It is only in the context of God’s love, goodness and mercy that we can understand healing prayer. God heals people today because He loves us. He heals because He is good. He heals out of His Mercy. What we have to do is open ourselves up to His Love and Mercy.
The first step would be developing a faith in God’s love and mercy for us. We really need to believe that God loves us and wants what is best for us. He wants to bless us in ways we can’t imagine. We have to understand that His love for us is so awesome we can’t comprehend it. We have to open ourselves us to His love and allow Him to bless us the way we most need to be blessed at this time. Then if necessary we keep going back to Him for more.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We also see in the Gospels that Jesus healed many people, basically all those who came to Him in faith. People came to Jesus because they had faith that He would, not could but would heal them. We need to place our faith in Jesus, the One Who Loves Us.
The only place He didn’t heal a large number of people was in Nazareth, where people couldn’t get past the idea that this was Jesus, the son of the carpenter, who they had known all their lives. Scripture also tells us that Jesus came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. Healing is part of the abundant life Jesus came to give us.
God’s desire to heal people is obvious in all the different ways people are healed today. People are healed on pilgrimages to places like Lourdes and Medjugorje. People are healed by blessing themselves with holy water from Lourdes and praying to Our Lady of Lourdes. My cousin, Paul, was healed of cancer of the spine this way. People are healed by the Sacraments. Father DeGrandis tells of 18 babies who were healed by the sacrament of Baptism and of an addict healed by Reconciliation. I personally witnessed a man healed of arthritis by the Eucharist. Then there is the Sacrament of the Anointing of the sick. You also hear of people who were healed through the Green Scapular, Miraculous Medal and the intercession of the saints. There have been people like Padre Pio, Solanus Casey and Brother Andre who were known for their intercessory prayer. Even John Paul II asked Padre Pio to pray for a friend of his. Then there are people who were healed at Healing Masses or through the laying on of hands. People have also used different relics for healing. There are also specially blessed oils like St. Raphael’s oil and St. Joseph’s oil. There are probably other ways healing takes place but these are the ways I’m familiar with.
Healings may take place gradually or immediately. God may work through doctors and medicines. Almost every doctor knows of patients they didn’t expect to be healed who were cured. There are doctors who pray with patients, even several who’ve written books on healing and prayer. There are also nurses who pray over medications so that the medicines work without side effects.
I suspect the reason there are so many ways to be healed is God knew different people would be open to different methods. Many people have a special devotion to Our Lady and it is primarily through her intercession they would accept healing. Then there are those who have a devotion to St Jude or St Anthony. There are saints known for certain ailments. St Lucy is the saint for eye problems, St Peregrine for cancer, St Dymphna for mental problems and St. John of the Cross for heart problems.
Most people believe that God works through doctors so that is the only kind of healing they believe in. They pray that God guides the doctor’s decisions, that he chooses the right medicine and guides the surgeon’s hands. I believe that God does do these things but this belief has its limits. Listen to the medicine commercials on TV and pay attention to the side effects. Some of the potential side effects sound worse than the disease. In some cases the medicine could cause death. I remember reading the paper that came with one of my mom’s medicines and it said basically that it could make you as sick as a dog but the doctor must have had a good reason to prescribe it. And it was right about making you sick as a dog.
When you look at the list of medications people are on you have to wonder if there isn’t a better way. At various points in my mom’s last year, she was on Albuterol, Aggrenox, Celebrex, Coreg, Norvasc, Advair, Spiriva, Synthroid, Lipitor, Lasix and Methylprednisolone to name some of them. I’m surprised she didn’t explode. All of these medications had risks and side effects. Sometimes one medication required you to take another because of the side effects. How sane is that? How much money is wasted, money that could have gone to feed the poor or to some other good work?
God has a better plan. In Matt 11:28 Jesus says “Come to me all who labor and are heavy burdened…” Come to Him all of us who are burdened. Those of us burdened with diabetes, cancer, emphysema, kidney problems, and heart problems, hearing problems, vision problems, arthritis, bad knees, hips and backs, Come to Him. Jesus wants us to come to Him, come to Him in faith because He said whatever we ask for in faith we will receive. (Matt 21:22) We need to come in faith in Jesus and in His love for us.
