Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Monday, March 7, 2011

HEALING 101.1: What is the Healing Ministry?

Healing Service Within the Episcopal Church Liturgy: Healing is one of the most practical aspects of congregational ministry. In a parish, the first thing I would do is to organize a “Pastoral Team” who will minister to people who need healing. After the Eucharist, I invite those with needs to come and be prayed for with laying on of hands. Those who come may also ask prayers for their loved ones who are sick.
I would pray from the Book of Common Prayer: “N., I lay my hands upon you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, beseeching our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain you with his presence, to drive away all sickness of body and spirit, and give you that victory of life and peace which will enable you to serve him both now and evermore. Amen” (BCP, p.456).
I would also dip my thumb in the holy oil and make a sign of the cross on the forehead of the person and say, “N., I anoint you with oil in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’
Sometimes I would compose my own prayer such as:” Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit, give this person, (N.) the healing of mind, body and spirit and enable him to live the fullness of life in this world and in the world to come, life everlasting. Amen.” The team members serve as prayer support and may also lead in prayer.
This series of teaching will help your team know more about Christian healing and how this ministry can enhance your church life.

Personal Testimony
I discovered my gift of healing in 1978 during my first year as parish priest of the Philippine Independent Church in Dagupan City, Philippines. A month after my first mass, the church treasurer, who operated a boarding house for college students, asked me to pray for one of the students who fell from the ladder and dislocated her joints. She was poor and could not afford to go to the hospital and so they believed that prayer could heal her. I laid hands on her forehead and anointed her with holy oil. The following day, she came to the church to give thanks, offering us with rice cakes that she cooked. She was completely healed! The word spread around, and although I did not really pursue healing as my priority, I was always being called to pray for the sick.

The other experience I remember was about a large family who claimed that they were cursed, “bewitched” or bothered by ghosts. I was requested to investigate the matter and learned that the house they were staying used to be an illegal abortion clinic. They claimed that they would hear babies crying from the concrete walls. A number of them got sick and the doctor could not diagnose their illnesses. I conducted a Requiem Mass and prayed for the eternal repose of the dead. After that memorial service, one by one, the family members got healed. The ministry of healing helped in the revival and growth of that parish.

What is Divine Healing?

Divine healing is God’s gift and work of restoring, often supernaturally, the wholeness, health and holiness of man’s body, mind and spirit. The resources from Scriptures, Tradition and Reason/Experience (often called the “three legged stool” of faith-understanding among Episcopalians), suggest as God is Trinity, the human being is also “trinity.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are spirit, mind and body. Our body (soma) is the seat of our senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. Our mind (psyche) is the seat of our thoughts, our wills and decisions. Our spirit (pneuma) is the seat of our conscience, insight, sensitivity, creativity. A healthy person is therefore one who enjoys wholeness of spirit, mind and body.

As disease (dis-ease) is a separation, a disruption or rupture of this holistic relationship, so healing is the restoration of this wholeness. It is interesting to note that in the Episcopal Church catechism, the mission of the Church is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, p. 855). As Episcopal Christians, we are therefore called to be healers.

Health is the absence of ruptured relationship in this trinity of body, mind and spirit.  I believe that in healing prayer, the Holy Spirit first touches our spirit, which then communicates healing to our minds which begin to transmit the knowledge so that our body will respond. Harmonious relationship in our whole being is health and salvation.

3. Biblical Basis of Healing Ministry

Probably the most prominent self-introductions of God in the Old Testament is that He is  Jehovah Rapha, “the God who heals” (Exodus 15:28). In the New Testament, Jesus was also introduced as one who “went about Galilee preaching the kingdom of God, healing the sick and delivering people from demonic oppression” (Matthew 4:23; Luke 13:52 ; Matt 11:4).

The healing ministry of Jesus was apportioned to his twelve disciples who were commanded to heal the sick. (Luke 9:12) and who reported many signs and wonders. Later this delegated authority was also given to “the 70 others” who were empowered to heal the sick (Luke 10:9) even as they proclaimed that the kingdom has come near.

The gift of healing was promised to all believers who follow Jesus (Mark 16:18) and believed in His name. The early Church, born in Pentecost (Acts 2) and empowered by the Holy Spirit, generally practiced the gift and ministry of healing. The ministry of healing was a normative and prominent feature of the early missionary movement. The apostles Peter had a tremendous healing power to the extent that people would bring the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats “so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on them as he passed by” (Acts 5:15). Philip preached in Samaria and exorcised many evil spirits and healed many cripples and paralytics (Acts 8:5).

In many instances, healing leads to transformation. The Christian persecutor, Saul, was one of those who stood by when the apostle Stephen was being stoned to death. He was on his way to Damascus to hunt for more Christians, when he was struck by lightning and became blind. It was after his healing that he was changed. From Saul, the ruthless persecutor of Christians, he became Paul, the Christian missionary par excellence (Acts 9:11 – 18). Many healings were attributed to his prayer as well.

Today, healing ministry (and such other ministry of “signs, wonders and miracles”) is still relevant. Despite the tremendous advances of medicine, science and technology, there are still so many who undergo intolerable suffering, sickness and pain. Many physicians believe in the power of prayer to assist the medical profession. Sometime ago a team of professionals from Stanford University Hospital conducted a study and found empirical data that those patients who are praying and have people praying for them had more incidences of speedy recovery than those who had none.

The Bible claims that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Despite the many changes in the world, I believe that God never changes. God’s love, faithfulness and compassion remain forever.

I also believe that in every time and age, God continues to apportion spiritual gifts to the Church, the Body of Christ, through the Holy Spirit. And I believe that if we need it and ask for it, the gift of healing can be ours as well.  “These signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons…they will lay their hands on the sick and they will be healed” (Mark 16:17-18).

The Healing Ministry can help your church grow as you minister to the needs of the world around you.


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