Healing prayer is reviving among Catholics. A long time leader in the healing ministry, ex Dominican Francis McNutt, has recently published “The Practice of Healing Prayer: A How-to-Guide for Catholics.” He also reports that his Christian Healings Ministry center is expanding, as are other such groups.
Certainly prayers for healing existed among the early Christians who followed Jesus’ teaching and example to pray for healing and daily needs. Baptized church members could expectantly ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit’s healing power. If in recent eras this ministry became less prevalent why the present “reawakening?”
Many reasons come to mind. 1) There is a revival of understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit working within the world. 2) The ‘Call to Holiness’ of all the baptized is newly heard. 3) The goodness of this world and the body is affirmed. 4) The body-mind unity is recognized as mutually interacting.
I also think that science is changing so that a reductionistic materialism can less easily dismiss the power of mind, consciousness and intention. Matter is increasingly enigmatic. An older determined machine model of the universe has given way to an evolving cosmos that is open to chance and probabilities. And more scientific revolutions may be in the offing; last week’s findings that neutrinos may travel faster than light was startling if true! Are we ready for a multiverse?
The key unknown for our present views of reality is how human consciousness arises and operates. How is it intentionally directed (as for instance in prayer) and what is the effect? In my opinion consciousness is so overwhelmingly complex that no present experimental investigations or scientific explanations of prayer can be valid.
Yet theologically and rationally Christians make progress in understanding prayer. We no longer are burdened with the image of God as a distant Emperor who sometimes grants the requests of favored saints, and sometimes refuses. Rather, a Self-giving God of Love is known to work constantly and dynamically within all reality to bring creation to fulfillment. Christians as created co-creators are called to pray and work for God’s Future.
Consequently, when a healing, (or rescue) is not forthcoming, we can remember that God’s earlier gift of ordered laws and independent secondary causes still operate in our human story. Alas, physical death remains as an evolutionary prerequisite of organic life. But at the same time, the existence of chance and an andopen future provide for God’s continual novel creativity. So in joyful hope we pray and make petitions. Have we not already experienced many healings and answered prayers?