|HOME - Laying On Of Hands - in Healing|
LAYING ON OF HANDS - in Healing
Understanding It and Ministering It
|OUTLINE:||PART I - UNDERSTANDING THE LAYING-ON-OF-HANDS|
|2. Old Testament|
|3. Our Lord's Practice|
|4. The Disciples' Practice|
|PART II - MINISTERING WITH THE LAYING-ON-OF-HANDS|
|5. The Ministers of Laying-on-of-Hands|
|6. Preparation for Ministering|
|7. Ministering the Laying-on-of-Hands|
|8. Those being Prayed-over|
|9. Let God and Let Go!|
LAYING ON OF HANDS - in Healing.
PART I - UNDERSTANDING THE LAYING-ON-OF-HANDS
|1. Introduction - Ending the Confusion||(back to top)|
The Laying-on-of hands is one of the most usual items of healing services. There has been a great increase of it in recent
decades, but little attention has been given to its meaning, symbolism or practice.
It is sometimes thought that the Laying-on-of-hands is essentially about some transfer of healing by those who have an invisible form of healing or spiritual energy. Francis MacNutt for instance quotes the scientifically demonstrated fact that the growth of seedlings can be accelerated by having hands laid over them. So what?
Popular magazine from time to time have examples of 'Kirlian photography' that shows the fingers of healers radiating 'flames' of energy like an advert for high speed gas! Is it relevant?
Spiritualists and others hold hands in a circle to create a psychic 'battery' of power into which the sick may plug! This is nothing new, and each generation has shown interest in these invisible forces, and named and renamed them - 'life force', 'prana', 'odic force', 'orgone energy', 'para-electricity', 'bioplasma' and so on. Is this what Laying-on-of-hands in Christian ministry is about?
There have always been a few who believe that the Church's Healing Ministry can be accounted for by such forces and promoted by understanding and tapping them. That such forces may be real does not make them relevant.
There is even some reference to them in Our Lord's ministry. Crowds came to him for healing because, as Luke particularly points out , 'power came out from him'.
In the better known incident of the woman in the crowd, she believed, 'If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.' . But, I would point out, Jesus corrected her false impression by teaching that the basis of her cure was not in her physical contact with him but lay in her spiritual relationship to him, i.e. her 'faith' .
A nun once wrote to me saying that she experienced warmth in her hands when she prayed over people. Many spiritualists would experience the same thing. She concluded, wrongly, that this indicated that she had the Christian charism, or gift, of healing. While the exercise of this gift may sometimes be accompanied by warmth, tinglings, cold, and so on, such manifestations can be just human and may accompany the ministry of non-Christians.
Such phenomena have no religious or spiritual significance whatever. They are too ambiguous to base anything on them - and it is plain silly to do so. The great trap of those who have newly entered into the reality of the spiritual life is to assume that because something is invisible it is therefore spiritual, and because it is spiritual it is therefore of the Holy Spirit. No! No! No! Such thinking is not only wrong but dangerous. (After all, the devil is spiritual!)
Christians must learn that the invisible world is a hotchpotch, ranging from the divine to the demonic - with humanity in between! St. John of the Cross and others warn us of the ambiguity of all such things. Warmth, tingling, and vibrations are no more spiritual than hiccoughs - and are best thought of in the same way as meaningless quirks of humanity that are a little embarrassing and should not be encouraged!
Actions speak louder...
I heard of a Christian woman, who probably regarded herself as God's gift to the Church's Ministry of Healing. She was standing in a pub with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. A man present complained of asthma. She felt that he needed the Laying-on-of-hands. So, without putting down either her cigarette or her drink, she continued the conversation she was having with someone else and touched the asthmatic on the chest! How bizarre!
Actions speak louder than words. As wrong words deceive and lie, so wrong actions do so even more loudly. I am sure her intention was to heal, and at least she did respond to human need rather than ignore it.
Her grotesque behaviour demonstrates the necessity for us to understand the Laying-on-of-hands and to minister it in a style that is theologically sound and pastorally appropriate in any given situation.