I believe one of the most important verses in the Bible is Luke 18:17 “Amen I say to you anyone who does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Children believe with their hearts. Think about being a child believing in Santa Claus. They don’t question. They don’t analyze. They believe that by some magic Santa Claus can visit every child in one night. Yet we question the power of the God who created every child in all of history and all of the stars, planets and universes. There is a Irish priest named Father Paul in the Diocese of Paterson who I heard speaking at a Life in the Spirit seminar years ago. He told the story of a trip to a charismatic conference at Notre Dame. He traveled in a trailer with a family from New Jersey. They had 2 children, seven years old or younger. He was alone in the trailer with the two children when he stood up and whacked his head on the cabinet overhead causing a lot of bleeding. The two children ran up, placed their hands on him and said something like be healed in Jesus’ name. The bleeding stopped and there wasn’t even a scar. We need to be like those children.
The disciples preached that the kingdom of God was at hand almost 2000 years ago. Where is it? Or are we like the Jews who didn’t understand what the Messiah was really about. They expected a warrior king like David not the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.
Could it be that we limit our participation in the kingdom of God by our low expectations? Could healing be part of the kingdom on earth? Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life”. (John 14:6) He can’t lie. In Mark 1:15 Jesus said ‘the kingdom of God is at hand.” Luke 10:9 reads” Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘ The Kingdom of God is at hand for you’” This seems to me to say that healing is part of the kingdom. He also said “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) Isn’t healing part of the all things?
Time after time the apostles and disciples were sent to preach the kingdom of God and to heal. They go together in the Bible. A large part of Jesus ministry was healing. When He went to Nazareth the passage from Isaiah that He chose to read said He came to bring sight to the blind. His response to John the Baptist’s disciples was to tell John “the blind see and the lame walk: the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear.”(Matt 11:5) John in the end of his gospel said that if all the acts of Jesus were recorded all the books in the ancient world wouldn’t be enough to record them. How many healings and miracles were left out of the gospels?
Jesus told us” all that you ask for in prayer believe that you will receive it and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) All things are possible with God. (Mark 10:27) “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be open” Matthew 7:7 “He that believes in Me, the works that I do, he shall do also.” John 14:12 “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” Mark 9:23 If Jesus said these things they must be true because He is the Truth.
Too often, today we don’t take the Bible literally; we try to explain away Jesus’ promises and miracles. For example there are theologians who try to explain the multiplication of the loaves and fishes by claiming the miracle was convincing people to share their food with others. If you believe this then of course you wouldn’t expect healings and miracles today. But if you believe that Jesus did multiply the loaves and the fishes, if you believe that with God all things are possible, that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) then you should expect healings today.
Too many people tend to forget that the God we pray to is all-powerful and that there is no limit to what He could do. He can do whatever He chooses, however He chooses. We put God in a box of that isn’t the way God works or God doesn’t do that anymore. Saint Augustine decided that God no longer healed people because healing had been necessary to build up the Church. Once the Church was established in the Fourth Century healing wasn’t needed. Soon after writing this he witnessed more than seventy people healed by the Eucharist at a single mass. We can’t put God in a box. Our God is too awesome to fit in any box that we can conceive of. We need to not keep God in a box but recognize that He can do anything.
As a participant in a charismatic prayer group I’ve witnessed several healings. I remember a man with terminal cancer who was prayed over at St. John the Apostle in Church during my first year as a charismatic. To me he looked like he had a sense of peace about his cancer. Two and a half years later I saw him at another healing mass. One of my student’s grandmothers was told she had six months to live. Her granddaughter was in 1st or second grade. She was prayed over and lived to see her granddaughter graduate eighth grade. The last time I saw the student she was in tenth grade and her grandmother still lived with her. In 2006 at St Antoninus Church a woman gave a witness talk after mass. She had a tumor the size of a fist. In July doctors said she probably had a month to live and scheduled her for surgery. The best case scenario involved taking out her ovaries and probably uterus. She was prayed over at St. Antoninus and someone gave her holy water from Lourdes to drink. On July 23, 2006 she was operated on and the doctors found nothing. On August 9th she was testifying in church.
In July of 2006 I attended a Filipino Charismatic Conference in New Jersey. There was a healing service conducted by Bob Canton. While there were many healings there was one I knew more about. One man had a stroke in 2005 and was walking with a cane. He had been attending a monthly healing mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Passaic, New Jersey. Each time he was prayed over he would rest in the spirit but he still needed the cane. When he was prayed over by Bob Canton he no longer needed the cane. I don’t know if God was working on the spiritual and emotional healing he needed first but he kept coming back and was healed so don’t give up.
