Defined broadly, faith healing is the attempt to use religious or spiritual means such as prayer to prevent illness, cure disease, or improve health. More often than not faith healing is used by those who are already ill. The preventative benefits of spirituality and the psychiatric and psychological health benefits of a balanced life of faith, are self-evident to many.
Healing with faith, summons divine intervention on behalf of the afflicted. Many forms of faith healing are practiced. Different forms depend on the cultural context of the healing, and the patient.
Christian Faith Healing
In the English-speaking world, the most common form of faith healing is intercessory prayer. This may be practiced singly or by congregations and is rarely a profitable commercial enterprise, although historically intercessory prayer-for-payment has been an important form of income for mendicant monastic orders."Mendicant Friars," New Catholic Encyclopedia Faith healing may be initiated by the outsiders (for instance, friends or even strangers) or may be explicitly sought by the patient. Historically, the most important instance of the latter arrangement was initiated by the Bishop of Rochester, Walter de Merton (c. 1205 - 1277), who, in the documents establishing to Merton College, Oxford, stipulated that intercessory prayer be delivered annually in the "Commemoration of the Benefactors,"Commemoration of Benefactors a ceremony now performed by the Chaplains of the Colleges. While the Bishop was alive, the prayers were offered for his safety and his health, and, following his death, they were offered for the repose of his soul. It is thought that the intercessors, or, those praying on the Bishop's behalf, had not fulfilled their charge on the day the Bishop was killed in a fall from his horse. (Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 248)
Catholic and Protestant traditions differ on the matter of intercessory prayer. Protestants generally pray directly to God on behalf of the living, and themselves are the intercessors. On the other hand, Catholics frequently pray for the intercessory assistance of a saint, who dwells with the Lord, though the Catholics may, of course, pray directly to God (MILNER). Some Christian denominations, especially charismatic sects like the Pentecostals, believe that the power of intercessory prayer is a gift of God to certain individuals (known as "[Prayer Warriors]") whose ministries are based on this practice. The mechanism of efficacious prayer is an unburdening, Prayer Warrior burdens himself or herself with the injury and sickness of the patient as a parallel to the heroic act of Christ bearing the weight of the world's sin.
In practice, such faith healing need not be administered in the presence of the patient, or even be administered with their knowledge.
Public and charismatic faith-healing is the most well known form of faith healing in the modern, English speaking world. In this form of healing, the patient must be necessary and an active participant in the treatment, which gives them a sense of hope and limited control over their treatment, paradoxically, through the abandonment of their sickness to God. While it is debatable whether or not in practice the patient offers up the sickness or it is taken from God, the practice is firmly grounded in the ancient tradition that Almighty God is sovereign in all things. It also draws on the miracle tradition of Christianity, which has been amply demonstrated through the ages.
The most common method of charismatic healing comes from the well-known and iconic "laying on of hands." While the mechanism by which the Lord heals is mysterious and beyond the capacity of man to replicate without intervention, since the results are seen in the real, natural world, it is a valid object of scientific inquiry. Two inductive truths can be gleaned from the traditions of charismatic faith healing, and these are strongly confirmed by practicing healers and through the rigorous examination of anecdotal data:
a) The efficacy of faith healing is not adversely affected by the language in which the healer and the patient speak, so long as they are not different, mutually incomprehensible languages. In cases where a language barrier exists, say in areas of linguistic diversity such as the Basque Country in Spain or the various regions of China, the efficacy of faith healing can be shown to lie on a gradient depending on degree of mutual comprehension between the healer and the patient. A curious prediction drawn from the linguistic component of charismatic faith healing is that patients who share no common linguistic roots or language conventions at all with the healer are generally found to benefit much more from those healing in their own language. Indeed, as the Basque language, Euskera, is a linguistic isolate from all other European languages, Basque nationals are rarely if ever heard to have successfully ministered to those from an Indo-European linguistic background, though some cases may exist.
b) The laying on of hands is the most effective method of faith healing. One of the principle shortcomings of the oft-quoted [Bensen and Bethea] study, is that hands-on treatment wasn't even considered. The opinions for why the laying on of hands should so greatly enhance the healing process are varied, but many practitioners believe that the outcomes can be directly linked to the number of people witnessing the healing, the number of times that hands are laid on, the interval between healing sessions (generally longer intervals times generate more reliable outcomes) and the intimate experience of the healing power of God that is shared by the healer and the patient.
