Summary: Is prayer minsitry / healing / the laying on of hands only for "Big Successful Evangelical Mega Churches" - or is it for small sacramental churches like the ones we come from? This talk was the introductory talk at an On Fire Prayer Ministry Training Day
I don’t know if any of you have ever seen the Steve Martin Film “leap of Faith” from the early 90s. It perhaps perpetuates the stereotypes that many non-christians would have about the Christian healing ministry.
Steve Martin portrays a travelling pentecostal faith healer called Jonas Nightengale. he wears a sharp suit. He has a typical; American Pentecostal choir. He preaches in a packed tent. The worship is clearly evangelical in style . He preaches in a packed tent. His preaching is loud with a lot of shouting.
The films actually interesting because Jonas starts the movie as conman - doing all this Christian stuff just to take people’s money. And then a boy called Boyd, the brother of the girl Jonas fancies , comes forward for prayer. Boyd can’t walk. Jonas is desperate not to let Boyd come forward because he isn’t one of his plants and he can’t fake a healing - but much to Jonas’s total amazement God actually does heal Boyd and Jonas the conman preacher is converted to Christ.
But aside from that interesting stuff about Jonas the conman being converted - there is a stereotype there that all healing ministry is big glitzy loud and evangelical.
What about those of us who don’t come from that sort of church?
My first experience of the healing ministry was again in a big trendy evangelical Anglican Student church in the early 90s. It was a place with a Sunday congregation of over 600. It was a place with little liturgy. Clergy rarely wore robes. Communion wasn’t celebrated that often. Yet here it was that I first experienced the healing ministry in a very moving way.
I remember a young ordinand who had come from HTB describing powerfully how healing ministry had begun there. How the AMerican preacher John Wimber had turned up and had a small setting with not many people present, had had a word of knowledge that a couple there with infertility would conceive a child. This being knightsbridge and people not talking about that sort of thing, a highly embarrassed couple sidled forward to admit this was their problem. John Wimber prayed for them and 9 months later a baby was born.
And the ordinand there began to share words of knowledge and I saw people there being healed. this being a student church, people weren’t suffering from particularly life threatening illnesses, but they were healed and I saw it happen. I remember a friend called Mark for example who had really badly sprained his leg and was hobbling and could not walk properly - and just like that he was healed.
But this was a big trendy evangelical student church. What about those of us who go to churches that aren’t like that?
How many of us go to churches that have under 150 people on a Sunday?
Ok, and whatever our own personal spirituality, how many of us go to churches which might be described as high of centre? anglo-catholic? sacramental?
So the stereotype is that healing ministry is only for churches that are “not like ours”. I want to suggest the opposite. That churches like ours, churches that have the mass, communion, the eucharist every Sunday, where robes are worn and candles are lit - that healing ministry should be there, and that if it isn’t, it is like … that missing piece [have a giant jigsaw piece] that when you put it in the picture is completed. Without it there is a hole, and with it, the picture is completed.
Long before evangelical churches got involved in the ministry of healing, it was anglo-catholic churches that first rediscovered it.
It began with this stuff [hold up Holy Oil]
at the end of the 19th century priests were going around praying with dying people. And following centuries old tradition, they would get out their Holy Oil and anoint the dying person. And then some of them began thinking “hang on, what’s going on here?” Because now we are only anointing people when it’s too late - but back in the early church and back in the letter of James, people were anointed not because they were goners but as a sign of hope - as an act of prayer for healing. And so around a hundred years ago a number of priests began healing services. in those days it would only be priests doing it. there would be laying on of hands and anointing with oil for healing. organisations like the guild of health and the guild of st raphael were started. places like walsingham began pilgrimages of healing.
In fact you have probably heard of Walsingham and Lourdes and Fatima, but there is a wonderful little place in South Africa called the shrine of Our Lady of Nongome, where in the 1950s a nun had visions of Mary. I don’t think anyone outside of KwaZulu Natal let alone South Africa has heard of it. But if you go there you will find a pin board full of testimonies of people who went there to pray …. and God healed them.