There was a story on the internet this week of a heart surgeon, Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall IV. Channel 7 WSVN-TV had another article on Him on February 20, 2008. Four times in his career he felt called to pray over patients who were clinically dead and they recovered. He’s a doctor and he prays for healing. You can look him up on the internet. Dr. Reginald Cherry, who is also a minister, has written a book of specific prayers for healing of specific diseases. There is also a book on the power of healing prayer by Dr. James P Gills.
Almost every charismatic can tell you stories of healing. In 2006 a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life claimed 29 percent of Americans believed they witnessed divine healing. This makes me ask why more of us haven’t witnessed healings. Why don’t we receive healing? Why don’t more people attend healing masses? Why aren’t there more healing masses? Healing is such good news why is it such a secret especially in the Catholic Church.
It really galls me to see more about the healing ministry in Protestant churches than in the Catholic Church. If you go to a Christian bookstore you will find many more books on God’s healing and healing scriptures than in a Catholic bookstore. You really have to go to the internet or a rare healing mass to find the books written by Catholics. Yet if you think about it the Catholic Church should be in the forefront of healing. Protestants have the word of God, scripture at their services, that’s all. We have the word in the readings, gospel and prayers of the mass but more importantly we have Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist at every mass and we have the opportunity to go to mass everyday. So why aren’t we seeing more healings within the Catholic Church?
I believe that there are a lot of individual factors. First and foremost I don’t think we approach God in faith. We seem to come more hoping that we would be healed. It’s like we’ll try anything, maybe this will work. We come with a plan B. If this doesn’t work then I’ll…
I think many people are afraid and rather stay the way they are than ask for healing. We know we’re not perfect but don’t want to change so we don’t open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit. We’re afraid He might want us to stop drinking, smoking or watching ER or some other shows. We rather have healing on our terms not God’s so even if we get prayed over we block his healing. We’re only interested in the healing of our hip, cataract or cancer, while God wants to heal us spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and intellectually before He works on the physical. Often if we get healed emotionally, then the physical will follow. We have to be willing to change. We can’t ask God to heal diabetes but keep on eating the same foods that gave us diabetes. We have to understand that God loves us and in this case Father really knows best. He knows the kind of healing we need most. Many times we are healed but don’t recognize it because we only looked for a physical healing. I heard many times at healing masses that every time you get prayed over you get blessed by God in some way.
I recently read two books by Father Matthew Swizdor O.F. M. who had a healing ministry in the Northeast during the Seventies and Eighties. One statement that he made in both his books was that you were unlikely to be healed if you only sought a physical healing. You had to be open to the spiritual healing God wanted to give you. Father Swizdor emphasized that God wanted to heal you “from the inside out”. Another difference in Father’s approach was his refusal to come to a parish for only one night. He would come for a minimum of three nights but preferred five nights and prayed over the same people night after night.
Every book on healing that I have ever read talks about forgiveness being necessary to receive healing. God won’t show us mercy if we aren’t merciful. The Our Father says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive” It is obvious from scripture that we are called to forgive. In Matt 18:22 Jesus said we are to forgive our brother seventy times seven times. We can’t hold on to our anger and expect to be healed. In fact our anger may be contributing to our ulcers, heart disease, hypertension, headaches and arthritis. Forgiving someone is a decision we make not a feeling. We know we’ve forgiven someone when we pray that God will bless them. There are a lot of forgiveness prayers out there. Father DeGrandis has one you can get off the internet through Google.
Often the person we most need to forgive is ourselves. We know how many times we’ve blown it in the past. We feel that our sins are so great that God wouldn’t heal us. If we’ve confessed our sins God has forgotten our sins. Scripture tells us as far as the East is from the West so has He placed our sins. God doesn’t keep bringing up our sins once we’ve confessed them. We’re the ones who keep beating ourselves up about the past. Satan likes to remind us of our sins. He doesn’t want us going to God. He doesn’t want us healed. He wants us to suffer. We have to let go of our sins and trust in God’s Mercy. Jesus told St. Faustina that all our sins” have not wounded my Sacred Heart as painfully as your present lack of trust does that after so many efforts of my love and mercy, you should still doubt my goodness”. (Diary of St. Faustina 1486) Because we feel so guilty we close ourselves off to the love God wants to pour upon us. He loves us and wants but is best for us but we have to open ourselves to that love.
