Healing in the present tense

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

For centuries, most people thought about spiritual healing as a past-tense phenomenon. And they connected it mainly with Jesus of Nazareth. Yet even ardent Christians may assume that Jesus' healings were one-time happenings. They were for history, not for the present. They were feats for Jesus and his Apostles to perform, not you and me.

Today, such assumptions are themselves becoming things of the past. Women and men worldwide are practicing spiritual healing publicly. In the United Kingdom, the National Federation of Spiritual Healers advertises 6,500 members who "practice ... the art and science of spiritual healing." A growing number of doctors are also praying with their patients. They're documenting that people who take "divine medicine" are healthier, recover from illness faster, and live longer.

In Baghdad, Islamic cleric Abdel Wahab al-Samari and his wife pray with sick people willing to turn to "a divine power" for healing. And in Detroit, Rev. Canon Meredith Hunt of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul works with trained "prayer leaders" to help members who are ill. "This is very much a part of our scriptural tradition that we lost for a while, but we are now reviving it," she says.

Clearly, Canon Meredith Hunt is right. Jesus urged his disciples to continue his mission of healing. And he did so in the present tense: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils" (Matt. 10:8).

And Jesus' disciples took this mandate seriously. "They ... went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where," the Bible says (Luke 9:6). This tradition continued for some 300 years, until ritual, creed, and the political order squeezed it out. Then, for 1,500 years, Christian healing was practiced only occasionally by a few devout men and women. It was no longer at the heart of people's lives and worship.

In 1866, though, something sparked the revival of spiritual healing. There was a woman who recovered from a serious injury by reading her Bible. Confident that such healing was more than anecdotal, she continued studying the Bible - and healing. She proved repeatedly that Christian healing isn't dead. It's alive. Because God's healing truth is alive. Now and forever.

This woman, Mary Baker Eddy, eventually wrote a book about her discovery - "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" - to fully explain the divine laws of healing she'd found in the Bible. In her book, she used the word heal over 600 times in various forms - mostly in the present tense. "Christians are under as direct orders now, as they were then," she wrote, "to be Christlike, to possess the Christ-spirit, to follow the Christ-example, and to heal the sick as well as the sinning" (pg. 138).

The message of Christian healing has been permeating world thought. So it's not surprising that people everywhere are beginning to think of spiritual healing as a here-and-now possibility.

Margaret is one of them. She phoned me last September, saying her grandson Joe was in a coma, after a car accident. She desperately wanted to know how to pray for her grandson. We spoke about how God was, at that very moment, sustaining Joe's real, spiritual life.

Here's what Margaret later told her Internet prayer group about our talk - and what followed it: "A friend ... assured me that Joe's spirit was alive and well. Shortly after this conversation I began my praying and I felt a deep, abiding sense of peace which stayed with me through Joe's healing and remains during his ongoing senior year of high school."

Joe's healing is for real. For now. It's spiritual healing in the present tense - the kind of healing that need never again be relegated to the distant past.

But unto you that

fear my name shall

the Sun of righteousness

arise with healing

in his wings.

Malachi 4:2

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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