As with all pastoral activities there is no one 'correct' way to minister the Laying-on-of-hands. Just as the administration of the Eucharist in a cathedral will differ from its style in an intensive care unit, so what matters most cannot be correctness but appropriateness. The woman's behaviour in the pub was totally inappropriate. Her wrong actions told lies about the source of the blessing, about God's relationship to the sufferer, and about the sufferer's worth.
Such foolishness arises from a basic failure to understand what the Laying-on-of-hands is in the Christian Healing Ministry. This article is completely geared to helping you make your ministry appropriate. To learn this we need to look firstly at Scripture.
|2. The Old Testament||(back to top)|
Surprisingly there is no account of the Laying-on-of-hands in the Old Testament being given for 'healing' in a narrow sense.
The well-known Aaron-blessing reminds us that it is God who blesses, not us.
The Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you,
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
We can neither bless, commission, nor heal.
These are the actions of God that we may be called to symbolise.
The Laying-on-of-hands in the Old Testament is also used for
(I am not saying that laity should not lay-on-hands, simply that when the people in the Old Testament laid hands on the Levites, they were not administering God's healing, so the text cannot be used as a basis for lay ministries of healing.)
Touch, but not the formal Laying-on-of-hands, was used in healing.
|3. Our Lord's Practice||(back to top)|
As in the Old Testament era, hands are laid on for
In addition, the imposition of hands was used for
I personally think that it is helpful not to distinguish too rigidly between the Laying-on-of-hands to bless and to heal, but to regard healing as the way that the sick are blessed. The sick will always hope a blessing results in healing!
Our Lord's practice varied enormously because he always ministered appropriately. And this should be true of us.
In half of the twenty-six recorded incidents of his individual healings no mention is made of touch or the Laying-on-of-hands. But of these five were demoniacs (Jesus never seems to have touched when ministering to them), and three incidents were at a distance.
Jesus's use of touch or the Laying-on-of-hands can roughly be summarised as follows:
What can be noted from Christ's own ministry?
We can say of Christ's ministry that:
|4. The Disciples' Practice||(back to top)|
The patterns of Our Lord's ministry emerge in the ministry of his followers.
In the eight individual healings/exorcisms/raisings in the Acts of the Apostles, touch and the Laying-on-of-hands continue to be subordinate to the word.
PART II - MINISTERING WITH THE LAYING-ON-OF-HANDS
|5. The Ministers of Laying-on-of-Hands||(back to top)|
Who should minister?
Scriptural practice is that it is generally the Christian leaders, although the contribution of really obedient lay-folk, like Ananias, may be very great.
Church leadership should be involved lest the healing ministry be presented as something on the fringe of Church life. Invite the Leading Pastor, the Cardinal, the Superintendent, or the Bishop!
When numbers require it, the ministers for formal Laying-on-of-hands should be the local Christian leader and his/her recognised spiritual assistants. I have written 'spiritual' since it is a spiritual ministry. One is not automatically qualified to do it because of one's length of service, degree of commitment, ability with finance or social standing.
It is good if those ministering can include both men and women, young and old, clerical and medical. The advantage of formal ministry is that more can do it and do it adequately.
The character and nature of those ministering are important. Folk come for the touch of Christ himself. Although we are all far from Christ-like we should at least exclude from symbolizing Christ's Person those whose lives do not build up Christ Body, the Church. (The principles of 1 Timothy 3:1-13 apply to any spiritual leadership.)
Are we 'Channels' ?
I used to accept the usual concept that I was a 'channel' for God's love and words, but I have since modified that. It might imply that the needy person only experiences God through what I do or say. This concept places a quite enormous burden on any conscientious minister, for each word can become a matter of life or death!
The 'channel' image always makes me think of a house fall-pipe (sometimes called drain pipes), at the top of which Almighty God was trying to pour down barrels of water, while I constituted its bottom end. Unfortunately, at the lower end, my sinfulness, disobedience, weakness and so on gummed up the pipe like an old bird's nest, letting only trickles of God's blessing reach their destination!
I do not reject such a concept, and I prepare for such ministry by deliberately tackling the bird's nest material in my life that might block God's grace.
But my experience of, among other things, God present to heal without any visible 'channels' has convinced me that it is too narrow a concept. The outpouring of his blessing is never restricted to such channels but generously overflows them.