There was a woman in our parish that couldn’t go to mass because of leg problems. An extraordinary minister heard of this and offered to bring her communion. While there he talked to her about a healing priest who would be coming to the state. They talked about the power of the Eucharist, how people were sometimes healed just by receiving the Eucharist and He prayed over her simply that she would be open to all the blessings that Jesus wanted to give her. The next week she was at mass telling the priest how she was healed by the Eucharist. Amazing things can happen when we open ourselves up to the Eucharist.
We have to believe in and trust in God’s Mercy. He’s forgiven the sins we’ve confessed, even the ones we’ve honestly forgotten. What He wants from us is a repentant heart and a sincere desire to change our lives. He knows we will fail at times. He knew before He died on the Cross that we would fail but He loved us enough to die for us anyway. And He loved us enough to give us a way back to Him to reconcile ourselves with God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He doesn’t want us beating ourselves up over our sins. He wants our repentance. Then He wants us to know the joy of being freed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Doubt is one of the greatest problems in the Christian faith. Did I confess all my sins? Did Jesus really forgive all of them? Was I clear about what I confessed? Did Father really understand what I was confessing and absolve the right ones? The list goes on and on. Think about why this happens.
You just confessed your sins to the God of Mercy who is all merciful. As long as you were honest and did the best you could you’re forgiven, even the sins you forgotten. It doesn’t matter if your mind went blank or you got so busy discussing something with Father that you forgot something. You went into the confessional intending to confess it and God knows that.
Who would want to mess that up? Who would want you to doubt the validity of your confession? Who would want you to continue to suffer from guilt and anxiety? Not our loving merciful Lord: otherwise He wouldn’t have created the sacrament of Reconciliation in the first place. Going to confession takes you out of Satan’s territory; he doesn’t want to let you go. He doesn’t want you to experience the joy and blessings God has for you. It is no wonder that Bob Canton passes out a spiritual warfare prayer at his healing services.
Jesus, I thank You for Your love especially the love You showed on the Cross and in creating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I thank You that my sins are forgiven in Confession. I thank You for Your mercy and ask for the grace to trust in that mercy. I am so weak. I need Your help. Thank You for allowing me to come to You.
Another block to healing is that sometimes we need to forgive God before we open ourselves to His Spirit. Many people blame God for the death of a loved one, often unconsciously. In their hearts they wonder what they did to deserve this, how He could allow this death if He was a loving God. Others reject God completely because of such a death. Either way this blocks healing.
There also seems to be a warped view of God. Too many people think God wants them to suffer and offer their illness up. Why would God want you to suffer like that? How does it glorify Him? Did you ask to share in His suffering or His Passion? There were saints and holy people who did just that. They loved Jesus so much they asked to share in his suffering. St. Faustina was one. I suspect John Paul II was another. Are you so in love with God you want to share in His suffering? Then under those circumstances we shouldn’t take any medicine for pain.
I don’t believe that God wants us to suffer illness. Would the God who loved us enough to go through the Agony of the Passion send us illness so we would suffer? Who would want us to suffer? Who won’t want us to be separated from God?
How can we serve Him and glorify Him if we’re sick in bed. He came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. There is another kind of suffering He calls us to, the suffering of sacrifice and persecution for following His will. Those who forsake the high-powered career to teach in Catholic Schools or as social workers, civil servants, emergency personnel, priests, sisters and missionaries are an example. Those who fall behind in business because of their honesty are another. Those who get up at 4:30 or 5:00 to pray and attend daily mass are another example. There are also those who are considered nerds because they refuse to watch media that goes against church teaching. Then there are those who fast above and beyond the Church rules.
Then there are people who think it is God’s will for them to be sick. Maybe they will learn something good from being ill. What if it is God’s will that they get prayed over? What if God wants them to learn to come to Him, to answer His call? What if it is God’s will that they learn of His love and mercy? Romans 8:28 tells us that God can use all things for the good of those who love Him. This is true. I believe that and have seen that in my life. It doesn’t say that God will send us illness, just that He will use it for good. However, He can use your healing for good too. Think how greater an understanding of God’s love and mercy you would have if you are healed, how much stronger your faith will be and how greater a witness you would be for God.