According to the varied beliefs of those who practice it, faith healing may be said to afford gradual relief from pain or sickness or to bring about a sudden "miracle cure." Only upon the unfaithful does it seem to have no effect and magnify the pain several fold. As a result of failing to be cured, many patients have been surprised on their deathbed to find that they were hellbound all along. Faith healing may be used in place of, or in tandem with, conventional medical techniques for alleviating or curing diseases, but we can't recommend it. Faith healing has been criticized on the grounds that those who use it may delay seeking potentially curative conventional medical care. These concerns are very well founded. Importantly, most people are adviced to seek appropriate medical opinions or already are in medical supervision.
Healing of Soul and Body : Faith Healing Through Christ
- A Christian understands the human spirit to originate from the breath of God. The book of Genesis 2:7 reads, "The Lord formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being." Man was created in God's image and likeness. In communion with God, the human being is whole but does not become God.
The human spirit is thus blessed with the ability to seek Communion with the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. The human spirit is also blessed with the power of reason which no other living being is. This power of reason gives us the ability to acknowledge the transcendental need of the soul, the need for God, the need to be in communion with the Spirit of God who is "the higher purpose of our existence"[Organon of Medicine, Aph 9].
- The Soul, as defined in The Concise Dictionary of Theology is: The Spiritual principle of human beings which survives their death. According to the Old Testament the "nephesh" (Hebrew: "Breath of life") comes from God (Gen2:7) and disappears at death. My "nephesh" can mean "myself" or "my soul". The New Testament often uses "psyche" (Greek: "soul") as the principle of life. Towards the end of the Old Testament, Greek language and thought introduced a sense of the human soul as distinct from the body and endowed by God with immortality (Wisdom 3:1-9,9:15, 16;13). The New Testament reflects a certain dualism between between body and soul (Matt:10:28, Lk 16:22, 2Cor 5:6-10, Phil 1:23, 1Pet 1:9) but primarily thinks of human beings as animated beings destined for final resurrection. Against the Neo-Aristotelianism of Pietro Pompanazzi (1464-1525) the Fifth Lateran Council taught in 1513, the individuality and the immortality of human souls.
There are eternal principles of healing, as much as there are eternal moral values for the soul. The moral values in Christ that were relevant 2000 years ago are just as relevant today, because the living Christ, is the same, yesterday, today and forever[Ref]. From Saint Paul’s Letter to Romans (12:1-2) – Sacrifice of Body and Mind: “I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship [your reasonable service (different translation)]. Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Renewal of Mind
- The spiritual renewal of one's mind begins with a decision to follow a simple process of being slowly transformed to eternal values of Christ. This is a progress through spiritual conviction and tangible experiences of God's love without suppression or struggle against one's human needs. It is a repeated experience of divine support in strengthening of one's human spirit, beyond the weakness and limitations of the body, enhanced by the soul's dependence on God. This practical method of transformation, is Biblical philosophy laid down nearly 2000 years ago in the New Testament (Study the entire Chapter 8 of the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans), which is continuously revealed with deeper and wider understanding today.
In this process, through the transcendental activity of one's soul, the mind and heart are receptive to the Wisdom, Love and Gifts of the Spirit of God within us. In more psycho-spiritual terms, one achieves "self-actualization" and "self-awareness" which allows for a deep knowing and wisdom, of being in touch with one's 'Innermost Self'. One can achieve greater transcendental activity through prayer, meditation and obedience to God's Will. But one also necessarily remains interconnected with other people, family, friends in this process. This fosters special experiences that lead one to experience love (Greek: Agape) in one's concrete human circumstances and suffering.