This has, to me, made a very great difference to ministry of this kind. Instead of my being in some sense the 'key' that makes the God-person encounter possible (or inhibits it), I now regard myself much more as standing on the touch-line of an encounter which is already taking place.
I feel that it is not my job in praying and Laying-on-hands to direct the right amount of divine power in the right direction - like some spiritual laser! I believe instead that God and the needy person have already met; that there is a great healing encounter taking place, and that I am privileged to be in attendance, and called to symbolize visibly a little of what is going on unseen. I feel under a considerable responsibility to express this well, but I am no longer crushed by the burden that everything good will depend on my excellence.
I have not rejected the 'channel' concept but I no longer feel crushed by it. Speaking purely for myself, I think I now minister better. My earlier anxiety had been replaced by a greater relaxation, and my over-conscientiousness has given way to a greater liberty.
I was quite immeasurably helped by a comment of my dear friend Fr. Jim McManus C SS R (author of The Healing Power of the Sacrements) when he said of the Christian Healing Ministry, 'If a person is cured I don't take the credit; if they're not - I don't take the blame!' It is so easy for the normal healthy neurotic like myself to shun all the credit but wrongly to take all the blame!
Ministering in Pairs
While pairs are not essential for formal ministry, when the style chosen is semi-formal, i.e. responding extemporarily, then working in pairs is very suitable.
Ideally the two ministers should work together on more than one occasion to build up a trust and rapport. From this can flow a quality of ministry that is genuinely exciting!
It is good if the pair have complementary gifts and insights, and a man and woman team is often ideal. Another useful mix is to have an experienced minister and one fairly new to this ministry working together so that the 'junior' can learn and gain confidence by sharing.
It is particularly good to have Christians from the medical professions taking part in such teams.
The most often used arrangement is for each to take it in turn to lead the ministry with the then 'number two' supporting.
There are occasions when a knowing look from one minister will break the sequence and the 'unscheduled' minister may seem more appropriate. One may be particularly sensitive in dealing with a certain disability and may be the minister most 'natural'. When minister and patient are in the same family, then the sequence might be adjusted to whichever was felt suitable.
Ministering in pairs prevents the sufferer/needy over-identifying with a 'healing individual', and for the ministrants it is easier. It also provides a good preparation if the ministry later develops into the semi-formal.
When ministering in pairs, if one gets tired and his/her concentration lapses, a nod to the other will forego the leadership sequence for a turn or two.
I hesitate to say anything about this at all. I want to keep it in proportion, but I hope that writing a paragraph on it will not over-emphasise it!
On balance I have decided to say something about it lest those who are new to the ministry would be discouraged or over-react to the rare bit of 'back-lash' that sometimes follows such ministry.
There is sometimes a small price to pray for ministering with the Laying-on-of-hands. It does sometimes really 'take it out of you'. Very early in my ministry I was called to anoint a child in hospital. Next day I kept saying to my wife 'Oooch, I feel as if I have been heaving furniture!' Only later did I realise that it was probably related to my ministry to the child.
If have no idea what the precise link was, nor was I interested in knowing. I wasn't guilty about it nor did I take pride in it. I did what you would do - I turned it into thanksgiving that probably God had been up to something! No significance should be put on such symptoms either good or bad.
Truly Christian Healing Ministry can never be far from the Cross, and when it is rightly central then there is usually the paradox of mystery and pain within it.
|6. Our Preparation for Ministering||(back to top)|
Most public healing services have the Laying-on-of-hands in what I have termed a semi-formal style. Within the constraints
of space and time the aim is to do and say what Christ himself wants said and done.
Be careful, the hallmark of what I term the semi-formal is not informality but the freedom and flexibility to minister differently and appropriately to each person. (This may well mean the use of formal prayer(s) if that is the most appropriate that that person at that time.)
Sometimes folk will put their needs into words, at other times the words they produce are designed - consciously or unconsciously - to conceal them!
Compare this semi-formal ministering with preaching, for instance. The preacher has days to prepare ministering God's general word to meet a group's general need. He has about twenty minutes to do this and delivers it 'six foot above contradiction'. He's the lucky one!