Another factor is that there are people who believe in healing for other people but not for themselves. They feel that other people’s needs are more important so they won’t go to a healing mass. It’s almost as if they think God can only heal so many people at a time so they don’t want to deprive someone else. The next time you’re in the country go outside and look at the stars. See how many there are. Realize that the nearest is 4 x 365 x 24 x 60 x 60 x 186,000 miles away. Some of the stars you see are hundreds times further away and that’s only in our galaxy. There are other galaxies detected by scientists. All of that rests in the palm of God’s hand. Nothing is impossible to Him. How can we think such a powerful being would be incapable of healing one more person? How can you think any illness would be beyond His power?
Another reason people don’t get healed is they don’t believe in it. One reason is they never learned about it. I went to Catholic grammar school, high school and college and never once heard of healing. The only time we heard of it was on TV and Catholics questioned the honesty of such programs. We either considered them to be frauds or psychosomatic healings not real. But if you look at scripture, healing was in the Bible Read the eighth chapter of Matthew. Jesus healed everyone who came to Him. Healing was also part of church history. St Augustine witnessed seventy healings at mass after he had declared that the age of miracles was over. People aren’t declared saints unless they performed two miracles and many of the saints performed miracles while they were alive. If mere saints could perform miracles how much more could Jesus in the Eucharist?
We have to remember God wants to heal us totally. That includes spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and relational as well as physical healing. Unfortunately, in our society too many of us are hurt emotionally by put downs and insults. It is horrible how hurt people have gotten especially children. As a teacher I’ve seen children who were walking wounded due to their parents’ fights or divorces. Older people are hurt by their mates or friends’ insensitivity. We lived in a society where self centeredness is the norm. As a result people routinely hurt other people without even realizing it. I believe that if emotional wounds were visible we would look like Jesus after the Scourging in Mel Gibson’s The Passion. God wants to heal us emotionally because He wants us to be happy. Sometimes this takes time because I can only handle so much at one time. Sometimes I’m not open enough because I’m afraid to deal with the pain and I limit God’s work. God won’t force healing on us or push us faster than we want to go. Often once we allow the emotional healing to take place the body will heal itself naturally.
Almost everyone needs to be healed in one way or another. Very few people are really as happy as we could be. The trick is that we have to ask for healing and then trust God to do what is best for us and open ourselves to God’s love. For many of us that is the hard part, accepting God’s agenda. We come with our own agenda, healing our arthritis for example and God’s agenda is healing the anger in us. Once we get rid of the anger then the arthritis and a lot of other problems will go away. But we insist on doing it our way. We forget who is God.
We have to remember that God heals not the person praying over us. He or she is only an instrument of God’s love and mercy. It really doesn’t matter what the person says or does, whether they use holy oil or water, lay hands on us or even pray from miles away. What matters are God’s love and mercy and our openness to receive them.
Finally, we have to remember that God calls all of us home to be with Him. Father John Hampsch calls this the ultimate healing. What could be better than to leave behind the pain and suffering of this world?
If you’re asked to pray with someone point to Jesus. He is the Healer not any of us. If you feel inadequate that is good because you are. It is in our weakness that God works not in our strength or pride. The most effective way to pray for healing is to point to Jesus in the Eucharist, talk about how much He loves us and wants what is best for us. Explain that He will bless us according to what we need most. Most likely, one will experience a spiritual or emotional healing. We have to be open to what He knows is best. Then pray that the person be opened to the Lord’s blessing and that the Lord bless them in the way He wants to at this time.
I’m not suggesting you throw away the medicines and stop going to the doctor. Keep doing that until the doctor tells you that you are healed. What I am telling you is to put your faith in the Divine Physician rather than the earthly doctor, to spend more time praying than seeing the doctor, more time reading scripture and trying to open yourself up to the Lord. It may be that God will work through the doctor and medicines. He can do anything He wants and will do what is best for us if we let Him. I read once that what happened most often is that the process of healing was hastened. I‘ve also read about people who took chemo without the side effects. All things are possible for God, All things. We just have to open ourselves up as much as possible to His Spirit.
Lord, my faith is weak. I need a greater faith in Your love for me. I know You have the power to heal me. I know You still heal people today. Give me the grace to open my self up to Your healing touch and allow You to heal me the ways I need most at this time. You know what is best and the healing I need at this time. Help me to open myself up to Your healing power. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen