The healing touch

"... but they could not heal him." Matthew 17.16


Have you ever tried praying for someone to be healed? Many Christians wouldn't dream of it, either doubting the efficacy of their prayers or in the conviction that such "miraculous" powers were confined to the apostolic age. Yet there remains a rich vein within the church which continues to exercise the full range of Holy Spirit empowered interventions featured in the New Testament and based upon the alternative conviction that Jesus set an example which he intended to be followed beyond the age of his immediate successors, giving gifts to the church (of healing, prophecy, &c) in perpetuity for its growth in reach and potency.


To believe in the power of prayer to heal is not to deny the blessing of medicine nor the necessity of palliative care, for these too are gifts of God. That none of these (including prayer) always has its desired effect is not through any fault of the Spirit or the science but because we are sinners operating in a fallen world. But, if we are born again in Jesus, we are also witnesses of the age to come when we shall be inhabiting a redeemed creation, perfected in the image of Jesus. In the meantime our exercise of the full range of spiritual gifts, including healing prayer, testifies to our faith in the realisation of everything that God has promised.


As a general principle, it would be wise to start small - and carefully. A characteristic of the way Jesus prayed for people to be healed was that he first laid his hands on them. In a society still un-nerved by the Covid pandemic and traumatised but sexual abuse, we must be careful here because not everyone will feel comfortable being touched in this way and God will understand if they decline. We can afford to be frank with God in our request, just as we must be robust (yet gentle) with ourselves and those for whom we pray if the answer is not instantaneous and to our liking. Healing can be a long process. On the other hand, nor should we be surprised when our prayers are answered - because they always are, in one way or another. As we put our convictions into practice, so will our confidence (in God and ourselves) grow and the fragrance of his healing suffuse our troubled world...

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