- As a Christian, one seeks to relate to God's Spirit through Jesus, who offered himself in unconditional love as a sacrifice for human salvation. Experiencing His love is the deepest fulfillment in ones's soul. It spurs one towards the simplest and most reliable form of prayer or meditation - conversing with God; contemplation - which evolves, with deeper maturity. It is a hotline with God for any person, whatever be one's stage of intellectual or emotional development or stage of physical disease. It is a pure, simple method of receiving and experiencing unlimited love and wisdom from God. This is the secret of a personal encounter with Christ, "for the higher purpose of one's existence" (Organon of Medicine Aph. 9) i.e. being ready to serve and sacrifice with love for the good of humanity. This process of transformation is simple, gentle and permanent,... on easily comprehensible principles [Organon Of Medicine Aph. 2]
My human spirit remains fortified by the Spirit of God, through dependence on His divine love. This necessarily requires that my human spirit is humbled so that the Spirit of God may be more powerful. This slowly and surely results in a renewal first of the mind and heart, which is followed by healing in the body; no matter what one's past life of suffering has been, or what one has inherited, or what are one's past experiences of hurt, failings, sin or physical disease. Human difficulties don't cease, but one faces them with a deep sense of peace, courage and a supernatural strength called Grace. One feels loved and one is full of hope no matter what the external circumstances. Then there is no place for doubt, fear or narrow thinking.
- This step is the basis of subsequent Spiritual Healing of the body through the Spirit of God. The healing begins from the Spirit, heals the soul (including the heart and the mind) and results in healing of the body. This process is slower in some, quicker in others and miraculous in a few.
Spiritual healing in the Roman Catholic Church
- Fr. Rufus Pereira, Chief Editor, Charisindia is from Mumbai, India. He is the President of the "International Association for Exorcists" and is the Vice President of the "International Association for Deliverance". He is one of the most respected Catholic Priests in the Ministry of Healing in the Catholic Church worldwide. Yet he is a simple and humble priest who has served millions of people from all over the world through his prayers for their healing and deliverance. Because of his intercession, the Indian village of Balla has not reported a single incident of sickness in over five years, a testament to the power of prayer.
Here is an insight from Him on Spiritual Healing in the Catholic Church quoted from his article "Prayer for Healing"[Chrisindia, Dec 2002].
The Biblical Answer: The Biblical response to this dismal worldwide situation is the proclamation of Jesus that he has been sent by the Father and has been anointed by the Holy Spirit to forgive sinners, to heal the sick and to deliver the oppressed (Lk 4:16-21, Acts 10:38). He therefore invites all who are burdened in any way to come to him to receive his healing rest and life to the full (Mt 1:28, Jn 10:10), and charges his followers to do the same: to heal the sick, to cast out demons and even to raise the dead (Mt 10:8). Inspired by his example and motivated by his pleas, the Church has continued the proclaiming and healing ministry of Christ in the Sacraments and through the charisms....
The Christian Healing: Christian healing does not take place by the exclusive use of some medicinal substance or by sole reliance on some obscure impersonal energy but through a personal encounter with and experience of Jesus, our Saviour, Healer and Deliverer. It is not something we get hold of but Someone we hold on to. It does not result from some sort of emotional faith but from one's unshakable trust in the Lord, in his love by dying for us and in the power of his resurrection (Phil 3:10). It is the full Gospel in action, proclaiming God's love and bringing peace to man, giving glory to God and destroying the work of Satan.
The Healing Prayer: The Prayer for Healing is therefore not a magical formula but a faith process of experiencing God's forgiveness, inner healing and deliverance. It calls for preparing oneself through repentance, forgiveness and renunciation. It can be experienced at Mass or before the Blessed Sacrament, on hearing the Word of God or through receiving words of knowledge, by recourse to the Sacramentals or through the intercession of the Saints, through the laying on of hands or by resting in the Spirit. In any case healing takes place in an environment of faith in the Lord and of love for one another, - just as it is both the power and the love of Christ that heals. ..."
1. Hahnemann, S (1921) Organon of Medicine, 6th Edition; Translated by William Boericke, MD, BJain Publishers Ltd, Reprint edition 1986. 2. New American Bible (NAV), Available at http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/#job , last accessed Jan. 08. 3. Charisindia; A Magazine for renewal and Spiritual Growth; National Charismatic Office, New Delhi, India 4. Powicke, F. Maurice and E. B. Fryde Handbook of British Chronology 2nd. ed. London:Royal Historical Society 1961 5. http://www.prayerwarriors.org.uk/ 6. MILNER, End of Religious Controversy, ed. RIVINGTON (London, 1896).