In semi-formal praying, by contrast, the minister(s) has instantly to convey God's specific word to a string of different people each with specific needs. He/she has no time for explicit preparation. What is said has to be delivered within about a minute and face-to-face - not in a pulpit 'six feet above contradiction'.
If preaching the Word of Christ normally requires preparation how much more does giving the Word and Touch of Christ to individuals in need? The task is awesome - but don't despair!
Ideally we should be in such a 'state of grace', a state of spiritual peace and sensitivity, that no preparation is necessary. That's why most of us need to prepare! To borrow the traditional words of the marriage service, such ministering should be approached 'reverently, discretely, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God'. Here are some suggestions to help you find your own pattern.
|7. Ministering the Laying-on-of-Hands||(back to top)|
The Appropriate Style : Formal or Semi-formal
The first distinction to be made is between these two types of ministry -
When formal, like the administration of the Communion Bread and Wine, the ministry is more general. The ministrants of
formal Laying-on-of-hands have little external requirement demanded of them other than the ability to do the right
action coupled with the right words. Although it is undesirable, one can 'get-away' with formal ministry without
preparation and almost regardless of one's spiritual state.
Formal Laying-on-of-hands is often given to those who, for whatever reason, are unable to receive the Holy Communion, e.g. in some denominations, the young.
When formality is used rightly it is a great declaration and demonstration of God's sovereignty. Wrongly used it can become trite and meaningless. The individual blessings given by the dab-and-mutter school commit the same sin as the woman in the pub (mentioned in the Introduction). To express the loving care of God carelessly is theologically and pastorally inappropriate. Casual blessing tells lies about God, the person, and the event.
The slovenly formality of the few is what drives other ministers to want to reject formality altogether.
In formal ministry care must be taken not to trivialise the Laying-on-of-hands. Yet how often I have witnessed the Laying-on-of-hands casually given in under three seconds because 'time is short'. The truth is not that time is short, but that the time is being mismanaged!
Children in particular suffer as a result of this. This is particularly sad because the Laying-on-of-hands in blessing on children in adult worship is the natural way in which they are introduced to the healing ministry. If they are treated as second-rate by us they will not readily believe that they are first-rate to God.
(See the article Children and the Healing Ministry on this website for much more on this subject.)
Children's meeting with God will rest largely upon the quality of their encounter with us. The light of our countenance is very important for those who have little or no sacramental theology.
This is radically different for the ministrant even if it is perceived no differently by the sufferer. Semi-formal
praying requires a very high degree of spiritual sensitivity and awareness. It is totally demanding because the succession
of ministries are done extempore.
The semi-formal can only be done by being in the right spiritual state. As virtually nothing is ever written about this, I shall deal with it quite fully.
Christ taught that what we do or do not do to others we do - or not do - to him.
The most effective spur to our right ministering is to imagine that after a service the Risen Lord is waiting to say to you, 'It was I whom you touched and for whom you prayed...' Aim to do it in such a way that you know he would add '...and thank you very much indeed!'
Distinguished from Counselling
Prayer and blessing must not be confused with counselling. They are not an impoverished version of counselling but a valid ministry in their own right.
To pray over people and give them God's blessing (whether formally or extempore) is as complete a ministry as administering Holy Communion to them or reading them Scripture. If we do these without any unease that they are 'partial', we should feel the same about the Laying-on-of-hands.
If we are not convinced that Laying-on-hands is a perfectly full and valid ministry, we may feel guilty that at a healing service so little time can be allocated to any one individual. (I have experienced healing services that have over-run by hours, literally, because the leaders confused counselling with Laying-on-of-hands with prayer.)
Many coming forward at a healing service would benefit from counselling, but public ministry, often kneeling at the communion rail, at a public service is the wrong place. It might well provide the right beginning. Quite often a new grace will be given to enable real needs to be met and to melt the pride that made earlier help impossible to accept.
Counsellors, and a quiet place for counselling ought to be available at public healing services, not as an advertised ministry, but as a private back-up ministry should pastoral situations arise. The distraught and very troubled can be gently led off to a quiet room, or corner, where they can be in private and caring hands.
