Francis MacNutt has been a leader in the Christian healing ministry for over forty years. And everything he has seen and learned reinforces his belief that when Jesus said to “cure the sick” (Matthew 10:8), he was addressing all of his followers down through the centuries.
This conviction shines through every page of his new book, The Practice of Healing Prayer: A How-To Guide for Catholics. And it is contagious!
MacNutt contends that regularly praying with the sick is meant to be a normal part of the Christian life. As he points out, Jesus said that certain signs will be associated with believers: “In my name they will drive out demons; … they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).
Throughout his book, MacNutt shows how praying one-on-one with the sick is scriptural and is part of our inheritance as Christians. Yet, he says, it is practiced all too rarely today.
We need to shake off the habits of a lifetime and learn about the wonders of what Jesus can do, with the understanding that we don’t have to be saints to pray for healing. If you are an ordinary Catholic, you can truly hope to see miracles of healing take place—especially in your home with your family and friends.
Practical Prayer Pointers. This book offers many useful and down-to-earth how-tos for beginners and experienced pray-ers alike. One of them is “Be specific.” Sometimes, says MacNutt, “we make our prayers vague because we lack the faith to be specific.” Instead of offering up a quick “God bless you,” he suggests, engage your faith by taking time to pray in a way that suits the situation: “Jesus, please send your healing power into my wife’s throat to clear away the infection and strengthen her immune system.”
Another practical suggestion: “If it be your will” is a perfectly good prayer (after all, Jesus prayed it). But don’t tack it onto your prayers for healing if what you really mean is, “I don’t think anything is going to happen!”
MacNutt also describes the healing power of touch—the gospel tradition of the “laying on of hands.” Through this personal, intimate way of ministering God’s healing, “Jesus himself, in us, is also somehow reaching out through our hands to touch the sick person.”
This has been my experience, too. In my practice as a professional counselor, I often pray with clients who are open to this avenue of healing. Recently, one young woman said she wanted to ask God for healing in her life. Not knowing the specifics of her situation, I put my hand on her shoulder and silently asked Jesus to work in her. In the quietness of the moment, the woman started to weep. Afterwards, she explained that while we were praying, she saw Jesus standing next to her. He was speaking words of love and restoration, words that washed away the deep anger, guilt, and confusion she had bottled up for years. All it took was the simple, silent prayer of touch, and she began a journey of healing in her memories and emotions.
Another important practical suggestion: Don’t get discouraged if you pray and nothing seems to happen. Bringing God’s healing to a sick person can take time, says MacNutt. And because most healings are not instantaneous, we need to imitate the widow in Jesus’ parable, who pestered the judge until he answered her plea (Luke 18:1-8). This persistent “soaking prayer” is especially appropriate when a person is deeply wounded or seriously ill and needs to be immersed in God’s love.
Never Lose Heart. Francis MacNutt’s message and insights struck home with me because of my own prayer experiences. In 2002, I was remarkably healed of a painful back injury through a friend’s simple, faith-filled prayer. And for years, I have prayed for healing for myself and others.
It’s no coincidence, I feel, that I was halfway through Healing Prayer when I received one of those urgent, middle-of-the-night phone calls. It was my sister, asking prayers for her eighteen-year-old grandson, who had been seriously injured in an accident. It looked as though he might lose his right hand.
The lessons I had been absorbing were in the forefront of my mind, and I sensed a spiritual adrenaline rising up within me, helping me push past the shock and grief. My husband and I called out to the Lord with specific prayers: We thanked the Father that our great-nephew was alive; we prayed for the medical professionals who were working to save his mangled hand; we asked God to remove fear and pain and to give rest, peace, and patience.
Now, weeks later, we are seeing the power of these and other prayers. The surgery was successful beyond the doctors’ expectations, and the hand was not lost. It is very damaged, however, so we are continuing on with “soaking” prayer, in the unrelenting mode of the persistent widow. After all, if we know how to give our children what is good, “how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?” (Matthew 7:11).
May Jesus help each one of us to recognize that he really does call us to this prayer of faith for the sick. May he help us to take up the ancient practice of healing prayer so that we can know his health and joy and bring it to a suffering world.
Mary Ann Russo, a licensed professional counselor, lives in Mt. Airy, Maryland.
The Practice of Healing Prayer: A How-To Guide for Catholics, Francis MacNutt (softcover, 144 pp.), is available from The Word Among Us at 1-800-775-9673 or purchase online by clicking here.