look for.
The focus is on God not the technique
God is personal not an impersonal force so when someone is being prayed for to be healed, God is present and he is in control. He will do what he wants. It’s up to us to connect with him then listen to what he wants to do for the person. Too often people rely on a technique whether it is the use of an object or a ritualised routine, a series of words as if magically spoken, a particular style, in order to heal a person. Really this kind of healing prayer borders on magic where we try and channel a kind of powerful force then we tap into it to use for our own purposes, whether good or bad. We become masters of our destiny as we decide what to do with that power. We assume what the person needs then we connect with that impersonal force and use it to alter the situation of that person. I have seen this type of prayer for healing and while it uses the name Christian, it’s not, rather it’s more like magic and a kind of witchcraft, in the right definition of that word. Prayer for healing practiced well points to a personal force,who is present and does not need to be summoned. God will direct the prayer healing and bring whatever type of healing that person needs.
Compassion is more important that faith
Faith of course is important as prayer for healing happens. Someone in the prayer healing time has to believe in God and that God can heal! Whether it’s the person being prayed for or the person doing the praying, faith matters. However the more I pray for healing for people the more I am convinced that compassion is a better guide than faith. There has been so much emphasis on faith in the past related to healing prayer which has done so much damage. If you are a Christian you probably know someone who was told implicitly or explicitly that they were not healed due to a lack of faith. This is so damaging to people. However if our grid is compassion rather than primarily faith we will not say such silly things. Compassion will not condemn someone after a prayer for healing has not gone the way that they had hoped. Compassion will not say things like ‘this was not God’s will for you’, compassion will not say ‘you are healed even if you can’t see any change’, compassion will not say ‘you are healed’ when there is no certainty whatsoever that this is the case, compassion will not shout a command for that person to be healed, compassion will not ignore the vulnerable human being who has asked for help.
Healing is holistic
The best healing practices I have seen are holistic. What I mean by that is that they incorporate prayer, counselling, appropriate physical touch, practical care, and the practice of the spiritual disciplines. Without this kind of approach prayer for healing becomes one dimensional, narrow and is forgetful that God created people mind, body and spirit. Holistic prayer for healing involves the person being prayed for and realises that they too can hear from God in the process. Since healing prayer is not about manipulating a force but rather about connecting to a personal force through a relationship, this involves quite a bit of listening in order to hear from God regarding what God would like to do. As God speaks the person who is being prayed for must also listen as God speaks to them in the depths of their soul. Even if a person does not get the ‘result’ that they wanted for healing I believe that the experience of being prayed for in a holistic way can be incredibly rich, caring and safe for a needy person. Plus it can give them a powerful experience of the presence of God helping them to realise something that is more important than the physical healing, that is that God himself is with them in their suffering.
Hopefully Christians can more and more practice prayer healing in a helpful manner so that the fullness of God is offered to hurting people. I hope it becomes normal practice so that it is not seen as something strange but something that is a natural part of God’s character and therefore of the Christian character and practice.
I hope that those who say they believe that God heals today actually take a bold step and pray for someone and I hope that those who are doing that already but in a way that is unhelpful will reflect on their practices and find a better way to pray for healing for those who God loves.