Here are some further points related to the counselling demand
The follow-up to the ministry just described is worth relating. I was present when this pastor saw each of the three whom he had discerned needed counselling. I was very impressed. I recall one in particular. He said to the lady, 'My poor dear, you've suffered an enormous personal loss, haven't you?' She immediately broke down and cried. Her brother had died. I, her parish priest, had never known of it because she had kept her grief to herself.
The gifts of such spiritual insight have enriched the Church of every age, and have characterised the ministries of so many of her pastors. Of the Curé d'Ars it has been written 'It quickly became common knowledge that the Abbé Vianney could read men's consciences and was reputed to work miracles.' More recently, such gift-abilities, or charisms, have graced the 'renewal' or charism-atic movement, and been equated with St. Paul's 'gift of knowledge' although not traditionally so interpreted by some Protestant Christians.
The terminology does not concern me, but the need for spiritual sensitivity does. Spiritual insight may well be founded upon professional capabilities or natural gifts, but experience shows that it can at times be quite remarkably different.
The Pentecostal pastor probably discerned my parishioner's bereavement when he prayed over her. If he did, he was wise and mature enough only to use that insight at the right time and place. The public service would not have been the right time for her - or anybody else - for the surfacing of her grief.
Such gifts of the Holy Spirit differ from human psychic awareness. The latter may be a person's permanent ability in which the unknown constantly intrudes for good or ill. A spiritual gift is given only when appropriate to make a positive pastoral contribution, and only as occasion demands. Our Lord had such insight into the life of the Samaritan woman at the well and Peter knew the dishonesty in the hearts of Ananias and his wife.
Experiencing such a gift is a mixed blessing. With it comes the responsibility of knowing when, where and how to use it. I expect I lack the maturity to wield it wisely, for I have rarely experienced it.
The Appropriate Touch
We have to be careful nowadays when touching others. We each have our own 'space bubble' around us, with very strict rules about who can invade it and how. This is right. Touching usually expresses intimacy, whether of parents and children or those in love. Spiritual ministry of necessity also operates at a degree of intimacy that some people might not otherwise experience.
When personal matters are shared with us, and when we touch those to whom we are ministering in Christ's name, we are on hallowed ground.
There are various ways in which the hands may be laid. If the person kneels before you and bows his/her head over-much - the choice is limited! (Hats are rarely a problem nowadays. If one appears don't embarrass the person by requiring her to remove it, simply lay hands on her shoulders.)
It is difficult, I think, to get the pressure right. If it is a purposeful act, not a vague or tentative one, the person should not require faith to know that it is happening! On the other hand there are many common states of illness or weakness where too heavy a hand for too long upon the head is intolerable. An upright head brings the least strain to the sufferer. (I write as a long-term sufferer of M.E. (C.F.S.) who receives the Laying on of hands about once a month.)
If two are ministering together a hand each on the person's head seems natural, with the spare hands resting on the shoulders. But avoid he tendency among some, especially when ministering in pairs, for neither to lay hands on the person's head, and to end up with what I call 'blessing of shoulder-pads'!
In some cases the additional touching or holding of a person's hand is very appropriate.
The way to hold the head of another for their greatest feeling of security is, as some suggest, to hold their head cradled with a hand fore n' aft like holding a rugby ball! If the primary need is for comfort this may be right, but I react against it since it is not the same style in which the Laying-on-of-hands is given on other occasions. To have the Laying-on-of-hands ministered in the similar style for Confirmation, Ordination, commissioning, etc., keeps healing related to the whole witness and mission of the Christian life.
If it is visually not clear whether the person is symbolically being healed by Christ or sent out by him , this is no bad thing. Christian healing is best understood as equipment for Christian service and witness.
For those for whom the signing of the Cross is meaningful, the sign may be traced on the brow with the thumb of one hand. For many this will positively relate to and renew their earlier Baptism and/or Anointing. (See also the article Anointing with Oil - in the Bible and Today on this website.)
If the Trinitarian blessing is given, such signing would most naturally be done to coincide with the words 'Father...Son...Spirit.'
The Appropriate Word
In formal usage the words of the prayer are 'set', but that does not mean that only one prayer should be used. Ideally the minister should know the words by heart. Here are some suggestions.
I have given various set forms above.
Here are some things to bear in mind when you are praying in response to a person's spoken needs.
|8. Those being Prayed-over||(back to top)|
It is beyond the scope of this article to say much about those who receive the Laying-on-of-hands, although I shall do
that in a later article, together with guidance about how to prepare for such ministry.
The person before us is there not out of adoration for God, but because of their needs - or the needs of someone close to them.
We may feel compassion, yet, however helpful in another situation, compassion by itself is not our ministry in that situation. Compassion is to suffer-with somebody, that is not our ministry when we Lay-on-hands. Indeed, you might have to fight against feelings of compassion in order to cope.
Insofar as we reflect something of God's love and power 'over' the circumstances, we need to keep some distance from the centre of the suffering so that it does not swamp us or dictate to us. We will need consciously to move to the centre of God if we are to reflect his person, his love, and his touch.
The snag is that the sufferer is to us very visible and perhaps very audible. God is neither, yet it is his invisible and silent Presence which is all-important, and upon whom everything depends. We can give the sufferer nothing. We cannot bless, we cannot heal, we cannot reconcile, we cannot forgive, we cannot transform, we cannot bring light, we cannot bring hope, we cannot give eternal life. God can do all these things that we cannot do, are much much more.
In the context of healing ministry, the sufferer needs to feel God's strength. These familiar words sum up well what the sufferer needs to feel and to know -
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
the love of God and
the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Wonder of wonders is that God will act in wonderful ways when, in the Name of Jesus, we prayerfully minister to another the Touch of Christ. The sufferer is the centre of God's love and attention and presence. God plans that he or she will become Burning Bushes of his Presence, and it is as if for our childish delight and encouragement he allows us to strike the match! But it is his flame, not ours. We can have no delusions or grandeur, nor dare we think he have power.
The person before us is in some sense God's 'hallowed ground'. We marvel that God can love such odd scraps of humanity as we shall see kneeling before him. You and I matter to God, of course, but in the healing encounter of the Laying-on-of-hands, that truth rightly gets eclipsed because of the overpowering knowledge and conviction that 'The Lord is Here' and loves the one before us and to whom we minister in Jesus's name.
Children Children, especially younger ones, should be ministered to eyeball-to-eyeball. Since most church architecture positions them if kneeling, at the shin level of adults, they should stand. The Jews were right, the essence of blessing is the light of God's countenance shining upon us and giving us peace. We should reflect that. It is good if children in particular are addressed by name.
One vicar whom I assisted used to crouch right down to address children at the Communion rail. Before he laid hands on them he would say, 'Hello! What's your name?' Child or parent would reply. Then he would say, 'We're going to ask Jesus to bless you. Would you like that?' The child would generally nod, and/or the parent say 'Yes please.' Then he would give a full Trinitarian blessing. Sound practice!
If adults Christians feel it right, as they often do, to deprive children at Holy Communion of what they themselves receive, we at least owe it to children to ensure that what they receive is not casual and negative, but rich and generous. Only a generous ministry of time and attention is theologically sound and pastorally appropriate.
When mothers-to-be come for blessing, it is usual to add a special prayer or blessing for the unborn child. With so many in society accepting the killing of the unborn child as quite normal, Christians should encourage everything that reaffirms the love God has for the unborn child and the value he places on them.
Provision should always be made to bless in the pew those who desire it but are unable to come forward. (Future church architecture should ensure that there is at least one wheelchair route to the communion rail.)
By Proxy ?
Virtually every public healing service will include those who come for Christ's touch not for themselves but for another. It may be for a relation or another member of the spiritual family. The issue has been debated in the church press, and it seems to be a deep and instinctive action of caring people.
The late George Bennett testified from his vast and world-wide experience that he had hardly had a service in which clergy or members of religious orders had not come forward for blessing by proxy. The practice is likely to be always with us.
Does Scripture give us any guidelines? There is no New Testament example of this particular use. There is, however, ample evidence of healing taking place at a distance which has in some sense been 'bridged' by a person or thing coming between Christ and the sufferer.
If a robe, a cloth, or a shadow even, can bring Christ's healing to the sick, one can hardly - on Biblical grounds - prevent a praying Christian whose loving care prompts him/her to do the same!
In situations where Laying-on-of-hand is requested by proxy there are two people in need: the sick person and the individual who has asked for the prayer. This has always led me first to pray for the sufferer with the Laying-on-of-hands by proxy. Then, as if ministering to two people - to pray for the person before me with the Laying-on-of-hands.
Sometimes the burdens carried by those alongside the ill are greater than the burden of the actual sickness. God is generous. I am sure he does not want such people leaving church without a renewed awareness that God is very specially with them, on whom they have been able to cast their burden because God cares for them.
A surprising number of people who have the Laying-on-of-hands on behalf of another are themselves blessed or healed. (I suspect that this is related to their freedom from self-preoccupation so that God's healing grace within them has less barriers to overcome than is usual with most of the rest of us.)
At Whose Dictates?
Ministers involved with the Laying-on-of-hands need, on some occasions, to be quite firm if they have an individual who seems intent on pouring out his or her life history. Waiting in hope for a break may be to court disaster. You must interrupt and take this sort of line:
I realise that you have a lot you would like to share with me. But it is for the Touch of Jesus on your life that you have come. He knows everything about you and your situation. I am going to ask him to touch your life (anew) and I will express this by the Laying-on-of-hands - NOW - after a moment's quiet! If, after the service, you would like to talk to someone, approach one of the stewards and they will arrange it. Let's be quiet now... ... I will pray.
Husbands and Wives
In public healing services it will often be noted that husbands and wives join the queue for prayer. Most often folk will kneel side by side, but sometimes, to encourage privacy and if numbers are not great, the system will be for one individual to go to one side and the next individual to the other. If you notice a husband-and-wife in this sort of situation, invite them to come together, but do not insist on it. The majority appreciate such sensitivity, but a few will choose to be ministered to independently. It depends, of course, on their needs at any given time.
|9. Let God and Let Go!||(back to top)|
Perhaps the most important thing to learn in such ministry is to let go. As you move to the next person, don't
forget to leave the last, mentally and for good. (Unless they reappear in later pastoral care.)
There is a great temptation to cling, mentally and spiritually, to 'mother' everything that comes our way. There are many causes of this. Among them is our own need to matter; our inability to be still; our pride in lording it over others; our enjoyment of power; our desire to justify ourselves by our Christian busy-ness, and so on.
Our Lord's command to Mary Magdelene not to cling to him says much about the style of Christ's ministry as well as about Mary. Earlier Christ had instructed the Apostles and the Seventy to cope with rejection by a symbolic act of shaking the dust off their feet before moving on. It is not only resentment and hurt that we can 'harbour'; the objects of our care and concern too can get trapped within us.
Our ministry will survive only if we learn to let go one ministry and move on to the next.
Use anything that works for you to accomplish this: a long walk, a hot bath, a holiday novel. Never ever, ever, ever carry today's pastoral load overnight for tomorrow. Place it back into the Father's hands where it belongs and where it is safest. Christ's yoke is easy and burden light only to those who have the common-sense of oxen, and let Christ remove the yoke after the day's work is done!
Don't be misled by nagging thoughts about not really caring and treating people casually. It is better to minister for four decades having learnt the discipline of letting go and moving on, than to minister just for four years - or even four months! - because of a failure to do so.
Later disciples inherited Jesus's advice and took it.
'They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas ...so they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.'
They had learned to let go and move on. Their filling with joy and with the Holy Spirit probably required an earlier off-loading and emptying of pastoral burdens. A good cook frequently washes his/her hands to prevent mix and muddle. We too need to start afresh after ministry.
Since we neither take the credit nor the blame for what God does or does not do we should not develop a score-keeping mentality. A certain detachment has the added advantage of helping us to come to each pastoral situation afresh, and we are less likely to fall into the trap of repeating yesterday's actions as a formula for today's success.
Once the art of touching has been learned, then comes the all-important art of letting go!
This article should have given you an understanding of the Laying-on-of-hands in Christian Healing Ministry, and an
awareness of what is involved.
There are three persons involved from which the following three questions arise.
This article is a re-written and re-arranged version of chapters VI and XII in my book The Question of Healing
[Still available from Renewal Servicing - see the Books page on
|Copyright John Richards 2003, but waived for users of www.helpforchristians.co.uk|